One way or another, the Machadopocalypse is coming for Baltimore eventually. The only questions to resolve are when it will happen and how much it will hurt based on his new destination. Teams have been rumored to be calling the Orioles about Manny Machado and now, thanks to MASN’s Roch Kubatko, we know at least one of them: The Phillies.
Reporting from the winter meetings, Kubatko relayed that the Phillies are “one of the more interested parties” for Machado and that the O’s are “doing their homework” about the Phillies farm system.
Machado is a free agent after 2018, so he would only be controlled by any new team for one season. That will impact what the Orioles can get for him, although he’s good enough to make a difference and that should be worth something too.
Kubatko also reported that trade discussions would require a 72-hour window for the Phillies to try to negotiate a contract extension with Machado. That’s an interesting detail, and it shows that there have probably been more than just basic “Hey, are you open to trading Machado?” inquiries.
Along with the extension window, what makes this interesting is that there are some specific names that the Orioles like out of the Phillies system. That includes 19-year-old righty Sixto Sanchez, the top Phillies pitching prospect, second baseman Scott Kingery, the current top second base prospect in MLB. Sanchez was #47 and Kingery #50 on the most recent MLB.com top 100 prospects list.
Aiming for top prospects doesn’t mean the other team is willing to trade them, of course. We saw that in action with the scuttled trade of Zach Britton to the Astros back in July... though one year of Machado certainly ought to be worth a lot more than a year and two months of Britton and his health questions. So maybe the O’s could aim higher if they were actually going to trade Machado.
Not to be forgotten is that a lot of the current Phillies brain trust, including GM Matt Klentak and president Andy MacPhail, came from the Orioles front office.
Whether it all means anything is another story. We haven’t yet gotten the sign that the Orioles are willing to punt on the 2018 season in favor of the future. O’s GM Dan Duquette has spent the early parts of the offseason saying things like “rebuilding, that’s not very much fun,” which came up in a 105.7 interview.
In the same vein, a recent Baltimore Sun article about how the winter meetings could prove to be decisive in giving the Orioles an idea of whether there’s any long-term future for Machado with the team included the following from Duquette:
“We like Manny Machado,” Duquette said. “There’s a provision in place where if free agents leave your club you get a draft pick, so it’s not like the club is without compensation. Like I said, Manny’s been an excellent player for the Orioles and he adds a lot of value to the 2018 ballclub. Beyond that, that’s another decision.”
This is one of those Duquette quotes that can rankle the more you think about it. Getting one draft pick in exchange for Machado leaving after a disappointing 2018 Orioles season would not be a positive for the franchise.
Duquette seems to be saying that he thinks Machado’s value to the 2018 team would be worth more than what they might get in the future. That would be a more reasonable opinion to have if the Orioles weren’t coming off a season in which they had the worst starting rotation in MLB, and if they weren’t staring at three holes in that same rotation with a weak free agent market where they’ve already struck out on three of their top four targets, according to Baltimore Baseball’s Dan Connolly.
At the same time, it’s not worth getting too worked up about anything Duquette says in front of a microphone. If he was shopping Machado, he wouldn’t go on the radio to tell Kubatko and Jim Hunter about it. He might pass along stuff quietly, or direct an underling to do the same, though. Which, if he did that, would end up looking a lot like what spawned Kubatko’s Monday afternoon article.
Duquette’s not wrong that rebuilding isn’t much fun. The 2018 Orioles will be a less fun team to watch if Machado gets traded. There is no getting around that. But the 2019+ Orioles won’t be much fun if Machado hits free agency and goes elsewhere, either. The Orioles need to get an idea of what the best offer out there might be and then they need to think long and hard about whether to act on it.