Sixers Injury Report: Embiid questionable, Bayless set to return
7 former Phillies are on 2018 Hall of Fame ballot

Orioles seem unlikely to retain Manny Machado, who may want to play SS, past 2018

By Tim Kelly, Sports Talk Philly editor

A year from now, Baltimore Orioles star Manny Machado will highlight what many think will be the greatest free-agent class in the history of the sport. The Philadelphia Phillies, who have purposely kept financial flexibility for a few years now with next offseason in mind, have long been speculated to be a potential landing spot for the three-time All-Star. Therefore, any news pertaining to Machado over the next year becomes extremely relevant to the Phillies. 

Over the weekend, Jon Paul Morosi of MLB.com reported that the Baltimore Orioles were interested in free-agent starting pitchers Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb. Why is this relevant to the Phillies? With Machado, Adam Jones and Zach Britton set to become free-agents after the 2018 season, there's a belief from nearly everyone in the sports that's not Peter Angelos that the Orioles should gauge the trade market for their stars and begin to rebuild. Given that Lynn and Cobb have qualifying offers attached to their free-agent candidacies, the Orioles instead appear like they want to try to make one more run with their current core in 2018. 

Trending: Phillies reportedly continue to pursue Carlos Santana

That means that any thought that the Orioles would trade Machado this offseason, rather than potentially losing him in free-agency next offseason, is essentially erased. The Orioles could still trade Machado if they fall out of contention next summer, but they may never be completely out of the Wild Card race. If they did trade him in the summer, it would be for much less value than they would get if they dealt him this offseason. All of this would seem to bode well for the Phillies, because there seems to be a serious chance that the Phillies get a chance to sign Machado in free-agency next offseason, without having to put together a massive package of prospects to acquire his services. 

Last month, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports said that there's a belief from some executives around the league that the Orioles have a nearly non-existent chance to retain Machado past 2018. MASN's Roch Kubatko, a long-time Orioles scribe, seemed to agree with that notion over the weekend: 

Manny Machado’s representatives will hear from the Orioles in perhaps a final attempt to keep him from entering the free agent market. I don’t see the downside of negotiating during the season - Machado doesn’t need to skip games for it and I’m fairly certain that executive vice president Dan Duquette or managing partner Peter G. Angelos can squeeze in the necessary hours - but there’s always the fear that it could become a distraction.

Can the Orioles afford Machado? I seriously doubt it. The exorbitant cost in this market seems like an incredibly poor and unrealistic match. Take a poll within the organization and you won’t find many people brimming with optimism. But the sides need to talk again.

Just how much will Machado get? Estimates appear to be all over the place, largely because next offseason is likely to rewrite the financial record books. One scout opined to John Perrotto of FanRag Sports at the 2017 World Baseball Classic that he believes that Machado will receive the first $400 million contract in the history of the sport next offseason. From here, that feels like a conservative estimate, one that both him and Bryce Harper are likely to comfortably top next offseason. 

In any event, the lifetime value of the contract probably isn't especially important. It would be a minor shock if Machado, who won't be 26 until next July, plays the entirety of the deal. What's more likely is that he will sign a major contract at age 26, and then, as Alex Rodriguez did in his early-30s, opt-out and sign an even larger contract. 

Popular: It appears that the Phillies may not be as high on Nick Williams as some fans are

Speaking of Rodriguez, he was a star shortstop for the first part of his career, before he transitioned to third base upon being acquired by the New York Yankees in 2004. The Yankees, of course, had Derek Jeter firmly entrenched at shortstop. (Rodriguez was a significantly better fielding shortstop, but that's another story for another time.) Machado was a shortstop in the minor leagues, but has spent much of his career playing third base because the Orioles had J.J. Hardy at shorstop. 

At third-base, Machado has won two Gold Glove Awards and become one of the better fielders in the history of the position. Still, Kubatko says there may still be some part of Machado that wants to play shortstop:

Machado didn’t play shortstop this year after making six starts in 2015 and 43 in 2016. There were whispers that the physical toll caused Machado to lose interest in the position, but I’ve heard that it remains his preference. Tim Beckham is on the roster, however, and the Orioles are left to decide whether he’s trustworthy with the glove. The bat certainly was a blessing in August.

In fact, Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com says that the Orioles are considering allowing Machado to play shortstop in 2018: 

There is an ongoing debate in the Orioles organization whether or not Manny Machado should move over to shortstop in 2018, before he becomes a free agent next November. Because of their failure to develop players since scouting director Jim Jordan fled to Philadelphia, the O’s have to go month to month and year-to-year and many feel that Machado prefers shortstop, and with a huge free agent deal on the horizon, Machado might put up a monster year at a middle-of-the-field position. Tim Beckham had a big August and batted .301 in 50 games for Baltimore, but he batted under .200 in July and September, was second in the league in errors, struck out 167 times and as he approaches his age 28 season has doubts concerning his longterm position.

What would this mean for any trade or free-agent candidacy involving the Phillies? Probably not a ton. After all, if you can acquire someone like Machado, you do what you need to do. If he wants to play shortstop, you let him play short - it's not as though you're going to have someone better than him at the position. It also feels pretty unlikely that Machado would have some sort of dramatic defensive dropoff if he played short, rather than third. 

In all likelihood, J.P. Crawford will open 2018 as the starting shortstop for the Phillies. The current Phillies regime likes how many walks that Crawford takes - he took 16 in his first 70 career at-bats - but he's still got quite a bit to prove as an offensive player. Though he has high upside as a fielder, he's yet to consistently put things together in the field. 

Anonymous Executive on Phillies: "I Have a Feeling They Will go After Someone Big"

If everything comes together for Crawford in 2018, that's great. He more than held his own in a few starts at third base, so he's capable of playing there should the Phillies acquire Machado. He also could be used as a trade piece if the Phillies acquire Machado. The same can be said for Maikel Franco (the trade part, not the ability to play SS), should he put things together in 2018 at third base. 

Regardless of what position Machado is playing, it seems increasingly unlikely that he'll remain with the Orioles past next season. All indications are, however, that the Orioles will pass up a chance to trade Machado for a lucrative package this offseason. At best, they'll attempt to trade him late this summer, when his value will likely be greatly reduced, because he'll only be months away from free-agency. None of this means that he will sign with the Phillies a year from now, but the Orioles aren't hurting the chances. 

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)