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Manny’s career year is coming at a perfect time for the Orioles

Despite the Orioles’ struggles as a team in 2018, Manny Machado has picked a perfect time to turn in a career year.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Baltimore Orioles Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

After going 1-for-2 with two walks in Sunday’s 5-3 win over the Detroit Tigers, Manny Machado has raised his average to an MLB-leading .361. With most of the offense, and team in general, struggling to get going, Machado seems poised to have a career year before picking up his big payday next offseason.

Besides leading all of baseball in average thanks to his improved two-strike approach, Manny is squarely in the top-10 throughout the MLB in OBP, HR, RBI, SLG, ISO, wRC+, and WAR. He is sitting on a slash line of .358/.438/.679 and on pace to finish with 220 hits, 40 doubles, 52 home runs, and 127 RBI. Simply put, Machado has been undeniably one of the most dangerous hitters in all of baseball.

Obviously the best case scenario would be one in which Manny’s spectacular play leads the Orioles back to the playoffs and into the World Series, but let’s be honest here about how this season is going.

They may have just taken two out of three from the Detroit Tigers, but for all intents and purposes, the Orioles have already dug themselves too deep of a hole to climb out of in 2018. Currently sitting at 8-20, the Orioles would need to play like a 97-win team over the remainder of the season to get to 88 wins for a shot at the wild card. Considering the O’s have now gone 65-97 over their last 162 games, I don’t see that happening. Fangraphs agrees, giving the Birds a 0.1% chance, or 1 in 1,000.

Manny may not be leading the Orioles to the playoffs, despite his best efforts, but his magical season thus far will certainly help the club in the long term. After struggling at the plate for much of 2017, Machado now looks to be the marquee position player available at this year’s trade deadline, if Peter Angelos is willing. Think of it as a consolation prize of sorts.

In a weird way, the Orioles’ futility thus far in 2018 may actually help the team in the long run. Heading into the season, there were no indications that the Orioles would be willing to deal Machado if they were contending. I think Baltimore fans were fully prepared for the front office to stretch the definition of the word “contending” and keep Manny on a flawed team through the trade deadline.

We’ve seen it play out before. The Orioles would have blindly invested more prospects in this team, only to miss the playoffs and their best shot at reloading some of the farm system. It’s strange to use this word, but “luckily” that scenario seems to be off the table.

Thank the heavens, because now that Manny’s proven to provide masterful defense at both third base and shortstop, he is likely to have an extremely large market come summer. In a league full of light-hitting shortstops, Machado is a true needle-mover for contending teams. Small market teams with a short window will look at it as a chance to rent an MVP-caliber bat for less than $10 million dollars, and large market teams will be hoping to parlay the rental into a long-term deal for Manny’s services next offseason.

So Orioles fans, root for him while he’s here and enjoy it while it lasts. The longer Machado continues to dominate major league pitching in 2018, the larger the return will be when he is inevitably dealt this summer. And while you’re at it, hope that Britton comes back strong in early June and Brad Brach turns his season around. This team may have its flaws, but there are always things to root for.