The sense around the Orioles organization is that a Manny Machado trade will get done. And that’s because the powers-that-be are all in agreement that the team will not be able to re-sign Machado to a long-term deal before he becomes a free agent after the 2018 season.
And so, as much as the team would like to have Machado around this upcoming year, dealing him now will help the Orioles fill at least one of their current openings in the rotation, which should allow them to avoid acquiring an additional fringe starter from a drained free-agent pool.
The most important part of the above statement, in my opinion, is that the powers-that-be are in agreement. Gaining consensus is not a strength of the Orioles, and that has been one of the things that has hampered them in the past.
I’ve long written that I don’t think owner Peter Angelos is a meddler – at least not in the years I’ve covered him or to the extent that he is painted. He is an owner and has veto power, like many owners. The difference, however, is he solicits opinions from so many places — as attorneys often do — and that vetting can significantly slow the decision-making process in the rapid-fire world of baseball.
That’s key here because I’ve been told the organization believes Angelos could give his approval for a Machado deal to anywhere – including the rival New York Yankees – but a lot depends on who delivers those recommendations and whether everyone is on the same page. If one Angelos’ trusted confidant — and there are several – thinks it’s a bad idea, then it’s less likely to happen.
Multiple sources told me that’s what killed the Zach Britton-to-Houston deal in July. Angelos didn’t have a firm opinion on it and it looked like it would happen. But at least one of his top advisers balked at the overall package because it didn’t contain enough top-shelf and/or healthy prospects. That opinion was relayed, and, ultimately, the deal was shot down.
So, that could be a cautionary tale for any Machado suitors. They should know consensus likely must be reached. And that’s always tricky in Baltimore.
But dealing Machado seems to be a unified front now, so that part of the hurdle is cleared. And there’s no exact trade deadline, so that likely will help too, since expedience is not the Orioles’ calling card. In other words, I won’t be surprised if this thing gets dragged out, but eventually happens.
Machado first, everything else second
In talking to various agents and teams at the winter meetings, it seems like the Orioles and executive vice president Dan Duquette were more focused on figuring out whether trading Machado was viable than solidifying other acquisitions.
It makes sense, of course. The assumption is that if Machado is traded the Orioles will be able to fill various holes within the organization and, potentially, on the 25-man roster. So, it would be prudent to know what they have before signing pitchers or trading for an outfielder.
One agent said that he was told the Orioles had interest in his client, but they weren’t ready to take the next step. And the agent assumed that’s because of the Machado situation.
Being hyper-focused on Machado may mean that the Orioles miss out on a starting pitcher that they want, of course.
Yet one of the primary reasons they are mulling offers for Machado is because they weren’t particularly enamored with what’s left in the starting pitching market that they could afford.
What remains in their price range has warts, as most free-agent pitching does, and the Orioles are apparently OK with gambling that at least one rotation upgrade will still be around when the Machado dust settles.
The Orioles have interest in a bunch of starting pitchers including Andrew Cashner, Jason Vargas, Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman. From what I gathered, though, there was no full press on any of those by the Orioles in Orlando, just the typical, “we like ‘em at the right price” overtures.
A slow market overall – but that should change
Maybe it was because of the Ohtani Sweepstakes or the Stanton Debacle, but the free-agent market wasn’t particularly robust at the winter meetings.
That is changing, and I think you can expect a lot more player movement in the next seven days. The goal, for most players, is to know where they’ll be by Christmas. It doesn’t always happen that way, but this typically is a big upcoming week for signings and trades.
I wouldn’t be surprised if several markets open. The left-handed starting pitching dominoes, for instance, may start to fall now that CC Sabathia reportedly signed a one-year, $10 million deal.
It’s not that teams were waiting for Sabathia; it was expected he would stay in New York. But now there’s one less option available, and an idea of what the finances may be for others.