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As Orioles complete 2014 contracts, Manny Machado reiterates disappointment

Third baseman acknowledges 'the system' for his contract and says he's just going to 'be the best player I can be'

By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun

5:56 PM EDT, March 11, 2014

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SARASOTA, Fla. — The Orioles officially completed their contracts for the current 40-man roster Tuesday, leaving one key player frustrated while — potentially, anyway — creating time to focus on signing players beyond 2014.

In an annual dance of the spring, the Orioles agreed to deals with 19 current players who have less than three years of major league service time, including rotation members Chris Tillman and Miguel Gonzalez, infielder Ryan Flaherty and outfielder David Lough.

But the one player who didn't agree to the club's offer — and instead received a renewal in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement — was the highest-profile Oriole with fewer than three years service: third baseman Manny Machado.

Machado, the club's 21-year-old All-Star who is currently rehabbing from offseason knee surgery, will make $519,000 in base salary — which is up from $495,000 in 2013 and slightly above this year's league minimum of $500,000. He also will receive a $100,000 bonus for winning the 2013 American League Platinum Glove Award.

Machado reiterated Tuesday what he told The Baltimore Sun on Monday: he is disappointed in not receiving a larger raise based on his 2013 performance, although that is the norm in the current salary structure that allows teams to keep salaries down for players not eligible for arbitration.

"It's the system, and the system is never going to change. It sucks. Yeah, it does suck," Machado said. "The only thing I can control is to go out there and play and be the best player I can be."

Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette was asked whether he was concerned that Machado's disappointment might create ill will with one of his organization's building blocks.

"The system is weighted more toward experienced players, and we thought it was important to recognize Manny's significant contribution, not just with 'attaboys,' but also with a bonus for his work," Duquette said. "The structure and the way it's weighted, that's really an issue for the players and their union, not really an issue for the club. The club sometimes benefits from the structure, and sometimes the structure goes the way of the player. That's just the way the system works."

Once a player reaches three years of service time, they qualify for three years of arbitration in which salaries increase exponentially. That's of little comfort to those who are just starting out.

The club has had similar experience with other budding stars in the past, such as catcher Matt Wieters and right fielder Nick Markakis, who voiced his displeasure in 2008 after he was renewed. The following offseason Markakis signed a $66.1 million extension.

"The team's got you for three, and it's all fair game after that. It's all about putting your time in and being a guy under control," Markakis said. "The team has the right to do that. You can get mad all you want, but it's going to do no good. I've learned that, and a lot of people have learned that. There's no point holding a grudge."

Machado, who isn't eligible for free agency until after the 2018 season, said he would be willing to listen to offers of a long-term extension, similar to what the Atlanta Braves did this offseason with several young players, including first baseman Freddie Freeman and shortstop Andrelton Simmons.

"It's awesome to be in their situation and be good for the next six years and take a little bit of pressure off yourself," Machado said. "I'd be up for it, I'm open to it. Nothing has come up yet. We'll see what happens."

Duquette said he has not had recent extension discussions with any of the current Orioles, including Machado, Wieters, shortstop J.J. Hardy and first baseman Chris Davis. The organization has had initial discussions with Hardy's agent, but nothing in the past 17 days, Hardy said.

Part of the reason for that, Duquette said, was that he has been busy filling the club's roster through free agency.

"The market for these free agents has continued into spring training this year. So generally it's done in December," Duquette said. "It's been a little bit longer offseason this year. But with these signings, we are done with the contract administration for the players we have in camp."

The concentration could also shift back to free agency, with right-handed starter Ervin Santana remaining in limbo. The Orioles reportedly have made an offer of one year and roughly $14 million to Santana, but there has been no recent movement in the club's pursuit, Duquette said.

"No, not really. I guess the market is a little … interesting," Duquette said. "I just think it is still going, ongoing. Fluid is a good word."

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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