Tag: Manny Machado

Manny Machado vs. Bryce Harper: Who Really Deserves MLB’s First $400M Deal?

Major League Baseball already has a $300 million contract. Its first $400 million contract could come soon.

Call it a hunch based on where Manny Machado and Bryce Harper are in their careers.

The Baltimore Orioles’ third baseman and the Washington Nationals’ right fielder have much in common. Both were elite prospects before they hit the ground running in the majors in 2012. Both have been among the best at their respective positions since then. Both are just 24 years old. And both are slated to hit free agency after the 2018 season.

Thus, the occasional buzz about one of them being baseball’s first $400 million man. Bob Nightengale of USA Today was the latest to float that figure over Harper’s head. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports (h/t ESPN.com’s Kyle Brasseur) hung the figure over Machado’s head last summer.

The ideal scenario is for both of them to get $400 million, as Nathaniel Grow of FanGraphs highlighted in 2015 how players weren’t getting their fair share of baseball’s revenue pie. Two $400 million contracts would go a longer way toward fixing that than just one.

But we must be practical. It’s likely that only one of them will break the $400 million barrier. Assuming that’s a matter of who’s more deserving, we must pit Machado and Harper against each other in relevant categories.



Upside, eh? Well, only one of the players in this discussion has authored one of baseball’s all-time greatest seasons.

Remember Harper’s 2015 season? Yup, that’s the one.

He led MLB in on-base percentage (.460) and slugging percentage (.649) and co-led the National League with 42 home runs. By OPS+, his offensive performance was the best since Barry Bonds in 2004. Baseball-Reference.com put Harper’s wins above replacement at 9.9—a mark that’s been reached only 61 other times among hitters.

Harper’s defining characteristics in 2015 were his advanced approach and his booming power. The former has roots in the 13.5 walk percentage he posted in the minors. The latter had scouts drooling even before he was the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft. Baseball America rated Harper’s power as a true 80-grade tool.

As such, Harper’s 2015 was less of a random flare-up and more of an inevitability. That was the player he was supposed to be—and, thus, could be again.

For his part, Machado is no slouch. He was worth 6.7 WAR in 2013 and found that same neighborhood in 2015 (7.1) and 2016 (6.7). The first time he did it, he was an otherworldly defender with a decent bat. He’s enjoyed the best of both worlds since 2015, averaging a 130 OPS+ and 36 homers while playing defense that, while short of otherworldly, is still great. Either way, we’re talking superstar-level stuff.

However, whether Machado can get any better is a good question.

Baseball America figured he would be only a 20-homers-per-year guy, so he’s already way ahead of those early power projections. His power did tick upward after first exploding in 2015, but not to a degree that suggests he has a bunch more in the tank.

The jury’s also out on whether Machado can amplify his hitting talent with increased patience. He took a big step forward in that department in 2015, lowering his swing and chase rates and drawing more walks. But that didn’t last, as his improvements regressed in 2016.

This is not to say Machado’s game can’t evolve. It’s just to say he seems to be what he is: a superstar for sure, but one without Harper’s upside.

Advantage: Harper



Upside is well and good, but what would a team with a $400 million contract offer in hand rather have: a guy who can be great, or a guy who it can count on being great?

Given the size of the bet being made, probably the latter, right?

So let’s confront the elephant that was stampeding through the room marked “Upside.”

Harper owns the best individual season of these two, but Machado is having the better career. He’s been worth 3.2 more WAR than Harper despite playing in 49 fewer games. He’s also topped six WAR thrice to Harper’s once.

There haven’t been wild fluctuations in Machado’s performance like there have been in Harper’s. If we line up their yearly OPS+ numbers, for example, we see a squiggly line and a relatively straight one:

On the whole, Harper’s career 137 OPS+ trumps Machado’s 117 OPS+. But based on the early portion of his career, how consistently Harper’s going to live up to his career mark is anyone’s guess. There’s nothing in Machado’s track record, meanwhile, that suggests similar peaks and valleys are imminent.

On the other side of the ball, Machado’s defense peaked in 2013, when he put up a 31.2 ultimate zone rating and 35 defensive runs saved. But on either side of that are well-above-average performances. In total, he’s been an elite defender through the lens of either UZR or DRS.

Harper’s defensive performance is tougher to pin down due to how much he’s moved around the outfield. He’s mostly been good, compiling a 17.4 ultimate zone rating and 24 defensive runs saved. But rather than maintaining a baseline of above-average defense like Machado has, Harper has had years when his defense has been rated negatively by UZR or DRS.

Bottom line: Based on their performances to this point, only one of these guys is a safe bet to be a great player in any given year.

Advantage: Machado



And now for the fundamental reason why Harper’s performances have fluctuated so wildly: The dude can’t stay healthy.

We got an inkling of that in 2013 and 2014, when Harper was limited to 218 games due to major injuries to his knee and thumb that were accompanied by a handful of nagging injuries.

The bright side at the time seemed to be that he could avoid further trouble by looking after himself on the field, which he vowed to do ahead of 2015.

“It’s more impact stuff. Hitting the wall, blowing the bursa. Sliding into third base on a triple and tearing my tendon,” he said of his injury troubles that spring, via Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post. “So, this year, I’ll just play a little smarter.”

This paid off, as Harper played in 153 games in 2015. Nonetheless, it turned out his problems weren’t solved for good. Although he played in 147 games in 2016, Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated reported Harper was plagued by a shoulder issue that hindered him at the plate and in the field.

The black marks on Machado’s record are the knee issues he ran into in 2013 and 2014. A ligament tear in his left knee ended his ’13 season early. A year later, an injury to the same ligament in his right knee ended his ’14 season early. But then he came back and played in all 162 games in 2015 and in 157 games in 2016. In all, he’s played in more games over the last two seasons than just one player.

This is a comparison between one guy who’s not past his injury troubles and one who is. Neither is Cal Ripken Jr., but one is more Cal Ripken-y than the other.

Looking forward, Machado is no more likely to be beat up by third base than Harper is by right field. The list of guys who played regularly at third base after 30 and the list of guys who played regularly in right field after 30 look awfully similar.

Advantage: Machado


Survey Says: Machado

There are other factors that could be weighed here. Marketability, for example. Blockbuster movies need lead actors who look good on posters. All other things being equal, baseball teams prefer to operate similarly.

But that may be a moot point in this case because all other things aren’t equal.

Harper has the talent to be worth a $400 million contract. And while he’s only put that talent on full display just once so far, that could obviously change in 2017 or 2018. He has the ability and the time to shift the nature of the conversation.

