Most of the offseason headlines surrounding the Baltimore Orioles have focused on their high-priced game of chicken with first baseman Chris Davis. The O's reportedly dangled a $154 million offer in front of the free-agent slugger, a franchise-record total but not enough to get him to bite—yet.
While we're on the subject of nine-figure offers, Baltimore should toss some cash at another player, a superstar talent who's already on the roster and won't become a free agent until 2019.
We're talking about third baseman Manny Machado, in case you hadn't guessed. And the time is right for the Orioles to give him the full Mike Trout treatment.
Trout, you'll recall, signed a six-year, $144.5 million extension with the Los Angeles Angels in 2014. The deal, inked when the outfielder was 22 years old, bought out his arbitration years and three years of potential free agency. Now, Trout won't hit the market until after the 2020 season.
Maybe you're balking at a Trout/Machado comparison. And, yes, there is indeed only one Mike Trout.
But Machado is absolutely in the same stratosphere, in terms of potential if not accomplishment.
First off, Machado is just 23 years old, meaning his prime is laid out in front of him. He's already padded his resume with two All-Star appearances, two top-10 MVP finishes and a pair of Gold Gloves at third base.
If he hadn't done so already, Machado truly broke out in 2015, bashing 35 home runs with an .861 OPS, 20 stolen bases and 14 defensive runs saved at the hot corner, per FanGraphs.
In September, he made his MLB debut at shortstop, a position where his power profiles even better.
If you like WAR, Machado's 6.8 mark was third-best in the Junior Circuit, behind only Trout and AL MVP Josh Donaldson.
The "franchise player" label gets tossed around too liberally at times. Machado, though, is the Platonic ideal of a franchise player: young, steeped in ability and clearly still climbing toward his ceiling.
|2015 AL WAR Leaders|
|Mike Trout (LAA)||24||41||.992||9.0|
|Josh Donaldson (TOR)||30||41||.939||8.7|
|Manny Machado (BAL)||23||35||.861||6.8|
Yes, this is the part where we mention the knee surgeries Machado underwent in 2013 and 2014. But if there were lingering doubts about his durability, Machado answered them last season by appearing in all 162 games and making an MLB-leading 713 plate appearances. There was something deliberate about that iron-man output; it felt like Machado was sending a message.
Now, the Orioles can send a message to their fans. After winning the American League East in 2014, Baltimore regressed to an 81-81 finish last season, the very definition of mediocrity.
Extending Machado and ensuring he'll remain an Oriole for the foreseeable future would go a long way toward rebuilding enthusiasm among the Baltimore faithful.
Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette acknowledged the possibility of a Machado extension in October, but he didn't make it sound like a top priority.
"We've got a lot more work to do, and the fact that Manny's gonna be here for the next three years under his current arrangement doesn't mean that's a back-burner item, but we have a lot more urgent things to look at," Duquette said, per Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun.
More than two months into an offseason that hasn't featured any blockbusters in Baltimore, it's time to slide Manny to the front burner.
OK, so let's talk details. What, exactly, would/should a Machado extension look like?
We've already laid out the Trout terms, and that's a good starting point. When Trout put his name on that contract, he'd put together an AL Rookie of the Year campaign and twice been the AL MVP runner-up. He was also a year younger than Machado is now.
Most essentially, Trout's contract allows him to test the market in his age-29 season, when he should be able to land at least one more massive payday. Heck, if contracts keep going the way they have been, we could be talking about deals in excess of $500 million.
So while you could argue Trout gave the Halos something of a "discount," he's set up to cash in down the road.
The Orioles could offer Machado a similar opportunity with a seven-year deal. That would buy out his arbitration years, plus three years of free agency, and allow Machado to hit the open market at age 30.
As for a dollar figure, something in the $130 million range seems fair and workable for both sides. It's less than Trout got—especially when you adjust for inflating salaries—but still a sizable investment.
To create flexibility, Baltimore could backload the deal the way the Angels did with Trout, who made about $6 million last season and is due a series of raises that lift the annual value to around $34 million in the contract's final three years.
No matter what, Machado is about to get considerably more expensive, as Camden Chat's Mark Brown recently outlined:
The cheap years have run out for the team. The price of Machado will be going up every year for the next several years. Already, he's estimated by MLBTR to be in line for a $5.9 million salary for next year. If his 2016 is like this, that could double for the year beyond. There's no doubt he's earned those raises. Eventually, you've got to pay that piper.
The time is now for the Orioles to think big and spend like their deep-pocketed division rivals. No, Baltimore will never be the Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees. Machado, however, is worth a splurge that would blow past the six-year, $85.5 extension the club gave outfielder Adam Jones in 2012.
Here's something else Duquette told the Baltimore Sun's Encina: "Manny's a great player, we'd love to have him long term."
It's time for the O's to put their money where their mouth is.
All statistics and contract information courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.