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Trading Machado Is Fine; Lack Of A Comprehensive Plan Is Not

If the Baltimore Orioles trade Manny Machado in the coming days, I’m sure I’ll be a bit irritated.

The irritation won’t be at the decision to trade him.
The irritation will be that the decision was not made sooner.

The O’s made the post-season for the third time in a five year span in 2016, and collectively made the decision to try again in 2017. 

In a vacuum, I have zero problems with that decision.

Going into ’17, there was a reasonable expectation that a return to the post-season was plausible.

The flip-side though, is that there was also a reasonable expectation that the wheels could come off.

If you want to say the O’s entered September with a chance of the playoffs, that’s fair. They did.

It’d be hard to make the argument the ’17 O’s ever looked particularly good though.

They earned their 75-87 record, and their last-place finish.

If you want the O’s to rise from the dead, a postmortem on ’17 should come first.

(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)

If you (the Baltimore Orioles) were ‘going for it’ again in ’17 – why didn’t you go for it?
Meaning, if you were going to bring everyone back and try again (punting on decisions in the best long-term interest of the franchise); why didn’t you do everything you could to add to the roster and give the O’s increased odds of contention?

To be fair to the O’s, I’m sure that they did not expect much from the Tillman, Jimenez, Miley trio. If that group had simply been mediocre / below average vs. absolutely horrific; the season might have ended differently.

Still, the idea that you were depending on them at all, speaks to the issues which continue to plague the organization.

The O’s should absolutely get credit for what they achieved over the five year period of 2012-16. Reaching the post-season is an achievement. Having the best record in the American League over a five year stretch is an achievement.

Like everything else though, there are scales.

You can tip your hat to the O’s for what they achieved in that stretch, and still point out that Baltimore has not won a World Series title since 1983.

As a fan, I can be satisfied by a team which annually has a chance. A team that goes into Spring Training, and you can believe a chance at the post-season exists. A team that during the year plays games which matter.

That’s me as a fan. That’s me somewhat settling in my goals, still scared by ’98-’11 when every season was over before a pitch was thrown on Opening Day.

If that’s what is acceptable for the Orioles organization though, that’s pathetic.

The only thing which should matter to the O’s, is hardware.
If they aren’t dog piling on the mound to celebrate, aren’t hoisting up a trophy, or spraying themselves with champagne to celebrate another World Championship – that season needs to ultimately be seen as a failure by the organization.

Does anyone believe the O’s organization under Majority Owner Peter Angelos feels like that?

Or do we see long-term evidence that the O’s are driven by other motivations?

Some people will read that as me saying the O’s are cheap.
That’s not the charge I’d put on them. I don’t necessarily believe the O’s are cheap.

I do think they are stubborn, complacent, and not driven to be the best.

Picture Nick Saban at Alabama, or Bill Belichick with New England. These are guys consumed with the process, chasing perfection, and being the best.

Could the O’s look themselves in the mirror and say their motivations are similar?

Of course not.

This leads us back to Machado and this time last year.

By O’s Executive Vice President Dan Duquette’s own admission, the O’s have not had substantive talks with Machado’s representation in several years.  So, at this time last year, we can guess there had not been a conversation in the previous year. 

You knew that Machado had two remaining years of team control. This left you as an organization with several options:

1) Pursue an extension.

Even if Machado’s Agent was unwilling to engage in discussions, that would not prevent you from providing your best offer. It was clear that the starting point of a deal was going to be $30M+ per year, with the opt outs the O’s don’t want to provide. The questions to be determined would be:  A) What years would Machado want? B) Is he willing to take deferred money?  C) Most importantly – does he have any desire in staying?  By the way, if Machado had any desire of being here long-term, he could’ve instructed his Agent at anytime to begin negotiations. Seems evident to me that the O’s didn’t want to give him the contract it would take to keep him, and that Machado also didn’t want this to be his long-term home.

2) Trade him.

If you’ve provided your best offer as an organization, and Machado has not extended, the decision to trade him was made for you. Machado is a generational talent. Arguably Frank Robinson is the only player who has worn the Oriole uniform with more talent. If you are going to have to trade Machado, you have to maximize the return. Machado with 2017 and 2018 ahead of him, is going to bring you more in a return vs. possibly trading Machado at the ’17 Non-Waiver Deadline, the ’17 Off-season, or the ’18 Non-Waiver Deadline.

3) Bring him back, and try again.

If you were going to bring him back for ’17 and try again, you should have been doing everything possible to improve the roster. If you were unwilling or unable to improve the roster; that should have taken you back to Door #2.

 

I spent a good portion of last Winter, and this past Summer arguing that Machado should be traded. I wasn’t telling the O’s anything they didn’t know. Obviously Duquette was aware that a Machado with two years (or 1.5 last July) of team control available would bring a larger return, vs. 1 year of team control.

So why are the O’s in the position they are in? Why do we figure to be lukewarm with any possible return?

Occam’s razor says it’s because the O’s have motivations beyond winning, and doing what’s in the long-term best interest of the franchise (best interest being defined as what would best position you to win).

The O’s can still get a good return here, but clearly it won’t be what it could have been.
The O’s know how many teams are actually involved. They know what the offers look like.

Tell the interested parties that you are trading him by X, and get in their best offers.