But if things stay the way they are now, Machado is the safer bet for a $400 million contract. Even if he never gets any better, he’s good enough now and should remain good enough from both a talent and durability perspective.

Again, here’s hoping both land $400 million contracts. But if only one of them can, right now it’s clear who that one should be.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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When Is Perfect Time to Trade Harper, Machado and Rest of Lauded ’18 FA Class?

The countdown to 2018 began a while back. Everyone in baseball could see it coming because the names were too big to ignore, the dollars too big to even imagine.

Bryce Harper. Manny Machado. Josh Donaldson. Zach Britton. Andrew Miller. All ready to hit the free-agent market the same winter.

Clayton Kershaw. David Price. Both have opt-out clauses that could send them into that same market.

The countdown is real, both for the players about to cash in and the clubs that dream of signing them. But the countdown is just as real for the teams that could lose them and get only the value of a draft pick (reduced in the new collective bargaining agreement) in return.

Decision time is coming quickly, and the choices those clubs make over the next 19 or so months could be every bit as important as the ones players and teams make two years from now.

Can they sign their stars? Do they play it out and hope for the best? Do they try to cash in and avoid the risk?

The result could be the biggest trading market ever, leading to the biggest free-agent winter ever. But if you’re a team that can’t sign your star, when exactly do you try to move him?

“Good question,” said a National League general manager who doesn’t have any of the biggest stars. “My guess is next offseason or maybe as early as this summer.”

Another NL executive predicted the Washington Nationals could trade Harper after the 2017 campaign and that the Baltimore Orioles could trade Britton. He figures the Orioles will hold on to Machado in hopes of signing him to a new contract.

But former Colorado Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd, now an MLB Network analyst, expressed doubt any of the biggest stars will be dealt. Their teams are trying to win now, he reasoned, and the return wouldn’t be big enough to justify a move.

“When your club has a chance to win, it’s very problematic,” O’Dowd said. “No matter how good the prospects are, they’re still just prospects. The new CBA makes it tougher too, because it’s harder to trade the impactful young players you’ll need to balance out your big contracts.”

O’Dowd and others believe teams will want to avoid the harshest luxury-tax penalties, which can rise to as high as 92 percent at the highest levels. The easiest way to do that is to have talented young (and thus cheaper) players to mix into your roster.

Top prospects will still get traded, as shown by the return the Chicago White Sox got this winter for both pitcher Chris Sale (from the Boston Red Sox) and outfielder Adam Eaton (from the Nationals). But the Red Sox got three years of control with Sale, who has a reasonable contract, and the Nationals got a potential five years of control with Eaton.

A team trading for a 2018 free agent now would have two years of control. But the only prominent class members who have come up in serious trade rumors this winter are Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen and Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier.

Neither has been dealt.

It makes sense for their teams to keep trying, especially the Twins, who have little chance of winning in 2017. The Pirates might do better waiting to see whether they can stay in the NL Central race and/or whether McCutchen can rebuild his value by bouncing back from a subpar 2016.

What about the others?

Some aren’t realistic trade candidates. Price and Kershaw pitch for teams aiming for a championship. Mark Melancon has a 2018 opt-out, but it’s in a contract he signed with the San Francisco Giants in December. They’re not trading him now and almost certainly wouldn’t move him next winter, either.

The harder ones to predict are the other 2018 free agents playing for going-for-it teams.

If the Orioles fall out of the race early, would they consider dealing Britton and/or center fielder Adam Jones, helping free up money to try to sign Machado? If the Toronto Blue Jays fall out of it, could they market Donaldson to a team needing a second-half boost? Could the New York Mets offer pitcher Matt Harvey to help fill other needs?

It’s hard to see the Cleveland Indians dropping too far behind in the American League Central, but what if they did? Could Miller be a midseason trade candidate for a second straight July? They might get even more than the high prospect price they gave up to the New York Yankees to get him.

Then there’s Harper, who will have just turned 26 when he hits the free-agent market. He’s a big part of the Nationals’ plan to win in 2017, but would they move him if they don’t?

Several executives said midseason 2017 trades could be the most realistic option for big-ticket free-agents-to-be.

“Teams can be desperate, and there aren’t free-agent options available in July,” one AL executive said. “And a team can trade for a guy knowing they can have him for two pennant races.”

With so many top players a year and a half away from free agency, the buy-sell decisions could be tougher and more significant than ever this July. Keeping a player until next winter could severely limit the potential return and thus make it less likely the player gets moved at all.

No matter what, July figures to be fascinating. Next winter could be interesting, as those same teams try to judge their chances of winning in 2018 against the risk of getting only draft picks back for departed stars.

It all leads up to November 2018, and the start of a baseball winter like none we’ve ever seen.


Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

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Scott Miller’s Starting 9: Bryce, Machado, Championship Coffee and Looking Ahead

A free-agent storm is on the way, some big names can’t find homes and some unintended victims of MLB‘s new CBA…


1. Forecast Two Years From Now: Nuts

Talk about attention deficit disorder. As free agents Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista go door-to-door asking, “Brother, can you spare a free-agent contract?” this winter, one reason things are moving so slowly is because even the industry’s executives are looking ahead to the free-agent class two years from now.

It may be the best ever: Bryce Harper, who won the 2015 NL MVP award, will be on the market. So will Josh Donaldson, who won the 2015 AL MVP award. Manny Machado, who finished fourth in AL MVP voting in 2015 and fifth in 2016, is free. So, too, are starters Matt Harvey and Dallas Keuchel, and closer Zach Britton.

If that isn’t enough, Clayton Kershaw has an opt-out clause in his Los Angeles Dodgers contract that winter, as does David Price from the Boston Red Sox.

Harper and Machado will be entering the free-agent market at the age of just 26. Britton and Keuchel will be nearly 31, Donaldson 32, Harvey 29 and, if they use the opt-out, Kershaw will be 30 and Price the old man of the lot at 33.

Executives are making roster moves right now with an eye to 2018. It’s one reason why the Washington Nationals acquired Adam Eaton from the White Sox: They are leveraging themselves for the real possibility that they will lose Harper to free agency given that he is expected to demand a deal worth $400 million or more.

It’s why, other than the Aroldis Chapman signing last week, the New York Yankees mostly are concentrating on young talent and short-term veterans (like signing Matt Holliday to a one-year deal this winter for $13 million).

The executives know what’s up ahead, a winter unlike any of us has ever seen.

“As we bring more youthful executives into the game, there seems to be a tide to young players,” superagent Scott Boras, who represents Harper, Britton and Harvey in that group, said at the winter meetings last Wednesday at National Harbor, Maryland. “I think the information that is going to ownership is that those players who are 26-, 27-, 28-year-old free agents are very, very highly coveted.

