The Needs Of The Manny Outweigh The Needs Of Baltimore

Ken Rosenthal was the first to report negotiations between the Baltimore Orioles and the Chicago White Sox for third baseman Manny Machado:

“The White Sox engaged in multiple conversations with the Orioles on Wednesday and discussed a package for Machado that would include either right-hander Lucas Giolito or right-hander Michael Kopech but not both, according to sources.

Machado, 25, would be young enough to lead the White Sox’s return to prominence, provided the team acquired him and signed him long-term. He has informed the Orioles he wants to return to shortstop, his original position, but one he has played only sparingly in the majors.”

“Machado In Chicago? White Sox Are Serious Suitors For the Orioles Star” | The Athletic | Ken Rosenthal | 12/14/2017

Following that, The Baltimore Sun reported:

“[T]he Orioles will have lofty aspirations for what Machado should bring, even though the team they’d be trading him to would be guaranteed his services for just one season. [General Manager Dan] Duquette indicated that the Orioles would be asking for multiple top-tier starting pitchers who can help the club compete in 2018, not merely prospects.”

“Orioles Evaluate Machado’s Trade Market But Say It’s Not Yet Time To ‘Fish Or Cut Bait'” | The Baltimore Sun | Eduardo A. Encina | 12/13/2017

USA Today reported 10 offers for Machado. Both Chicago teams and St. Louis are in the mix. Perhaps Cleveland, too. And circling like a great pin-striped shark, The Yankees.

Here’s where things get tricky, perhaps needlessly so for the Orioles. From USA Today:

“[T]here’s the inherent risk that Machado would be nothing more than a one-year rental. It might be different if there were a guarantee Machado would stick around, but the Orioles refuse to give any team a 72-hour negotiating window.”

My favorite description of Orioles owner Peter Angelos is that he has a “fantasy baseball approach, believing the best way to win is by accumulating stars. And when his team trades stars, he expects big names in return.” I still have gripes about the Bobby Bonilla and David Wells for Brian Giles trade he vetoed 20 years ago. As for GM Dan Duquette, he traded Jake Arietta away for scraps. That and his remarks that the Orioles were still a playoff team after last season’s trade deadline (they finished last in the AL East) are a few reasons why he should be fired.

As a fan it’s reasonable to wonder how blurry the line between pragmatically pursuing the best deal possible and drinking one’s own Kool-Aid has become at Camden Yards.

So let’s set some realistic expectations for a Manny Machado trade.

If I’m a rival GM I love his game and the room for growth he has as a player. (His first full season with the Orioles was at age 20.)

But he’s not a top tier young position player like Mike Trout, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Jose Altuve, or Bryce Harper. With a 26.3 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) over the last five years (9th best among position players) Machado would be at the top of my second tier. He deserves a $300 million contract given the market and his potential, though his agent, Scott Boras, will surely start negotiations at $400 million.

Still, Machado’s 2017 (3.5 WAR) would make me think twice. Injury was a factor, but I wonder if his lackluster ’17 was in part a message subsequently echoed by speculations that he doesn’t want to play in Baltimore, wants to play shortstop, and is interested in going to the team that will pay the most money. Why should I give up my two best young starting pitchers and some position players for a player I can’t lock down right now? And I why should I deal with the Orioles if they think that I’ll trade Machado to the Yankees once my team is out of contention next year?

Whatever the opposite of a motivated seller is, Baltimore looks like both. Some team will pay $30 million a year for an oeuvre of three stellar seasons, betting he’ll be a bargain if he plays ten more. Baltimore shouldn’t pay that price.

Still, I have no idea where the team will go from that decision because I don’t think it knows how to get there. How the team ranks in drafting talent (and therefore scouting and development) is a harrowing indication:

“[T]he Orioles rank dead last in baseball. Being that the Orioles are 27th in players reaching the majors and 30th in expected WAR differential this should not be all that surprising…

This analysis puts what Orioles fans know into black and white, the Orioles have been bad at drafting and developing players for a very long time. Now, the most recent administration has only one draft included in this analysis so it may not be fair to indict them based on this analysis. Of course, you could indict them on the dearth of talent available in the minor leagues to help out the 2017 squad.

Either way, the Orioles need to figure out a way to better identify talent or they need to start getting lucky.”

“Who Drafts the Best?” | The Baseball Blog | Ryan Nelson | 02/08/2107

Long-term, a dearth of homegrown talent in the future puts more pressure on a good return from a Machado trade now. Hopefully the team has a greater capacity for spotting top line talent developed by other teams than developing its own. However, I’m not buying the “two starting pitchers” demand they’ve made. There’s a greater return on developing position players and buying good pitching, especially as power-hitting returns to baseball. The Orioles should look for four prospects in a trade, two of which should be future stars, one position player and one pitcher.

But why stop there? The Orioles aren’t bad, they’re just irrelevant, and may be for 2-3 years post-Machado. Were I owner, I’d fire Duquette and bring a real money baller who’d pull a Houston as if he were running a fantasy team. Consider how thoroughly Jeff Luhnow deconstructed the Astros and then weathered the storm of three 100 loss seasons. It’s a reasonable guess that not many teams will get the same chance over the next ten years or so. The Orioles should jump at that opportunity now.

If only Peter Angelos would let them.

@dexterkflowers

IMAGE SOURCE: By Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA (Manny Machado) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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