Posted on December 21, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
Manny Machado isn’t going anywhere. A week ago, it appeared likely that the Baltimore Orioles would trade their superstar one year before he hits the free agent market. However, after negotiating with more than half a dozen teams, the Orioles have pulled Machado from the trade block, according to reports that surfaced Thursday. Barring one of those teams suddenly making the Orioles a substantially better offer, Machado will begin the 2018 season back in Baltimore.
In defense of the teams that couldn’t convince the Orioles to give them Machado, Baltimore’s asking price was quite high. The Orioles were reportedly asking for at least two young starting pitchers with several years of team control. If the team trading for him were able to negotiate an extension with Machado, several teams would likely be willing to meet that price. However, Machado appears intent to hit the open market next winter. Giving up two top pitching prospects for one year of Machado is too much, even for teams in win-now mode.
Obviously, Baltimore wants to maximize the return they get for a superstar like Machado. However, they have to feel some sense of urgency in trading him. If they let Machado walk in free agency next winter, all they’ll get in return is an extra draft pick. They should be able to get better value than that on the trade market. But it’s doubtful that any team will cave to their demands, especially with many of the top free agents still available.
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Part of the reason the Orioles have decided to pivot is the recent injury to closer Zach Britton, who will be out of commission for the next six months with an Achilles injury. If Machado were traded, Britton and others would have likely followed, enabling Baltimore to begin a large rebuilding project. But now that Britton can’t be traded, such a rebuild may have to wait.
Instead, the Orioles may take one last crack at being competitive before Machado, Britton, Adam Jones, and other players who will become free agents after the 2018 season. Obviously, competing in the same division as the Yankees and Red Sox will be difficult. To make competing in 2018 a realistic possibility, the Orioles will have to add rotation help, as well as bullpen help, especially with Britton out for the first half of the season.
If such a strategy doesn’t work, the Orioles can always look to trade Machado, Britton, and others at the trade deadline. However, they won’t get the same kind of return as they would if they were to trade them before the season. That increases their level of risk by not acting right now, especially since getting to the playoffs out of the AL East in 2018 will be difficult.
Obviously, there’s always a chance that the Orioles change their minds and try to move Machado. But Baltimore appears to be playing hardball with potential suitors. At the moment, it will be up to one of the teams pursuing Machado to improve their offer and bring the Orioles back to the negotiating table. Until that happens, consider Machado off the trading block.