“A lot of clubs have now marshaled their positioning to that age group.”

Every club is going to have money to spend for the foreseeable future, too, with the game expected to surpass $10 billion in revenues in 2016 once the final figures are in. Of course, without a salary cap and with different teams taking in more money than others, some clubs still will be far more equal than others. But the way Boras sees it, each club likely soon will have $200 million or more of revenue at its disposal before even selling tickets.

“Consequently, clubs who have the ability to attract a major superstar are going to be far more in than in prior times because of the success of the game,” Boras said.

Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman happened to be talking about his own free agent this winter, closer Kenley Jansen, but he could have been speaking about anybody in any year when he told reporters last week, per Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register: “The free-agent market plays out to the point of doing more than what you rationally want to do.

“If you do what you rationally want to do, you will finish third on every free agent.”

Who knows, perhaps there will be more fallout, too. The expiration of Machado’s contract coincides with the last year of Baltimore manager Buck Showalter’s deal.

“We’ve got control of him for two, two years?” Showalter said last week. “This year and one more. That’s when my contract runs out. Timing’s everything.”

Everyone laughed at the notion that Showalter could cruise on out the door with his best overall player before the Orioles are weakened immensely in the post-Machado term.

Of course, laughs come easy now, two years ahead of what for some clubs surely will be Armageddon. The laughing will be more difficult for a lot of people when the winter meetings come to Las Vegas (of course they would be there, right?) in December 2018.


2. World’s Greatest Athletes, MLB and…Coffee?

We already have Boras down as a staunch advocate of the free-market system. He long has been vehemently opposed to the slotting system for determining bonuses that can be offered to amateurs drafted each June. And in discussing his reaction to the new collective bargaining agreement, he not surprisingly expressed displeasure with the part of the deal that places a hard cap on international amateur signing bonuses that ranges between $4.75 million in the first year of the agreement to $5.25 million or $5.75 million.

Boras’ gripe: Baseball is waging a battle with other sports for the best athletes in the world, and with the new CBA capping the money available, he thinks those athletes will gravitate hard to other sports. Of course, limitations on signing bonuses take a bite out of the paydays of agents everywhere, as well.

“Most upsetting thing to me is that baseball only has so much earth where the game is played,” he said last week. “We only have a few cultures that really, there’s an opportunity to play baseball in the world. If you go back to the 1930s, the most popular sports in the United States were track and field, boxing, horse racing and baseball. Now, baseball’s included, but we have three other sports in hockey, football and basketball that have eroded the others.

“I think we have to be very cautious. If baseball’s not out pursuing the best athletes in the world, you’ve gotta really look at this and say, ‘What are we doing?’ I was raised on a farm and water’s valuable. If you want to save water and you don’t use it on your crops, you don’t have crops.”

In making his pitch, Boras mentioned not only NBA and NFL signing bonuses, but the college baseball landscape, too.

“We have a grand disadvantage in something out of baseball’s control, and that is the number of college scholarships [available],” Boras said. “We have 11,000 scholarships in football, we have 3,000 in baseball. And you have a young man who’s 6’6” and they need an immediate value. He’s 14, 15 years old and his family is looking for immediate value. He’s looking for a college scholarship or he’s looking for a bonus. And with baseball being last in offering those scholarships, our industry has to look ahead in getting the greatest athletes in the world.

“We have to consider that in how we compete with other sports. So when we get into CBA and even looking beyond that, we have to say as an industry, we’re making $10 billion, should we really build the Berlin Wall to youth? We just cut off the American players and limited them well below the NBA and NFL. And now we’re doing it with the Latin players as well.”

Boras doesn’t think much of the current luxury-tax system, either, in which high-spending teams are taxed a percentage of their payroll over a certain threshold (It’s been $189 million, it will rise during this CBA).

“Under the old CBA, I think the old luxury tax was the Center for Disease Control,” he quipped. “And now the luxury tax should be Starbucks. Because if you want championship coffee, you’d better be visiting there often.”


3. You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch Bautista

Whenever Joey Bats signs his free-agent deal, the anticipation is that he will quote actress Sally Field’s Oscar acceptance speech from years ago and exclaim to the signing team and city, “You like me, you really like me!”

By far, the most entertaining moment at last week’s winter meetings came when general manager Dan Duquette told the Baltimore Sun‘s Eduardo A. Encina that though Bautista’s agent reached out to the club, the Orioles wouldn’t even consider signing Bautista because, essentially, Baltimore fans hate him.

“That’s true,” Duquette said. “That’s true. The agent called and I said, ‘Really? Jose is a villain in Baltimore and I’m not going to go tell our fans that we’re courting Jose Bautista for the Orioles because they’re not going to be happy.'”


4. Ruffled Feathers of the Week

Angry that the Washington Nationals acquired outfielder Adam Eaton because the move likely meant the club would shift Trea Turner from center field to shortstop and himself to the bench, Danny Espinosa skipped the club’s annual Winterfest on Saturday.

By Saturday night, the Nationals had shipped Espinosa to the Los Angeles Angels, who were in the market for a second baseman.

Meanwhile, at Pittsburgh’s PirateFest over the weekend, All-Star Andrew McCutchen admitted that the very public rumors that the club nearly had him dealt to the Washington Nationals this month can’t help but bother him.

“I’d be lying to you if I told you none of this bothered me,” McCutchen said, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette‘s Stephen J. Nesbitt. “Of course it did. I’m human. If someone cuts you off while you’re driving, you get bothered. To have my name talked about possibly getting traded, yeah, of course that got to me.

“We all have these dreams of being something. My dream is to be a Pirate my whole career. My dream is still to win multiple World Series. We all have those dreams. Sometimes, with my name being popped up there, it did kind of make me think, whoa, those dreams could be altered a little.”

At age 29, McCutchen had one of the worst seasons of his career, hitting .256/.336/.430 with 24 homers and 79 RBI. The days of his 2013 NL MVP award seem further and further away. Among other things, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle has talked to him about the possibility of moving to a corner outfield spot, likely right field, as his defensive metrics have declined as well.

“Andrew is a professional guy that I think keeps things in a pretty good place,” Hurdle said at the winter meetings last week. “I think it’s another part of his career that he’s getting to work through, walk through, and he’s got a great support system. That’s one of the things I shared with him, is there anything I can do to help lessen the distraction, to be there, talk, whatever.”

McCutchen is still young enough to resurrect his career. The 2017 season, wherever he is, will be enormous.


