Manny Machado has been one of the most reliable pieces of the Orioles success in the past three years. Manny Machado is also a high injury risk player who has had three knee injuries since being drafted by the Orioles in 2010. In 2011, Machado suffered a patella subluxation in his left knee, then a torn medial patellar ligament in the same knee, and finally a partial tear to the medial patellar femoral ligament in the right knee. Trust me, this was very depressing to write out.
Athletes and bad knees aren’t exactly the best combination. This has been very well documented by Bulls star Derrick Rose, who has battled knee injuries ever since suffering one in the playoffs against the 76ers. Ever since then, Rose hasn’t played a full NBA season. Even more recently, Sam Bradford, quarterback of the St. Louis Rams, tore his left ACL again. Both of these guys are unproven who have battled injury for most of their careers, similar to Machado.
Now, to Machado. Since being called up in 2012, Machado has clearly been a significant part of the Orioles getting back to their winning ways. From playing exceptional defense in which he earned the Platinum Glove, to timely and clutch hitting from the number two spot in the lineup, and everything in between.
According to FanGraphs, Machado was the second most valuable player on the O’s with a 6.3 WAR, which only trailed Chris Davis (6.8 WAR). He also posted a 33.6 defensive WAR and a 31.2 UZR, which was the highest of any qualified starter. He also led the whole league in 2013, ultimately leading to the decision to award him the Platinum Glove, along with Atlanta’s Andrelton Simmons.
All of this factors into the Orioles’ decision of whether or not they will trust Machado with a long term contract and a big financial payment. Clearly, it’s hard to justify giving a lot of money to a player who is an injury risk every season. Although, it is easy to give a lot of money to a player who will be the cornerstone of your franchise for a long time. The only question is: when the time comes, will the healthy Machado get his payday, or will the injured Machado get shown the door?
Another thing that factors into this decision is what to do with J.J. Hardy this offseason. Hardy’s contract is running out, and with no real other in house options at shortstop, re-signing him seems like the smart option. Machado came up as a shortstop and is playing out of position at third base and the original plan was to move him back to short when Hardy’s contract ran out, but both have been exceptional in their respective positions, and now it’s hard to part with Hardy.
When it comes to decisions like this, I’m glad I’m not in Dan Duquette’s position, because I honestly have no idea what I would do. Yes, Machado is an unbelievable player with a lot of high side, but one HUGE red flag.The only thing keeping him at third base is a proven veteran who has been an All-Star starter, won two Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger, and isn’t too old where you can’t trust him with a three year deal.
My personal opinion is to keep Hardy as long as possible to make sure you have the left side of the infield locked up. Manny Machado will play shortstop in Baltimore one day, and if he stays healthy, it will be for a long time but that is a big “if”.