No matter which side of the "What should the Orioles do with Manny Machado?" debate one falls on, an article on FanGraphs is likely to fuel that opinion.
While the premise of Tuesday's piece was on the trade market for one of Machado's top contemporaries, Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson, much of the thought process laid out in the article entitled "Third Base Looks Like a Buyer's Market" applies to the Orioles' pending problem, if you can even call it that.
With Machado entering the final year of his contract, there's a sizable portion of the Orioles fan base that believes that absent re-signing the All-Star third baseman, he should have already been traded to maximize the return. Others believe this offseason is the time to move him if he won't re-sign, while others think having him around for one last run with a rebuilt rotation is worth the diminished return for him that might come next June.
However, as Dave Cameron notes with Donaldson, there are a lot of third baseman available for a few possible suitors, both now and next summer. The time for maximum value might’ve passed.
This offseason alone, teams that need a third baseman have good free-agent options in Mike Moustakas and Todd Frazier. While not at the level of a Donaldson or Machado, both could be had without giving up the premium prospect package that would come with acquiring one of the All-Stars who could pop up on the trade market.
Other possible trade candidates include the Texas Rangers’ Adrian Beltre and even the Tampa Bay Rays’ Evan Longoria. And the list of possible contenders who would need a third baseman is far shorter than that. All that conspires to put the Orioles in a position where maybe the market has made their decision for them on how to handle the star third baseman going forward.
There are certainly camps within the organization who see 2018 as a year when the Orioles can rebuild their rotation and compete again with a dangerous lineup still intact. Others have already begun looking to the future, and see Machado's continued presence on the team — especially if they fall out of contention early — as counter to what the goal should be.
Even with a handful of mitigating factors, such as Machado's ability to play shortstop in a pinch and the fact that his value could spike again if he returns to form in 2018, the Orioles seem to be in a difficult spot with their franchise player.
But the FanGraphs analysis is unlikely to change any opinions. Those who believe Machado should’ve already been dealt will feel that even more now. Those who feel the Orioles will be better in 2018 with him will feel the same, too. Both, likely, are correct.