5. Unintended Labor Consequences

As part of the new CBA, the players’ per diem meal money will shrink to $30 per day from $105 per day because, among other reasons, each club now will be required to provide a clubhouse chef for players who increasingly eat in the first-rate clubhouses in the new ballparks.

While few folks are likely to feel sorry for the players, there is fallout that will hit the blue-collar ranks, and it is unfortunate: Clubhouse attendants stand to lose thousands of dollars annually in tips each summer. And ancillary members of a team’s traveling party, who don’t make nearly as much as the players and depend on the per diem as a way to supplement their modest salaries, are taking a hit, too.

Traveling media relations folks, for example, who sometimes work 18 hours a day during the season and average only between $40,000 and $50,000 in salary, qualify for per diem and because of this will lose some $5,000 or so in income.

Media relations directors can make up to $80,000 or $100,000 per year, but the vast majority of assistants who work 80-100 hours a week and are away from home half the summer earn only half of that.

Meanwhile, visiting clubhouse attendants who are in the $40,000 salary range and depend on generous tips to get beyond just scraping by will be hit extremely hard now, too.

Here’s hoping (but not expecting) that the individual clubs will move in to help ease the financial loss for the behind-the-scenes personnel who help make the game go but don’t share in the wealth. It’s probably too much to ask, but it’s the right thing to do.


6. Weekly Power Rankings

1. Christmas shopping: The hustle, the bustle, can put you in a foul mood more quickly than Orioles fans thinking about Bautista.

2. Edwin Encarnacion: So, can we show you some real estate in Cleveland, Edwin?

3. La La Land: Darling of the Golden Globe nominations announced this week, the musical tells the story of Corey Seager and Kershaw singing and dancing and wooing free agents Jansen and Justin Turner back to the Dodgers for another championship run in 2017. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are in there somewhere, too, I think.

4. Snow days: The absolute best, the Mike Trout of ways to get out of school. Even well beyond my school years, when I hear snow has caused school closings, wherever I am, I can’t help but smile and feel 16 again.

5. Bob Dylan and the Nobel Prize: A no-show at Saturday’s ceremony in Sweden, he’s like the Manny Ramirez of the Nobel Prize ceremony.


7. Plus, 2017, too?

Lord over the peeps at your favorite watering hole or neighborhood basement with this one:

The answers: Koji Uehara closed out the 2013 World Series for the Red Sox, Wade Davis (just acquired from Kansas City last week), who closed out the 2015 World Series for the Royals and, of course, this year’s last-pitch thrower, Mike Montgomery.

Question now is: Can the Cubs win again in 2017 and employ relievers who tossed the clinching pitch in four of the past five World Series?


8. Chatter

• Yankees GM Brian Cashman may have awarded Chapman a record-setting contract for a closer at five years and $86 million, but he isn’t jumping for joy. The part he’s not thrilled about is Chapman’s ability to opt out after the third year, which is just when the Yankees envision having a chance to begin their next dynasty. “Oh, I don’t like it,” Cashman said during a conversation after the Rule 5 draft just before departing the winter meetings last Thursday. “It’s just, at the end of the day, I know that the competition we were up against were giving opt-outs in Years 1 and 2. So at least we were able to put it in Year 3.”

 The Tigers’ retooling effort is on hold. They did not trade J.D. Martinez, despite strong talk that San Francisco is interested. They did not deal Ian Kinsler, despite the fact that the Los Angeles Dodgers have a clear need there. Justin Verlander stayed in Detroit while the White Sox traded ace Chris Sale. And USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale reported that Detroit GM Al Avila did not receive one phone call on slugger Miguel Cabrera, signifying that maybe Detroit will wind up keeping him and paying the $220 million owed him over the next seven years.

 With Ian Desmond in the fold and Mark Trumbo maybe on the horizon, the Colorado Rockies, who have endured six consecutive losing seasons and have not played in the playoffs since 2009, are spending money on free agents for the first time since Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle. Must be the Denver school system.

 The Dodgers are still in the market for a second baseman, and one intriguing question is whether new Twins executives Derek Falvey (president of baseball operations) and Thad Levine (general manager) will deal Brian Dozier following his 42-homer season. “As Derek and Thad have said, we have to be open-minded about just about anything that people would bring to us just to try to increase our chances of doing what we need to do both in the short term as well as going forward,” said Twins manager Paul Molitor at the winter meetings.

 Harper doesn’t have much time this month for all of the speculation on his price tag when he becomes a free agent in 2018 because he’s speculating on his own future this week: He’s getting married in San Diego.


9. The Devil(s) Made Him Do It

The Nationals’ Winterfest was highly entertaining over the weekend simply in calculating who wasn’t there. Angry Espinosa wasn’t the only no-show:

Duke basketball was bragging about its celebrity fan, too:


9a. Rock ‘n’ Roll Lyric of the Week

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all. Thanks for reading this year, thanks for making Bleacher Report such a go-to place and if you haven’t seen this Christmas video, you must (it’s Nobel Prize committee endorsed!).

“Who’s got a beard that’s long and white? 
“Santa’s got a beard that’s long and white.
“Who comes around on a special night? 
“Santa comes around on a special night.
“Special night, beard that’s white
“Must be Santa, must be Santa,
“Must be Santa, Santa Claus.”

— Written by Hal Moore and Bill Fredericks


Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow Scott on Twitter and talk baseball.

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A Locked-In Manny Machado Could Push Orioles over the Top in AL East

Eventually, something will tip the scales in the American League East—the most hotly contested and intriguing division in baseball.

Manny Machado might be that something.

On Sunday, Machado clubbed three home runs in his first three at-bats as the Baltimore Orioles rolled to a 10-2 win over the Chicago White Sox.

With the victory, the Orioles grabbed sole possession of first place in the AL East by one game over the Toronto Blue Jays and three games over the Boston Red Sox.

In the process, Machado reminded us all that he’s one of the streakiest, most gifted hitters in baseball—a superstar capable of carrying a franchise.

It’s not that Machado had been dormant before Sunday’s outburst. But after sprinting out of the chute in 2016 like an MVP front-runner, he leveled off a bit.

Machado hit just four home runs between June 25 and August 6 and saw his OPS fall 85 points during that span.

He nearly matched that power output Sunday with homers in the first, second and third innings. He tallied seven RBI. And he gained back 22 points of OPS for good measure.

Let’s gaze upon all three blasts, courtesy of Baltimore’s official Twitter feed:

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the swing of a man preparing for liftoff.

We’ve seen this Machado before. After an injury-shortened 2014 campaign, he played in all 162 games last season, cracked a career-high 35 home runs, posted 7.1 wins above replacement and finished fourth in AL MVP voting.