St. Louis looks to make the most sense to me. 

I’d love for the return to be Flaherty, Weaver, and Gyorko. That would excite me.

(For the record, I believe with that haul, and a signing like Alex Cobb.. that the O’s could still compete in ’18.)

I don’t expect that.

My expectation is Flaherty, Gyorko, and maybe a 3rd piece like O’Neill or Hudson.

Whatever, I can live with that.  If that’s the best offer which exists, it’s the best offer. Take it and move on.

I can see the O’s talking themselves into a scenario where they don’t like the offers they’ve received, and decide to bring Machado back for ’18.   Maybe they make him the SS.

Great.

If you want to bring Machado back for ’18, and you tell yourselves you are ‘going for it,’ well then… go for it.

Don’t put out talk about Cobb, and Lance Lynn being too expensive for you.  Cobb interests me some, Lynn not as much. Both would be marked improvements vs. what you had in ’17, and what is currently available internally though, and that’s my point.  If you bring Machado back for ’18, and you talk yourself in trying again – well then improve your chances with legitimate ML starters, whose cost to obtain shouldn’t be prohibitive.

After all, we aren’t talking about Darvish and Arrieta and the contracts that duo figures to get.

You’ve watched Mike Fiers, and Tyler Chatwood sign elsewhere.  You’ve watched the Dodgers trade away Brandon McCarthy, and Scott Kazmir.

There are only so many options and so many chips to play.  Certainly I think we could see Britton and/or Brach moved for a SP at some point, with or without a Manny trade.

I just want to see an organization that operates with some foresight and with a consistent, comprehensive plan.

Final Thoughts:

- Machado joined the O’s at the end of 2012, and helped propel the O’s to the post-season with his play. It’s not hindsight to say that is when talks of an extension should have began. We talked about it then. It’s when you had the most power as an organization, and when Manny had the most to gain with an extension. The next time the O’s should have been aggressive is after the leg injuries he had. While they were significant injuries, all apparent medical evidence pointed to them not being things which would linger after correction.  A real quality organization would have pushed harder back then.  A minimally competent organization would have traded Machado last Winter.

- Stop quibbling over a few dollars here and there and get Schoop done now. 2017′s Most Valuable Oriole should be inked, and doing so shouldn’t be that difficult. He’s not the HOF talent Machado is, but he can be a nice piece throughout his prime, and gives you options with his ability to play 2nd and 3rd.

- Yeah, ideally I’d like to see Gausman put together a full-season vs. rewarding him for a competent 2nd half;  but I still believe in his ability. I do question if he ever reaches his ceiling, but he’s going to remain a capable ML starter for sometime. FA pitching isn’t going to get cheaper. I’d be looking to tag on a year or two to his current contract, and wouldn’t be totally opposed to doing the same for Bundy.

- The O’s system improved during ’17.  They went from being a bottom 1/3 organization to somewhere around middle of the pack. That’s good to see, and other organizations picking from the O’s in the Rule V give further credence to the idea that the depth / talent is increasing.  That doesn’t absolve the O’s from their lack of International spending. If they were any where near competent the system would be that much deeper, and they’d have more options. More players they could trade, more options they could potentially use themselves.

The lack of International talent and the system being in such poor shape last Winter was a significant issue. They brought Machado back, but didn’t have a system capable of ‘going for it.’ They couldn’t go trade for better SP. They didn’t have additional options to promote. Given that, trading Machado (and Britton) was the conclusion the O’s should have come to.

- I believe the O’s will somehow obtain two starters via either Free Agency or Trade, and allow the 5th starter to be determined by their internal options Castro, Ynoa, or their recent Rule 5 selection Nester Cortes. Having those guys as depth is a good thing. Relying on them (any one of them to step forward and produce) if you are ‘going for it’, is not acceptable.

- The recent comments about Schoop, Mancini, and Givens being basically untouchable are interesting. I’ve advocated for extending Schoop above, so I’m good there. However, until an extension occurs, you shouldn’t be looking at him as untouchable.  I really don’t think anyone should ever have that distinction, but I understand reality dictates that some players won’t be moved. Jones would be an example. Mancini and Givens? I really like both players.  Both are productive, both are cheap, and under team control. Those can be contributing players for sometime, and in Givens’ case; he has a chance to be the teams future closer and even more of a cog. Due to their production (and current cost), I wouldn’t be looking to trade either; but I wouldn’t deem them untouchable either.

- Is there another organization in US Pro Sports whose first move this Winter wouldn’t have been addressing the futures of Showalter and Duquette? Do you want them back? Do they want to be back? If you aren’t going to want them after ’18, why are they here now? If you are going to want them back, why wouldn’t you have finalized that already? What’s going to happen in ’18 which would sway your decision making in either direction?

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Written by Chris Stoner
1 month ago
Baltimore Orioles, ,

Chris Stoner

Chris Stoner founded Baltimore Sports and Life in 2009. He has appeared as a radio guest with 1090 WBAL, 105.7 The Fan, CBS 1300, Q1370, WOYK 1350, WKAV 1400, and WNST 1570. He has also been interviewed by The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Business Journal, and PressBox (TV). As Owner, his responsibilities include serving as the Managing Editor, Publicist, & Sales Director. You can reach him via email at [email protected].

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