The Baltimore Orioles are terrible. As we sit here on May 24th, they’re 15-34 and almost an unfathomable 19.0 games out of first place in AL East. And it’s not going to get any better.
Manny Machado is awesome. The shortstop turned third baseman turned back into a shortstop is hitting .335/.412/.649 with a 178 wRC+ and on pace for an 11 WAR season. He’ll be competing for an MVP award.
Baltimore needs to trade Manny Machado now.
If they could go back in time, Baltimore would probably like to re-evaluate their decision in the summer of 2017. Just after the All-Star break, Baltimore was 9.0 games back of first place, looking at younger, more talented teams ahead of them, and had a chance to kick-start a rebuild. They could have traded away veterans to contending teams, reloaded their farm system, and potentially shaved a year or two off the inevitable rebuild that’s coming. They did none of that and decided to hold and hope.
They would also probably like to go back in time to this winter. They were again, looking up at younger, more talented teams in their division, an insufficient roster, bad starting pitching, some pending free agents, and a decision whether or not to start their rebuild. They again, chose inaction. They patched together a rotation, kept Machado, and hoped for one more miracle run. They’re 15-34.
By holding on to a fool’s hope of beating the Red Sox and Yankees the last couple of years, Baltimore has let Machado, their prized asset, enter the last year of team control on a last place team. Had they made a different decision either last summer, or this winter, they could’ve moved Machado for an incredible haul of prospects. The simple truth is teams pay a higher price for players with more team control. Machado with a year and a half of team control is worth more than Machado with a year of control. Or three months. It’s certainly not an easy decision to trade a franchise player, especially a home grown one, but make no mistake, that’s what they should’ve done.
Now, as we sit here almost to the summer of 2018, they find themselves, again, at the intersection of a major decision. Machado, as I said above, will be competing for an MVP award while the only thing Baltimore will be competing for is the first pick in next year’s draft. The decision they have this time is not so much if to trade him, but when.
Most teams don’t make significant trades in June. They wait out their own fate and wait out the market. But most teams aren’t 19 games back on May 24th. And most teams don’t have an MVP candidate whose trade value literally decreases on a daily basis. Again, Machado is a free agent after this year. Teams are renting him for months, not years. That means every game he plays for you, and not them, is trade value you are flushing down the toilet. Trade him now and his new team gets him for 75% of the season. Or put differently, trade him now and you get to charge them for renting him for 75% of the season. Every week, or month you wait, that percentage goes down and the return you get goes down with it.
And make no mistake, if Baltimore made it’s clear he’s available now, contenders would line up for his services. Sellers are what hold up things in May and June. Not the buyers.
Another reason Baltimore should be eager to move him is the simple risk involved. Machado has an injury history. A significant one, actually. And every game he plays for you, you’re rolling the dice that he won’t get hurt. Because if he does, all of that value will literally disappear in seconds.
Once it becomes evident that you’re not winning with him and that he’s not coming back, the game becomes maximizing the value you get for him. Trading him early in the season, while he’s playing like an MVP, and before he gets hurt gives Baltimore the best chance at the best return. It’s time to start planning for life after Manny Machado and getting this trade right could make that life a lot simpler.