Just 23 entering this season, he appeared primed to attain next-level greatness.

He hasn’t disappointed. In fact, he’s beginning to resemble the peak on-field version of his mentor, Alex Rodriguezwho announced his retirement Sunday—as FanGraphs’ Jeff Sullivan outlined in June:

We can’t say that Manny Machado has become as good as prime Rodriguez. But we can say that Machado is looking about as good as prime Rodriguez….

Prime Alex Rodriguez was worth about seven and a half wins per 600 trips to the plate. Machado is on course to be worth about seven and a half wins per 600 trips to the plate.

Machado can further cement his status among the Junior Circuit elite with a scalding stretch run and push the Orioles into October for the second time in three years.

The Red Sox’s offense has been the toast of baseball for much of the season, and it paces MLB in runs scored and OPS. The Blue Jays are also among the top 10 in both categories and have a 3.75 team ERA compared to the Red Sox’s 4.26.

The Orioles’ starting pitching has wobbled to the tune of a 4.89 ERA. They added left-hander Wade Miley at the Aug. 1 trade deadline, but his eight-hit, four-run debut suggests he won’t be a savior.

The bullpen, which boasts the second-lowest ERA in the AL, is a strength.

Ultimately, though, Baltimore will live and die with its bats, which lead both leagues in home runs (139) and rank third in OPS (.775).

An array of contributors—Mark Trumbo, Adam Jones, Pedro Alvarez, Jonathan Schoop—have chipped in. But this is Machado’s team all the way. If he can go bananas from here into autumn, he could mask a lot of flaws.

Granted, he’s not the only mega-star in the East. Boston has the ageless David Ortiz and a cast of up-and-comers including Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts. The Jays have reigning AL MVP Josh Donaldson.

No one, however, combines youth, ability and past results quite like Machado. If you’re looking for a horse to hitch your wagon to, he’s the thoroughbred.

He’ll have plenty of chances to ding his division foes, as the Orioles play the Jays six more times and the Red Sox nine more times before season’s end.

“The game slows down for him sometimes, and he does things that not many people do,” Orioles skipper Buck Showalter said after Machado’s three-homer game, per MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli. “So, get a good seat for it, shut your mouth and try to enjoy it.”

Machado got a taste of the postseason in 2012, when the Orioles snagged a wild-card spot and advanced to the American League Division Series. The New York Yankees eliminated them in five games.

He missed the party in 2014, however, after a knee injury sidelined him in August. The Orioles won the division and swept the Detroit Tigers in the ALDS but fell in four games to the Kansas City Royals in the American League Championship Series.

Now, after a disappointing 2015, they have another shot. They just need that certain something to nudge them over the top.

Something like vintage Manny Machado.


All statistics courtesy of MLB.com and Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Manny Machado, Yordano Ventura Ejected After Orioles vs. Royals Brawl

Tensions exploded in the fifth inning of Tuesday’s game between the Kansas City Royals and the Baltimore Orioles after Royals starter Yordano Ventura hit Orioles shortstop Manny Machado with a pitch.

Per Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports, Machado charged the mound and threw a punch after Ventura plunked him with a 99 mph fastball. The two had exchanged words earlier in the game.

WIBW reported Machado and Ventura were ejected.

In the second inning, Ventura threw a fastball inside that straightened Machado up. Machado flied out to right in that at-bat, but the two jawed back and forth as the Orioles star made his way back to the dugout.

“He hit me with a 99 mph fastball, and 99 is no joke,” Machado said after the game, per Steve Melewski of MASN. “You can ruin someone’s career.”

“I don’t think that should be in order,” Ventura said when asked about a potential suspension, per Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com. “My plan was to pitch inside, and one got away. And things happened.”

Ventura has a history of similar incidents. He hit Brett Lawrie in 2015 when the latter was with the Oakland Athletics, one day after Lawrie sprained the left knee of Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar with a hard slide into second base.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter said he wasn’t disappointed in Machado charging the mound, per Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com. 

“Manny and the team decided not to take it tonight,” Showalter said, per Kubatko.

Melewski also provided Orioles center fielder Adam Jones’ take:

I knew it was going 2 happen. The guy has electric stuff, but between [the] ears, there is a circuit board off balance. He wants to be Pedro Martinez; go out there and have a damn sub 2.00. Don’t go out and try to hurt somebody. Hopefully the league catches on to it. I’ve got Manny’s fine, and the rest is history.

Major League Baseball has had its share of brawls already this season. The Toronto Blue Jays and the Texas Rangers engaged in a skirmish on May 15, which featured Rougned Odor’s punch to the face of Jose Bautista. The ruckus resulted in six suspensions and 14 players and staff members being fined.

The Royals and Orioles didn’t go that far, but Machado and Ventura will likely miss time in the near future or receive fines for their actions.

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Manny Machado Belongs with Harper, Trout in MLB’s Best All-Around-Star Debate

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado doesn’t talk about whether he belongs in “The Conversation.”

That’s baseball speak for: “Who is the best all-around player in the game?”

The top two candidates are Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals and Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels. But Machado has plenty of campaign surrogates who are willing to speak on his behalf for inclusion into this race.

Chief among them is Orioles manager Buck Showalter.

“The separator for me is the impact the player has on both sides of the ball. There, Manny is as good as anyone in the game. He impacts us and our pitching staff nightly, whether he’s hitting or not. One example is the depth that he allows us to play,” Showalter told Bleacher Report.

“Manny’s got a lot of ‘want tos.’ No. 1, he wants the Baltimore Orioles to win a world championship and contribute to that. But he’s not satisfied with just being good. I don’t know why people are having those conversations without his name in it. Machado also doesn’t get nearly the recognition of those other guys.”

Machado does offer a hint of his views on The Conversation via the body art tattooed across his upper back.

It reads simply: “Sky’s the Limit.”

“The sky’s the limit for him, for sure. He wants to get better every year. He wants to be the best,” Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop told B/R. Schoop played with Machado in the minors and remains perhaps his closest friend on the team. “He fits right there,” Schoop said. “You could see right away in the minors he was a special player.”

Baltimore first baseman Chris Davis told B/R that Machado already is—or should be—a part of any discussion of the game’s finest.

“Manny’s just as talented as those two guys. Obviously, he’s going to continue to have to prove himself,” Davis said. “That’s the name of the game. Once you do it once, can you do it again? And after you do it again, can you do it again? It’s up to him to see where he goes from here.”

Shortstop J.J. Hardy firmly agreed Machado’s name “should be involved” in any serious best-in-baseball discussion. Machado made a major league-high 713 plate appearances in 2015 over 162 games. “He’s amazing. He’s definitely, arguably there with them.”

