There is a lot of discussion amongst Orioles fans right now on what to do in regards of Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop and their futures in Baltimore. You will get a wide variety of responses ranging from those who want to trade both for prospects or the ones who want both offered contracts to stay in Baltimore long term. I lean more to the latter in this case.
However, a lot comes into play with both extremes in this situation. First and foremost, the Orioles currently have a general manager on a one year deal. After the surprise 2012 season, Dan Duquette, along with Buck Showalter, signed extensions through the 2018 season which just so happens to be next season. This may seem like a negative but I do not want to believe just yet that it is just yet.
Some people believe that a GM on a one year deal may not have his full attention on helping the team he is with long term if he believes he will not be there long term as well, and I definitely see that point of view as being valid. Why waste your most energy and best strategies on a team that may not want you around the next year?
On the other hand, if it is the final year of a GM on a team, he may want to do all he can to either hope to get an extension from his current team or line up a job somewhere else.
Regardless of both of these situations, my biggest criticisms are not for what Duquette might do in the future — it is for what he did not do in the past.
My favorite move Dan Duquette has done while being with the Orioles is when he offered Adam Jones a six year $85.5 million extension. It was a landmark moment in recent Orioles history because it cemented Jones as the face of the franchise and marked the end of rebuilding, in my opinion. Nowadays, you cannot say “Adam Jones” without thinking about his contributions to the Orioles and the Baltimore community as a whole and you cannot say “Baltimore Orioles” without thinking about Adam Jones and how he helped turn around a struggling franchise and made them a perennial playoff contender.
The Orioles showed their commitment for a valued asset who has returned their favor tenfold. So, why have they not done this with some of their newer assets in Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop?
It is a perplexing question for sure and one that rattles around in my brain whenever I see comments on Instagram from some 12 year old kid saying “can’t wait for Machado in pinstripes!” It also arises whenever I watch either Manny Machado make a great play at third or Jonathan Schoop hit a home run and think “will I get to see this in 2-3 years?” and I absolutely hate that feeling.
I have been lucky enough to see both of these great players make their Major League debuts in person and I hope I do not have to watch their last games in Baltimore any time soon. I was only four years old when Mike Mussina joined the Yankees and I cannot imagine how fans of the Orioles felt about that at the time. I do not wants fans that experienced that to have to go through those same emotions again.
Last night, while I was watching Bradley Beal go off on the Trailblazers, I thought to myself…the Wizards gave their two best players extensions in a league with salary caps; why can’t the Orioles do something similar in a league with no salary cap?
In July of 2016, the Wizards and Bradley Beal agreed on an extension through the 2020-2021 season which was followed by John Wall signing an extension through the 2022-2023 season, guaranteeing that the two biggest stars on the Wizards would have at least four more years of those two playing together.
Both situations have some very eerie parallels. For starters, Beal and Machado have both dealt with multiple injuries that casted doubt over their effectiveness going forward. As for the teams in general, both are young and have talent on the up and up (Wizards with guys like Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre, Jr. and the Orioles with Trey Mancini and Austin Hays) which make the case for signing the core franchise players to long term deals ever so more crucial. Also, all four guys are very close in age with Beal being 24, Machado being 25, Schoop being 26, and Wall being 27.
Call me an eternal optimist if you must, but I think the Orioles can pull something like this off. Are baseball contracts and basketball contracts structured differently? Of course they are — one has to work within a salary cap while the other works within a budget.
The Orioles do have a lot of money coming off the books after the 2017 season with guys like Welington Castillo, Chris Tillman, Wade Miley, and Ubaldo Jimenez all leaving for free agency with no real plan made public to resign any of the available players (Castillo signed a two-year deal with the White Sox.) If there is any offseason to get these guys locked down, it is this one.
As for where the Orioles are in terms of a rebuild, I would argue that they are not yet in a position to sell off the team completely yet. Let us use the Houston Astros as an example. Sure, selling off their players in hopes to get higher picks and prospects worked out for them but let us look at where their franchise was when things started to go downhill.
The 2007 season was when things started going south for the Astros. They finished with a 73-89 record, their best player was Roy Oswalt along with guys like Hunter Pence, Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee, and Mike Lamb. In terms of talent alone, the 2017 Orioles are much better that the ’07 Astros.
As for their farm system, it was headlined by Pence who made his debut in 2007. He was then followed by Troy Patton, Matt Albers, Jimmy Barthmaier, J.R. Towles, and Max Sapp. Jimmy Barthmaier allowed 12 earned runs in 10.1 career innings, J.R. Towles posted a career .187/.267/.315 slash line in 155 career games over 5 years, Max Sapp never made it past single-A and I am sure every Orioles fan knows about Patton and Albers.
Meanwhile, the Orioles’ farm system is headlined by guys like Austin Hays and Chance Sisco, who are most likely going to be on the 25 man roster in April, 2018, Tanner Scott, Ryan Mountcastle, and Cedric Mullins; all of whom impressed fans and scouts in 2017.
I am aware that this can be a faulty argument just from the standpoint that anything can happens in terms of prospects. But, we have seen advancements in scouting and analysis of young players in baseball to where if a player gets this far along, they will at least have some impact at the big league level.
Now, the big question in all of this is “can the Orioles get this done?” and the answer is, I do not know. They are racing the clock on Machado’s time in Baltimore with his free agency looming after the ’18 season and Schoop having three years of arbitration left. The odds are definitely against them I would argue but if the last few off-seasons have shown anything with the Orioles and this front office, it is that they are not afraid to spend money to keep certain players here. Let us just hope they do not forget that.