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The way the Orioles have played through the first quarter of this season, there really shouldn’t be any question as to whether the Orioles should trade shortstop Manny Machado.
The question that is more prudent is, ‘When?’
The best answer is not yet.
Here’s the deal: Machado is, without question, a generational talent. And he, along with Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper, will be entering free agency in their primes, something that is rare for players so talented.
No one really knows how much Machado, 26 in July, is going to make this winter. The figures $200 million, $300 million and $400 million have been thrown around.
I know this much: If those estimates are close to being accurate, the Orioles have no shot of being involved. After the Chris Davis debacle (he was ONLY $161 million, remember), the Orioles are resigned to that notion, and they haven’t attempted to make an offer to Machado for a couple years.
I understand why that rankles fans, but the Orioles aren’t paying $200-$300 million to one player. So why waste everyone’s time? Just to say an offer was made?
Be angry that they weren’t proactive and didn’t take an educated risk on their budding superstar a few years ago. I endorse that venom wholeheartedly. But it’s useless to also be miffed that they haven’t made an offer recently. That ship has sailed. White noise. We all know it.
Machado has said repeatedly that he is an Oriole, wants to be an Oriole and wants to win with the Orioles. I believe there is some truth in there. I also believe it’s what he has to say.
Machado knows his time in Baltimore is waning and that this is his best chance for a humongous payday. And he is currently doing everything in his power to ensure that happens.
He’s basically Top Five in the majors in just about every offensive category.
So, the way he is playing and the way the Orioles are playing, it’s obvious the club needs to deal him for the best possible package of prospects.
But not quite yet.
Yes, his value is plenty high right now, and the argument is that he’s probably not going to be much better in the next two months. That would be exceptionally hard to do. Plus, a serious injury to Machado and his value drops out of the sky.
So why not trade him now?
The answer is simple: Because several teams still don’t know who they are. Take the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies, for instance. Both have deep farm systems and could use an upgrade on the left side of the infield. Both look like contenders right now, boasting two of the three best records in the National League.
But are they simply off to hot starts or clubs that have legitimate chances to make it to the World Series? They don’t know right now. At the end of July, they’ll have a better idea.
The same goes for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Cleveland Indians on the flipside. Great teams off to rough starts or clubs with too many holes to fix in two months?
The best way to optimize the return for Machado is to be patient and let teams create a bidding war for him in late July. He’ll be the biggest difference-maker on the trade market, even if his bat drops from utterly ridiculous to simply remarkable.
I ran this theory by several front office types throughout the game recently, and they all agreed. One former GM added this caveat: “The only way you trade him before late July is if another club is fully ready to back up the truck now and you don’t think you can conceivably get more by waiting.”
That makes perfect sense. But based on the characterization of the offers the Orioles received this winter for Machado, according to several sources, it seemed like no club was willing to drive in reverse in January. And they probably aren’t in May. But July?
We’ve already seen the “Machado Sweepstakes” stories churning along nationally, though they are pure conjecture, of course. And likely will remain that way for a while.
The key here is patience in an impatient time. Former Orioles president Andy MacPhail was brilliant at waiting for the right deal, and he helped rebuild the franchise because of it.
Whether it’s current executive vice president Dan Duquette making the final call in July, or vice president Brady Anderson or one of the various members of the Angelos family, patience is the most important virtue here.
Obviously, if this is a trade-decision-by-committee, then the Orioles may want to leave themselves a day or so buffer in late July to make sure everyone is on the same page.
But waiting for the best deal makes the most sense. And, no matter what is knocked around on social media leading up to the non-waiver deadline, some team likely will get nervous and give up someone it doesn’t want to let go at the 11th hour.
Because this is for Machado, a game-changing superstar. To paraphrase “Field of Dreams,” some team will panic. They will panic, Ray.
Looking at the starting debuts from last week’s promotions
We made a bit of a deal in the Dean Jones Report last week about the promotions that occurred in the Orioles’ minor league system, especially involving the starting rotations.
So, I figured I’d let you know how each of the three starters that moved up a rung did this weekend.
Right-hander Michael Baumann, one of the club’s top pitching prospects, jumped from Low-A Delmarva to High-A Frederick and made his Keys’ debut Sunday.
The 2017 third-round pick out of Jacksonville University wasn’t intimidated by Carolina League hitters. Baumann, 22, picked up the win against Myrtle Beach by throwing a seven-inning complete game (part of a doubleheader), allowing four hits, including a solo homer and one walk. He struck out two. He is now 6-0 with a 1.40 ERA in eight minor league starts in 2018.
Baumann took the Keys’ rotation spot vacated by lefty Brian Gonzalez, who moved up to Double-A Bowie after posting a 3.18 ERA in seven starts this year for Frederick.
Things didn’t go as swimmingly for the 2014 third-round pick in his first start in the Eastern League on Saturday. He was tagged for eight runs (six earned) on seven hits and four walks in 2 2/3 innings pitched at Trenton. He struck out three, but he was forced to throw 80 pitches — and only 47 for strikes.
The third starter to get the promotion last week was 25-year-old left-hander John Means, who went from Double-A Bowie to Triple-A Norfolk. Means, an 11th-rounder in 2011 who was 1-4 with a 4.30 ERA in eight games with the Baysox, allowed four runs on eight hits in 4 1/3 innings in Norfolk’s 6-5 win Sunday versus Louisville.
So, basically mixed results from the three. But Baumann, the most heralded of the trio, certainly acquitted himself well at another step up the organizational ladder.
Radio musings and Triple-A Norfolk
The Orioles use their minor-league system, and especially Triple-A, more than most organizations. A guy that has seen that Baltimore-Norfolk shuttle chug along for the past several years is David Hall, the Norfolk Tides beatwriter for The Virginian-Pilot.
Hall recently wrote an interesting piece about how minor leaguers must be ready for that big league call, no matter how late it comes or how far they must travel.
In my WOYK (York, Pa.) radio show this week, I speak to Hall about that story, and about several players who have spent time with the Tides this year, including David Hess, DJ Stewart and Caleb Joseph, who was demoted last week.
You can listen to the full show by clicking the arrow below, by going to the station’s archives or by downloading it as a podcast from iTunes.
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