Machado is currently No. 6 on ESPN’s player ratings and the No. 7 position player on MLB Network’s Top 100, which is updated weekly.

His overall body of work over the past 365 days prior to Monday can offer numeric solace to those ranking him among the likes of Trout and Harper.

During that time frame…

  • Trout had 33 doubles, 41 HR, 89 RBI and a .297/.399/.586/.985 slash line.
  • Harper had 44 doubles, 47 HR, 112 RBI and a .336/.458/.691/1.149 slash line.
  • Machado had 36 doubles, 38 HR, 86 RBI and a .301/.373/.537/.910 slash line.

When it comes to picking the best of the best between the likes of outfielders like Harper or Trout versus a third baseman like Machado, all of whom have similar numbers, Showalter posits a simple question to his questioner: “Which position will impact the game more?”

“Third base?” is the hesitant answer.

“You bet your ass, and Manny can play shortstop, too,” Showalter answered. “You can’t make the opposition hit the ball to your best defensive player. I can’t make my best hitter hit with the bases loaded. It has to be his turn. He impacts our game in so many ways.”

“When I bring up young players, I ask myself if they can defend well enough to have the growing pains to become good offensive players. They’re all going to struggle here offensively. The jump between Triple-A and the majors is the biggest in sports. I can’t bring up anybody who’s letting in two but not driving any in. If you’re a plus-defender, then I can let you grow offensively. I knew we could do that with Manny, Jonathan (Schoop) and (Joey) Rickard.”

Defensively, Machado’s statistical edge is quite decisive, even though Trout hasn’t made an error since 2014. Machado turns 24 in July and has won two Gold Gloves at third base, plus a Platinum Glove for being the best overall defender in the American League in 2013. He was worth 14 runs above the average player at third on defense, while Harper and Trout were worth 10 and five, respectively.

Showalter sees much more to Machado’s defensive edge at his position than what is displayed in analytics.

“Those numbers are not some dark bugaboo, but you have to take the cloak off them. And they don’t show everything” Showalter said.

Among the items not quantified in Machado’s “defensive WAR,” according to his manager: “Arm strength, tags—he’s a great tagger—range in the air, throwing to the right base, defending the swinging bunt and positioning.”

Orioles Hall of Fame pitcher and current broadcaster Jim Palmer brought up The Conversation without being asked.

“Everywhere I go, people ask why isn’t Manny in the conversation for one of the best players in baseball. I think he is in that conversation, certainly in the top five,” Palmer told B/R. “He just plays at a very, very, very, very, very, very high level.”

Palmer’s breakdown of Machado, who is closing in on 2,000 career at-bats, helps to explain why he’s playing at such a high level and why he’s likely to stay here.

“He’s very talented. He had two ligament problems—in the right and left patella—and he’s taken care of that. He’s had a lot of experience. It seems like he’s more focused. He’s more selective at the plate. He’s got power to all fields. Certainly, it helps that Camden Yards is a great hitter’s park.”

“Defensively, he’s got the reflexes of a shortstop playing third base, with a great arm. You really have to be able to anticipate the play at third base. They don’t call it the hot corner for nothing. He’s a very talented young player.”

“He’s so imaginative,” said Showalter, who made it a point to stress his observations were much more praise of Machado than a critique of the others involved in the debate.

“A good defender has a great imagination,” Showalter said. “You can’t put them into a robotic mindset. He’s so loose-jointed he can do things that others can’t do at third base. You have to give him the freedom to use his imagination.”

As an example, Machado recently tried to steal third base with two outs and lethal slugger Chris Davis at the plate. “A guy like Manny, you let him have the flow. His maturity has grown in both the competition and preparation for the competition,” Showalter said.

The stratosphere, not merely the sky, appeared to be a step stool on Machado’s ascent to the top, as he tallied at least one hit in the first 16 games of 2016. After going 2-for-5 against the Royals on Saturday, his average stood at .397.

The ceiling of Tropicana Field, the Rays pitching staff and some stellar defense have temporarily clipped his wings. Tuesday, Machado’s average had “tumbled” to .342 after going 0-for-11 over the past three games.

He’s not alone, as the Orioles have scored just one run in the past 26 innings. Before the series, Rays manager Kevin Cash said a key to slowing Machado was making sure he didn’t come to bat with runners on base. For two nights, anyway, it has worked. 

Palmer and Davis agree that Machado has become more patient at the plate, mini-slump or not.

“He’s never really in a hurry. He’s understanding a walk is as good as a hit,” Davis said. “We all know as an offense they’re not going to challenge one through nine. They’re going to try to pick their poison and come at different guys. It’s been good for a lot of guys to know they’re not going to have to win the game with one swing of the bat. That’s something that Manny has bought into and that’s been huge for our team.”

Added Palmer: “He’s at that point now where you really have to make good pitches to get him out.”

To wit, a filthy 92 mph changeup Chris Archer threw to strike him out in his first at-bat Monday night. “He should chase that pitch, that’s how good it was,” Rays catcher Curt Casali said. Archer fanned 10 Orioles Monday, including five in the first two innings.

“It’s valid that he’s in there,” Casali said of the best-in-baseball discussion. “He makes great in-game adjustments, he’s strong and swings a big bat. He’s one of the toughest outs in the league for sure.”

Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria and Machado have combined for four AL Gold Gloves since 2009. The Rays TV network made the hot corner comparison prior to Tuesday’s telecast, juxtaposing highlight clips of Longoria and Machado.

Before the game, Longoria told B/R the numbers will, in the end, dictate who makes the cut and who doesn’t. “If the numbers are comparable, I don’t know why he shouldn’t be in there. He’s an amazing player. A special player. His plate discipline has gotten better. He always knows what’s coming, which is what you see from the elite hitters.”

Moving from shortstop to third base has made Machado even more of a defensive threat, Longoria said. “He’s got a great arm. And some of the plays he makes, that others don’t, occur because of his arm—going way down the line behind the bag or moving to his right when he makes throws going away from first. And his range both ways.”

There is another conversation Machado chooses to engage in with vigor. That’s the never-ending chatter he enjoys with teammates in the clubhouse and during pregame warm-ups and batting practice with Hardy and Schoop. There, he smiles, laughs, jokes, talks trash in Spanish and English and shows all the signs of a 23-year-old potential MVP and/or best player in the game enjoying the ride.

Before Machado jogs off the field into the clubhouse after batting practice, he stops at the dugout steps and signs about a dozen autographs for Orioles’ partisans on site.

