No one really wants to spend a whole lot of time thinking about it, but Manny Machado's time with the Orioles could run to its end a lot sooner than any of us would like it to.
Absent a contract extension, his free agency is still more than two years away. On the other hand, unless he gets a new deal from the Orioles, his free agency is only a little more than two years away.
Within the last week, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports suggested that the price tag for Manny Machado could get into the $400 million range. That's a lot of money, and one it's rather hard to imagine the Orioles committing to even a player as good as Machado.
Added to this anxiety is the frustration of what might have been. MLB Network's Jon Heyman, writing yesterday for Today's Knuckleball, contributed this tantalizing tidbit: Some time within Machado's first two seasons, had "a seven year deal with Machado that seemed all but done" but they were not able to finalize the contract extension.
Although Heyman does not know what exactly caused the deal not to happen, or even what might have been the precise terms of the contract, he reiterates that it is said to have been "on the cusp of reality."
It's unfortunate that they weren't able to work out whatever they were talking about at that time. Still, realistically, a deal in Machado's rookie year of 2012, when he still had six full years of team control awaiting, would only have added one year to what the O's already have of Machado. If that talk came in 2013, his first full year, it would have added two years.
O's fans would surely take the extra two years over zero additional years, though that would still leave the O's eventually facing a Machado mega-contract that would probably exceed their price range. If you'd like Machado to be the next great career-long Oriole, there's going to be disappointment eventually.
Looking for a reason to hope
The best that can be hoped for is that the idea that Machado's departure could be inevitable is less certain than Heyman makes it seem to be. This could be a fool's hope for all of us, or perhaps the desperate man hanging on a cliffside, grasping for the only weak root he can reach, knowing it will break and he will fall to a gruesome death on the rocks.
Heyman is way more plugged in to the baseball rumor mill than I am. But it's worth noting that there are a couple of things about his column that might cause some question about some of his assertions about the Orioles.
Here's a sentence from the column about Joey Rickard:
Joey Rickard looks like a steal. “Easily the best Rule 5 pickup of the year,” one scout noted. “I don’t know how Tampa just let him go.”
Rickard is actually among the least valuable players in baseball, according to WAR. He is at -0.6 in bWAR and -0.9 in fWAR. That's what a .664 OPS corner outfielder who doesn't steal many bases who is getting dinged in defensive metrics for both range and arm strength is going to be worth.
So if the person who is popping off to Heyman about Machado knows about as much about what's going on as whatever scout proclaimed that Rickard "looks like a steal," well. That's a judgement you can question.
Also, Heyman's article has way more to say about Bryce Harper and outlandish hypothetical contract demands in the $500-$750 million range (yes, really) than it does about Machado, who is mentioned almost as an afterthought. There is not any concrete information, or anything more than just a vague rumor, that's connected to Machado.
There's no getting around the fact that as things stand right now, it'll surely cost a lot of money to secure Machado's services long term. That's undeniable reality whatever Heyman or any other baseball writer happens to write about it. Machado is young and very good - a 23-year-old MVP candidate in his fifth big league season.
If we're lucky, it's not as bad as all that as far as the O's chances of retaining Machado. They opened up the checkbook to keep Chris Davis, after all, and they do not have many payroll commitments going on in the years when Machado would be making mega-bucks.
At least Machado's free agency is still more than two years away. Wait. Machado's free agency is only a bit more than two years away. Ahhhh!