Any vision of an Orioles team that’s able to sustain success for the next several years requires Manny Machado in it to be serious. You might think that this would create some urgency from the team to at least make an effort to keep their star player in the fold before he becomes a free agent.
Perhaps the Orioles will start to feel that urgency at some point, but they don’t appear to have started to feel it yet. Machado was asked about extension talks on Saturday morning and told reporters that there was no progress because there had been no talks.
Machado’s response to the question about extension talks, transcribed by The Baltimore Sun’s Eduardo Encina:
No, not at all. It’s something that, I’m not worried about it. I’m trying to play baseball. I’m not going to sit here and answer these questions because there have been no talks. And when there is, you guys will probably be the first to know. To be honest, you might find out before me. I’m not worried about it. I came here to play baseball. Let’s just enjoy ourselves. This year they’ve put a really good group of guys in this clubhouse. It will be really fun to play with them and see what we can do.
All of the Orioles reporters remarked that Machado does not want to keep being asked the question over and over again. Encina described the bolded portion of the above as Machado saying “politely that he’s drawing tired of answering inquiries about extension talk.”
It’s a concern that the Orioles don’t even appear to be making an effort right now. Are they not doing it because they’ve already been convinced that it’s fruitless continuing to attempt to talk about them? That’s one possibility.
There have at least been some talks in the past. The Orioles know better than anyone what Machado’s camp has been asking. Machado has only continued to perform at an elite level over the past couple of seasons, increasing the price tag on his eventual next contract. Maybe he’s looking beyond what they are willing to pay.
Machado’s next contract, whenever and wherever it comes from, is going to be one of the largest ever handed out in baseball history. It’s always been a bit of a pipe dream to hold out hope that the Orioles might be the team handing out such a contract.
A midseason extension isn’t out of the question for the team, if they have a player who’s willing to keep talking during the season. When the Orioles signed Adam Jones to his current six year, $85.5 million contract, they inked that deal, the largest in club history at the time, on May 26, 2012. They worked out J.J. Hardy’s three year, $40 million contract and announced it in the middle of the 2014 postseason.
The Jones comparison is noteworthy because he signed his extension in the middle of his second arbitration year, the same that Machado is entering now. Is Machado going to be the next surprise midseason extension? It remains nice to dream as much.
Orioles fans will be hoping the team can do something similar with Machado, though the number of dollars Machado receives will be much greater. When the Orioles inked Jones to that contract, he had been a fine player up to that point but nothing on the level Machado has shown the past two seasons and figures to keep showing.
The Jones deal was signed at the perfect moment. The 2012 season was his breakout season and he performed at a high level for that year and three years beyond. The Orioles missed the boat on getting Machado locked up before the big breakout.
With Machado having had two season-ending knee surgeries in consecutive seasons, some earlier reluctance was understandable. Yet he came back from that as one of the best handful of players in baseball. The hesitation will cost the Orioles, either in dollars if they sign him, or on the field a couple of years down the road when Machado is no longer there.
The good news is that there are still two full baseball seasons before we have to truly confront the potential grim future. The bad news is those two years will be gone before you know it. Hopefully the Orioles get more serious about signing Machado long-term than they’ve seemed to be so far, before it’s too late to do anything about it. Hopefully it’s not too late already.