“He’s just growing up. He’s maturing,” Davis said. “He’s learning how to continue to be himself and be aware of his teammates. After being with a group of guys for a number of years you start to learn their tendencies. And you know where they’re going to be on the field—that’s what you’re seeing defensively. He understands that you need the second baseman, the shortstop and the first baseman. It’s been good for him.”

But Machado still struggles to achieve elite status in one area—at the card table in the Orioles clubhouse playing the poker-like game called pusoy.

“It’s a fun game, and it helps you think a little bit and get the brain going,” Schoop said through a laugh. “I’m way better than he is. He’s in High-A and I’m in the big leagues in the card game.”

Heck, even someone as crazy talented as Machado can’t be great at everything.


All quotes were obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report unless otherwise specified. Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.

Bill Speros is an award-winning journalist who tweets @RealOBF and @BillSperos

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MVP-Hopeful Manny Machado Looking the Part Early for Undefeated Orioles

If you haven’t added Manny Machado to your short list of American League MVP candidates, now is the time.

Seriously, do it.

Through the first five games of the 2016 season, the Baltimore Orioles‘ budding superstar is teasing next-level production. And he’s carried the O’s to a surprising undefeated start.

Yes, it’s way early, the caveat that must accompany all April storylines. But when you add Machado’s raw ability and recent track record to the mix, there’s cause to believe this is far more than a small-sample mirage.

Machado won’t turn 24 until July 6, meaning his prime is far on the horizon. And 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.

Machado truly broke out last season, bashing 35 home runs with an .861 OPS, 20 stolen bases and 14 defensive runs saved at the hot corner, per FanGraphs.

If WAR is your thing, Machado’s 6.8 mark was third-best in the Junior Circuit, behind only AL MVP Josh Donaldson and AL MVP runner-up Mike Trout.

So far in 2016, Machado owns a .429/.455/.904 slash line with three home runs. On Sunday, he went 4-for-4 with a homer, two runs scored and two RBI as the Orioles defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 5-3.

If you zoom back to the end of 2015, he’s on an eye-poppingly epic power binge, as ESPN Stats & Info noted:

Donaldson is raking in the early going as well, with four home runs and nine RBI for the potent Toronto Blue Jays. And if you think Trout’s 4-for-20 start means anything, you have never watched that man play baseball.

It’s too soon to handicap any awards race, but expect last season’s top two finishers to make convincing cases once again. And don’t be surprised if a veteran star such as Miguel Cabrera or a budding stud like Carlos Correa muscles into the picture.

Machado’s squarely in that conversation, though. Soon, he might be starting that conversation.

Machado himself tempered the hype after Sunday’s win. 

“It’s the start of the season,” he said, per MLB.com’s Bill Chastain and Jeff Seidel. “We started off with a great homestand. We started off the year pretty well. Let’s keep this ball rolling.”

If the Orioles can in fact keep it rolling and challenge for supremacy in the crowded AL East, it would count as a mild surprise.

Their lineup is loaded with sluggers, including reigning MLB home run leader Chris Davis. But there are enough question marks, including in the starting rotation, for FanGraphs to project a modest 82-80 finish.

That might yet come to fruition, though Baltimore’s starting pitchers have acquitted themselves more than capably, surrendering six earned runs in 23.2 innings with 28 strikeouts and six walks.

Machado, however, has been the biggest revelation. Or, more accurately, continuing revelation. 

Drafted as a shortstop with the third overall pick in 2010, Machado made his big league debut at the position last season. This year, he’s already started one game at short in place of J.J. Hardy, who was dealing with a calf issue.

“It’s kind of like a new toy for him,” skipper Buck Showalter said of the defensive switch, per Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun.

If Machado ever makes a permanent move to shortstop, his power will profile even better there. For now, he’s an unmitigated asset wherever he plays.

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, he answered them last season by appearing in all 162 games and making an MLB-leading 713 plate appearances.

As for his 2015 output, FanGraphs’ Mike Podhorzer opined: “Nothing statistically stands out as a fluke…so can it get better? In fact, it could. With an average batted ball distance now over 290 feet, there might even be more power. Furthermore, if he could ever cure his pop-up problem, the batting average on balls in play could spike.”

The numbers like Machado. The eyeball test definitely likes him. The Baltimore faithful have got to be loving him.

Yes, it’s April. There are 157 games left to play. But if you’re still wondering whether to jump on the Machado train, we’ve got two words for you: Do it.



All statistics current as of April 10 and courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted.

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Predicting Impact MLB Deals That Will Go Down During 2016 Spring Training

With spring training drawing near, we’re all mainly excited for the baseball. It’s our dear friend, and it’s been too long since we last hung out.

But don’t forget about the business, folks. Spring training always brings us a few last-minute deals, and we’re here to take a whack at predicting some of the big ones that will go down this spring.

We don’t have many to get to. Only four. Two involve predicting new homes for a couple big-name free agents. Another involves predicting the spring’s biggest trade. Lastly, there’s no time for contract extensions like spring training, and there’s one in particular on our radar.

Let’s get going with…


Yovani Gallardo Signs with the Baltimore Orioles

Major league clubs have already dropped about $2.5 billion on free agents. If they were to pool all their money together, Forbes says they could afford to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

And there are three big-name free agents still waiting to get theirs: outfielder Dexter Fowler, shortstop Ian Desmond and starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo. How much longer, oh glorious free-agent gods, must they wait?

In the case of Fowler, probably not long. There seems to be more interest in him than there is in Gallardo and Desmond, making it easier to predict that their strolls through the open market will last into spring training.

But eventually, Gallardo should get picked up by the Baltimore Orioles.

Admittedly, Orioles general manager Dan Duquette would advise everyone not to hold their breath. Gallardo is still on the market largely because he’s tied to draft-pick compensation. And for the Orioles, signing him would mean giving up the No. 14 pick in next year’s draft. No small sacrifice, that.

As the man himself recently told his cousin, Jim Duquette of MLB Network Radio:

However, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun is of the mind that Gallardo remains a possibility for the Orioles. And as Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports wrote, Gallardo’s price could drop to a point that would simply be too good for the Orioles to pass up, lost draft pick be damned.

There’s a good chance of that happening. All the other top arms on what was once a crowded starting pitching market have already signed, putting a dent in the demand for starters. And knowing how they scored Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz a couple springs ago, the Orioles are just the team to take advantage of Gallardo slashing his ticket price.

There’s also the kinda-sorta important note that the Orioles really need Gallardo. They’ve lost ground in the AL East, and a good way for them to make it up would be to repair a starting pitching staff that FanGraphs currently projects as the worst in the American League.

