Manny Machado almost certainly will be playing in a different uniform soon, and it didn’t have to be that way.
The Los Angeles Angels proved that way back in early 2014, when they handed budding superstar Mike Trout a six-year contract extension worth nearly $150 million, locking him up two seasons past his first season of free-agent eligibility.
To be fair, the Orioles also made an early run at Machado, but it was nothing like that.
“They never reached out and showed that appreciation like the Angels did to Trout,” Machado said. “It was a totally different situation.”
There was no anger in Machado’s voice when he said that. There is more of a sense that he’s happy that he ended up right here in the situation that he finds himself as the July 31 nonwaiver trading deadline looms and free agency awaits not long thereafter.
“I’m grateful for the position I’m in,” he said. “I’m 26 years old and I’m going into free agency.”
Trout certainly isn’t complaining either. The contract he signed back in 2014 wasn’t exactly a bargain basement deal. He’ll make $34 million and change this season and has two more years at that salary, but there are some non-economic benefits of that kind of contract that also make it attractive.
Trout never had to sit in an arbitration hearing … or even hear about arbitration. He skipped over all three of those offseasons. If his situation had played out the way Machado’s did, he would have gone into free agency last winter and probably set the market for both Machado and Bryce Harper this coming offseason.
Though Trout clearly is appreciative of the ability to avoid all that, he said this weekend that he doesn’t really know if it would have impacted him negatively.
“Obviously, it lets you play freely, but for me, I go out there and play freely no matter what,” Trout said. “It doesn’t matter if you have a contract or not, I’m just trying to get better every day. It’s probably tough. I haven’t been through it, so I don’t know the feeling, but like I said, I go out there and try not to worry about that stuff.”
Angels manager Mike Scioscia certainly is able to relax knowing that Trout isn’t going anywhere. He agrees that Trout probably would not be a different player regardless of his contract status, but feels that getting ahead of the business side of the game has to make the ride through the major leagues more comfortable.
“I think that you play this game your whole life; you go through the minor leagues; you get to the major leagues; you’re looking for an opportunity to play — an opportunity to win and get some stability in your life if it’s the right place for you,” Scioscia said. “In that regard, it helps to not have any of the potential distractions that come with free agent years, that come with arbitration, that come with the business side of this game. You just play baseball.”
That’s all Machado says he wants to do. He doesn’t think all the trade speculation and free-agent chatter has any effect on him. He has handled it well off the field and obviously is having a terrific “walk” year so far.
“At the end of the day, you can’t control any of that stuff,’’ he said. “Who knows? I don’t know how [Trout] feels about his contract. That’s a personal question. From my standpoint, I go out there and control what I can control. I’m grateful for the opportunity I have. You can’t predict what would have happened in the past, who would have known.”
Machado said, however, that he can predict what will happen after he signs a new contract that some estimate will be worth well over $300 million, whether it’s with the Orioles or some other team.
“I’m going to go out there and leave my heart on that field. I’m going to play for my team. I’m going to play for championships. I’m going to keep being me, in other words. I’m not going to change for money. I’m not going to change for anything. I’m going to keep being the same player. I’m going to keep smiling out there. I’m just happy I’m going to be out on the field playing baseball.”
Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said Friday that the Orioles’ attempt to sign Machado to an early multiyear extension failed for the obvious reason: They couldn’t agree on a number.
“There are advantages to that,” he said. “We tried to do that with Manny but we didn’t quite get a deal done. We had extensive conversations a couple of years ago. We closed the gap but we didn’t get a deal done.”
Duquette is quick to remind everybody that there’s a reason why the Angels were so quick to throw all that money at Trout. He was American League Rookie of the Year in 2012 and finished second in the Most Valuable Player balloting in 2013. After he signed the extension, which was added on to a record third-year salary of $1 million, he was elected American League MVP two of the next three seasons.
“To this point of his career, he’s the most productive young player in the history of the game,’’ Duquette said. “If you got to baseball-reference.com and look up his WAR [wins above replacement], you can see he’s on pace to have an incredible career. He’s an incredibly talented player.”
So the two sides are where they are, which is where they’ve been all along. Now Machado holds all the cards.
“We were looking for a number and we couldn’t reach to that,” Machado said. “We decided to wait a little bit and we’re still waiting.”