Manny Machado may very well be the best third-baseman Orioles fans have seen since Brooks Robinson. There’s no doubt that he is a superstar and, unfortunately for the O’s, deserves to be paid like one. The Orioles (as of now) are scheduled to have a payroll of roughly $95 million at the end of the 2018 season, the same time Machado is scheduled to become a free agent. This means that, in theory, the Orioles could afford to hand him the mega-deal he deserves. But should they?
The Baltimore Birds have one of the best young infields in baseball this season. Made up of the consistent Jonathan Schoop at second, scorching-hot shortstop Tim Beckham and Machado playing All-Star defense at third, the infield is this team’s nucleus. Plug these three into a lineup with Adam Jones, Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo and you’ve got a scary power-hitting offense. Through 128 games this season this offense is ranked 4th in the American League, with a .265 average on the year and 192 home runs. However, the Orioles need this excellent offense just to keep up with all the runs given up by their starting pitching. This season, Orioles starters carry a 39-50 record and a 5.61 ERA. While the Orioles bullpen is strong, there’s only so much they can do with extended appearances due to short starts and games blown open long before they get the chance to enter. The offense and bullpen. And the minor league arms of the Orioles aren’t great, either. However, several teams have shown that they would be willing to give up multiple solid pitching prospects for Machado, and I think the Orioles should trade him sooner rather than later.
Machado is expected to make around $30 million a year when he hits free agency. If the Orioles trade him at the end of the 2017 season (max value for when he would be available for trade), they would likely get at least two or three quality prospects for him. If two of said prospects were solid pitchers, they could help fill the pitching depth problems the O’s have. Then, with an estimated payroll of around $95 million, the team could afford to sign a top-tier starting pitcher and several other pitchers to bolster the unit as a whole. As an Orioles fan myself, part of me would hate to see Machado leave. The other part of me, however, would love to see the team prioritize pitching for the first time in a long while. The Orioles could be a serious contender for the World Series if they had starting pitching that could hold its own. As for the hole left at third base, that’s an easy solution. Schoop has the fielding talent and arm strength to make every play at third, and Beckham has experience playing second base at a high level. The Orioles have plenty of shortstop depth, whether it be Tejada, Mountcastle or others, so that spot could be filled easily.
While I think Manny Machado is one of the best third basemen in baseball and has Hall-of-Fame potential, I believe it is in the Orioles best interests to shop him, and shop him soon. Every day closer to his free agency, his trade value decreases and they need to get as much as they can for him. Trading Machado is the best and most effective way to give this dreadful pitching staff a jump start and get the Orioles back to being contenders.