The Orioles did not reach an agreement on a contract for 2018 with third baseman Manny Machado and, at this point, are heading for an arbitration hearing with their best player to determine his salary for his final season before free agency, according to an industry source.
The Orioles failed to come to terms on Machado’s contract by Friday’s 1 p.m. deadline for players and teams to exchange salary figures. According to MLBTradeRumors.com, he was projected to make $17.3 million this upcoming season.
The Orioles went to the increasingly common “file and trial” position in negotiation with arbitration-eligible players starting last season, meaning that once players exchange salary figures, they are slated to go to a hearing with no further negotiation. Despite that stance, the Orioles still engaged some players after the salary exchange deadline.
Machado could be looking for a deal closer to the record $23 million that his agency, MVP Sports Group, negotiated for Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson on Friday morning for his final season before free agency.
However, Donaldson already made $17 million last year, the final year of a two-year contract negotiated by the Blue Jays after his MVP season in 2015. His deal for 2018 nets him a $6 million raise. Machado made just $11.5 million in base salary last season, and was projected to receive a $5.8 million raise.
Before Donaldson’s deal, no player negotiating through the arbitration process had received a $20 million contract. The previous record salary for an arbitration-eligible player was the $19.75 million that left-hander David Price negotiated before the exchange deadline in 2015 for his final year before free agency.
Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper, who is most closely compared to Machado because of their star power and earning potential as they reach free agency following this season at age 26, will receive $21.625 million next year, an $8 million raise, as part of a deal negotiated last season to buy out his final arbitration year.
The Orioles could still reach an agreement before Machado’s arbitration hearing.
The Orioles employed the same “file and trial” stance last year, but agreed to terms with right-hander Kevin Gausman two weeks after the salary figure exchange deadline and also made catcher Caleb Joseph an 11th-hour offer before his arbitration hearing. Joseph declined the offer and lost his trial. Right-handed reliever Brad Brach also went to an arbitration hearing last year, handing the Orioles their only arbitration hearing defeat in 22 years.
Despite the need for massive starting pitching upgrades and an additional left-handed bat, most of the Orioles offseason has been consumed by potentially trading Machado before he hits free agency. But the Orioles have yet to receive a trade offer for Machado that has met the demands of the club, which includes two major league-ready starting pitchers who are controllable for at least the next four or five seasons.
While the Orioles are prepared to hold on to Machado and Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette has said his focus has turned to other offseason priorities, the team has continued to field offers. While going to an arbitration hearing may not be as contentious as it seems, a potential hearing can’t be good for the relationship between Machado and the Orioles, especially after Machado has spent most of the offseason hearing his name the subject of swirling trade rumors.
The Orioles also have six other arbitration-eligible players: closer Zach Britton, second baseman Jonathan Schoop, Gausman, Brach, Joseph and shortstop Tim Beckham.
This story will be updated.