So many fans are hoping the Orioles find some way to hang onto Manny Machado after 2018 with an extension this offseason, but in reality if the Orioles are going to go for a World Series title, the one area they must improve is starting pitching.
Therefore, given the top of the rotation options this offseason that are on the market, former Oriole Jake Arrieta seems to be the best option available to the Orioles. He’s going to come at a premium especially with Boras as his agent and the Orioles don’t have enough payroll room to sign both him and Machado to long term deals.
So here’s the question:
Would you rather see the Orioles sign Jake Arrieta or Manny Machado?
Before answering it’s important to look at each deal and the consequences of signing each player.
A Machado extension has been talked about non-stop this season, and if it happens it is going to set the record for the highest contract ever given to an Orioles player, and perhaps the largest contract in MLB history.
Most think it will fall in the 10 year $300+ M range and I think that seems about right. Machado is now 25 so that would take him into his mid-30s.
Once thought to be the next Alex Rodriguez, Machado has instead been much better than A-Rod with his glove, while exercising not nearly the same plate discipline, leading to a lower career wOBA and wRC+ than A-Rod had at the same age.
The question to ask for Machado is: have we already seen his best? In 2017 he’s had a phenomenal second half but he’s still only at 3.3 fWAR for the season with only a few games left to go. In 2016 he had 6.6 fWAR but even that was down from his career 6.9 fWAR in 2015.
There’s a big difference in paying $30 M per season or more for a player that is only worth slightly more than 3 wins over a replacement player and one that is 6+ wins as he has been in the past. Fangraphs estimates his worth to be $26.2 M this season so it wouldn’t be a huge overpay, but an overpay nevertheless
Manny’s defense has also been a tick below his spectacular self this season as well as he’s +6 DRS which ranks him 8th best in MLB, down from his +14 (3rd) and +13 (4th) at 3B in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
Signing Manny to a long term extension is a gamble that the Orioles think the best years are still ahead of him when that may not be the case.
Still there’s a good chance he’ll remain in the top 3rd of defensive third basemen for years to come even if he never reaches close to Alex Rodriguez potential with the bat and that may just be enough entertainment value for fans to warrant the price.
Arrieta is a bonified ace, there’s no doubt about that. Having won the Cy Young in 2015 after the Orioles traded him a few seasons just before, Arrieta has gone on to a 60-38 record with the Cubs with a 2.71 ERA.
However Arrieta will be 32 next season, so he’s likely reached his peak and he will see his fastball velocity start to decline. Plenty of pitchers have had this happen though, and the very best have adapted and still been very effective into their late 30s such as former Orioles ace, Mike Mussina.
Although he stays in great shape, Arrieta has been banged up a bit this year with a cut on his right thumb earlier in the season and a hamstring injury earlier this month limiting him to just 29 starts this season.
Signing Arrieta obviously would be a gamble just like any long term contract to a pitcher. Very few of those $100+ M deals to pitchers have worked out for teams that have signed them. I’m guessing Boras and Arrieta would be looking for a similar contract signed by Max Scherzer but due to his recent injury and age, I think he’s looking at more like a 6 year deal worth $25-30 M.
Still, the Orioles have a giant hole in their rotation, and bringing back Arrieta would help ease some of the pain of Orioles fans when he was traded away and became the ace of the Cubs and won a World Series with them in 2016.
Machado or Arrieta?
When you look at both deals, both are gambles. However the one fact remains: Manny Machado is under Orioles control for 2018 while there is a gaping hole in the Orioles’ rotation.
The Orioles also have Jonathan Schoop or Tim Beckham that can play 3rd base beyond 2018 with Ryan Mountcastle moving to 2nd base while there is no ace in waiting in the Orioles’ minors. Sure neither will have Machado’s defense, but it’s more important for the Orioles to become a complete team.
I frankly don’t expect either deal to happen because Machado is certain to test free agency and Arrieta is going to have so many more attractive options than Baltimore. That being said, I would sign Jake Arrieta because the Orioles need to do something huge on the pitching front after the disaster that was 2017 and Arrieta would be that major move, just like the one Dan Duquette made when he traded for Pedro Martinez after the disastrous 1997 season for the Red Sox.
For all of the flak Duquette has taken for trading away Arrieta in 2013, he possibly could receive credit for bringing back the ultimate piece that ended the Orioles’ World Series drought just as Arrieta helped do with the Cubs.
Given the choice, I say it’s time to bring Jake back, even if it means saying goodbye to Manny.
It’s worth it to have the best chance to say hello to a World Series in Baltimore in 2018.
Top images: CC Images courtesy of Keith Allison (R) and Arturo Pardavila III (L) on Flickr