With a 3.46 ERA over the last two seasons, Gallardo could help fix that. And here’s thinking the Orioles could have him on a cheap three-year deal they could potentially make cheaper with an opt-out.


Ian Desmond Signs with the Arizona Diamondbacks

With Gallardo safe and sound in a new home, now we have to find shelter for Ian Desmond. Let’s do that by sending him to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

If you’re thinking this is us going way off the board, well, you’re not wrong. Desmond has been linked to the Tampa Bay Rays, as reported by MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo, and many believe the Chicago White Sox would be a likely landing spot. Not so much the Diamondbacks, though. And after their trade for Jean Segura, they don’t have an obvious home at shortstop.

But if the Diamondbacks want to overcome the Dodgers and San Francisco Giants in the NL West, they need as much firepower as they can get. They also have two apparent advantages over suitors such as the Rays and White Sox.

The Diamondbacks don’t have to worry as much about losing a draft pick to sign Desmond. Where the Rays would lose the No. 13 pick and the White Sox would lose the No. 28 pick, the Diamondbacks would only lose the No. 39 pick. That thing is not like the previous two things.

The Diamondbacks would also seem to have more money to spend. Baseball-Reference.com puts their projected 2016 payroll at about $95 million, which is well short of the franchise’s all-time high of $112 million in 2014. That gives them plenty of room to dip into their new $1.5 billion TV deal.

Signing Desmond would be a good excuse to do so. After averaging roughly 20 home runs per year over the last four seasons, swapping out Nationals Park for the typically homer-friendly Chase Field could allow him to do even better. For the Diamondbacks, the result would be one of the National League’s most dangerous offenses.

Where to play Desmond is more of a hurdle, but not too big of one. The Diamondbacks could sign him as a third base upgrade over Jake Lamb, or as a second base upgrade over Chris Owings. Or, they could sign Desmond to play his natural shortstop, leaving Owings, Segura and Nick Ahmed to battle for playing time at second and third base.

At the rate he’s going, the Diamondbacks might be able to get Desmond on a three- or four-year deal with an early opt-out. If they do, an NL West title wouldn’t sound too crazy.


Milwaukee Brewers Trade Jonathan Lucroy to the Washington Nationals

After going off the board with that last one, let us now return to the board to concoct a trade that would send Jonathan Lucroy from the Milwaukee Brewers to the Washington Nationals.

As Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported, Brewers general manager David Stearns said this week there’s nothing brewing on Lucroy. But something could start brewing during the spring, when clubs lacking in impact talent behind the dish are more likely to get antsy.

The Nationals could be one of those. Rosenthal and Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe have reported they’ve kicked the tires on Lucroy as a possible upgrade over Wilson Ramos. They’re also one of the few teams in the league that can probably afford Lucroy’s price tag.

That’s if Lucroy were to allow a deal to be done, of course. His incredibly team-friendly contract only guarantees him about $4 million more, but it comes with a limited no-trade clause. The Nationals are on his list, according to Rosenthal, so he would have to approve a trade to Washington.

But that’s not necessarily a roadblock. As Rosenthal notes, the Nationals could sway Lucroy by offering him more money:

The Nationals have done this sort of thing before, as they worked something out with Jonathan Papelbon when they traded for him last summer. It’s not hard to imagine them doing the same with Lucroy.

After all, he would be quite a nice upgrade for them behind the dish. Ramos is fine defensively, but not so much offensively. Lucroy owns a .770 career OPS, and yours truly believes his bat didn’t decline as much in 2015 as his final numbers let on. 

To get Lucroy, the Nationals certainly wouldn’t give up either of their top two prospects, Lucas Giolito and Trea Turner. But Victor Robles or Erick Fedde could be in play. Michael A. Taylor is another possibility. He’s only a fourth outfielder on the Nationals and could be appealing to a Brewers club that could very much use a high-upside center fielder.

If the Nats were to get Lucroy, they’d have another weapon for their quest to dethrone the New York Mets in the NL East. And after the Metropolitans re-signed Yoenis Cespedes, such a weapon is arguably necessary.


Baltimore Orioles Extend Manny Machado

Spring training isn’t all about last-minute signings and trades. As Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, Buster Posey and Justin Verlander can vouch, it’s a great time to sign extensions worth roughly all of the dollars.

Who’s the best bet for a big-money extension this spring? We’re looking at you, Manny Machado.

Machado has all the trappings of a perfect extension candidate. He’s young but just now entering his prime years. He’s close to free agency but not too close to free agency, with his first foray into the open market set for after 2018. He plays for a club that’s not poor but still needs to worry about controlling costs. And perhaps most important of all, Machado is not a Scott Boras client.

The star third baseman told Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports in October he would love to stay in Baltimore long term, and Duquette has indicated the interest is mutual.

“We’ve already looked at that and we can look at that again,” Duquette said, per Encina. “Manny’s a great player, we’d love to have him long term.”

Coming off an .861 OPS, 35 home runs and a Gold Glove in what was only his age-22 season in 2015, now is a good time for Machado to seek a huge payday. And lest they risk losing him to the pull of free agency by waiting, now is also a good time for the Orioles to oblige him.

To do that, they could take a page out of the Los Angeles Angels’ book.

When the Angels signed Trout to his six-year, $144.5 million extension in 2014, they bought out three arbitration years at reasonable prices and three free-agent years for fair market value at over $34 million per year.

The Orioles could do basically the same thing with a five-year deal for Machado. With the two sides having already settled at $5 million for 2016, the deal could cover his final two arbitration years and three free-agent years. A good amount would be something like $130 million and would allow Machado to hit the open market after his age-28 season.

If that sounds like too much money for the Orioles, bear in mind that Machado’s really expensive years wouldn’t kick in until 2019. Presently, the Orioles only have about $30 million in guaranteed money on the books for that season, according to Spotrac. The deal we made for them and Gallardo wouldn’t change that.


That’s our whack at predicting this spring’s big extension. But between us, you might also want to keep an eye on Bryce Harper, A.J. Pollock, Jake Arrieta, Jacob deGrom and Gerrit Cole.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

Follow zachrymer on Twitter 

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Manny Machado Has Wife’s Portrait Tattooed on His Forearm

They tell you nothing is guaranteed until the ink is dry.

Well, the ink on Manny Machado‘s love for his wife, Yainee, has not only dried, but it’s also about as permanent as it gets.

The Baltimore Orioles third baseman had her portrait tattooed and shared a photo to Instagram on Monday. It fills the majority of the available real estate on the inside of his right forearm, featuring a blossoming flower.

[Manny Machado, h/t The Score]

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It’s Time for MLB Superstar Manny Machado to Become a $100 Million Man

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.

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.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

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