Orioles' Manny Machado hopes to play every game this year. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun)
After watching the Orioles spend an unprecedented amount of money this offseason to retain three of their key players, third baseman Manny Machado believes there's now more hope that he will remain with the club long term.
Machado, 23, won't become a free agent for another three seasons – he just became arbitration eligible this past year – but given his rising star status in the game, the Orioles would need to make a major investment to keep him in Baltimore past 2018.
He saw the Orioles sign first baseman Chris Davis to a club-record seven-year, $161 million deal and setup man Darren O'Day to a four-year, $31 million contract, the largest free-agent deal the club has issued to a reliever. The Orioles also made the $15.8 million qualifying offer to catcher Matt Wieters, and he accepted. Overall, the Orioles have committed nearly $250 million in free agency this offseason.
"They're trying to keep everybody here," Machado said. "That's good for me. I hope they keep me here long term. But the case is you can't sign everybody. You can't bring everybody back. It's just part of the business. … It's part of the things you can do, the people you can bring back, the people who you can't, people who won't be.
"But I think they're making an effort of bringing everybody back and keeping the same clubhouse, the same core guys coming in. It's all about camaraderie. You put great people in the clubhouse, I think the clubhouse will be great. A lot of things will flow a lot easier. Things will go great out on the field. It just makes a lot of things easier. I think we have one of the best clubhouses in the game. I'm just fortunate to be a part of it and hopefully I'm here for a long time."
Machado, who is coming off his best all-around season – making his second All-Star Game and winning his second Gold Glove award – will make $5 million this season in his first season of arbitration eligibility. The Orioles approached Machado about a long-term extension following the 2013 season, but nothing gained momentum.
"I mean there's hope," Machado said. "That brings out hope. I think this [Davis contract] is the biggest contract in Orioles history, so there's hope there. I know they've got the money for it. I know Peter [Angelos] is trying to everything possible to bring a ring here, so whatever you have to do to bring a ring here you've got to lay it out on the field. It just brings me hope that they're trying to keep everybody here and hopefully they can come up with something and we can make something happen."
Machado said he actually wasn't surprised to see the Orioles dedicate most of the offseason to keeping Davis, O'Day and Wieters.
"You know what? I'm actually not," Machado said. "I know we had to do something. The front office has been working on making this ballclub the best team out there on the field. I think they're accomplishing that. I don't think we need new faces. When you have all these same guys coming back, the camaraderie we have in here and the ballclub we have here, I think it's definitely a great ballclub and a great ballclub to be in. You bring those guys back who are going to help this team no matter what, it just makes this team much better, makes us stronger. We're just looking forward to playing together again."
On preseason prognosticators picking the Orioles to finish last in the American League East: "For as long as I can remember, me playing here it's been the same thing. 'Oh you guys suck, you are going to be in last place. Can't compete with the Yankees, can't compete with Boston. Can't compete with other teams in our division.' But we've made the playoffs [two of the past four years]. We've gone to places other teams in our division haven't gone. I think we just can't think about that stuff. We have to go out there and play. I think we have a great ballclub here, we have the people we need to surround ourselves with. The coaching staff does a great job of getting us where we need to be, the front office does what they need to do to put the players on the field that we need. … We've just got to unite as a team and play as a team and the sky is the limit after that."
On his accomplishments in 2015: “I’m just excited to play baseball. I’m proud to be an Oriole and proud to go out there every day and have the opportunity to be myself and play the game that I love. I’m just excited to be back out on the field and play every day. It’s a blessing. Not a lot of guys could go out there and say that they could put on a big league uniform. I’m fortunate to go out there every day and put it on and do what I could do and be the best player I could be.”
On trying to play 162 games again this season: “I hope. I’m going to do everything possible to play every game. It was a great accomplishment last year. I enjoyed it. It was awesome. I was able to say I was the only one to do it. Like I said, as long as you go out there every day on the field, you’re able to do something. You might go 0-for-4 with four strikeouts, but it’s just the beauty of the game. The next day you could go 4-for-4 with four homers. It just gives the opportunity to do something well for your team and something well for yourself. And at the end of the day, it’s a great accomplishment at the end of the day that you can play 162.”
On the disappointment of finishing .500 last season: "We fell short. I think we had a great team. We were in first place for a while and we just came up short. We got tired toward the end. Our pitching staff fell off a little bit. We didn't hit as much as we liked. We went through tough stretches where we shouldn't have and those are things we learn from. I think we just look back at what we can take from last year, which is just go out there and keep playing. Don't worry about the outcome. Just keep playing the game and hopefully we can learn from the things that we left short last year."