Baltimore Orioles: Dan Duquette must trade Manny Machado while his value is soaring

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /
Baltimore Orioles
(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

The Baltimore Orioles are going nowhere fast, so why are they hanging on to one of the most prized players in baseball?

Manny Machado has been one of the most talked-about names on the trade market for months, but the Baltimore Orioles brass doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to move him.

That’s a mistake. The 25-year-old shortstop will net a hefty haul of prospects no matter when he’s dealt, but that doesn’t mean GM Dan Duquette shouldn’t be as opportunistic as possible.  Through Tuesday, Machado is leading the American League in batting average, on-base percentage, total bases and adjusted OPS. In other words, his resume isn’t going to get much better than it is right now.

Take a look at Machado’s game log from last year. He hit just .215/.283/.418 through his first 80 games, but he came on like gangbusters in the second half, slashing .303/.338/.525 the rest of the way. 2016 tells a similar story, but in reverse — his OPS fell by nearly 150 points over the final three months of the year.

It doesn’t make sense for the Orioles to hold on to a streaky hitter in the final year of his contract when he’s in the midst of one of the hottest stretches of his career. But the front office isn’t in any hurry to move him — at least, that’s what officials are saying to the public. Per Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun:

"“We’re still evaluating our club for 2018,” Duquette said by phone. “Basically, we still need to figure out where we’re going to be, so I think we need a little bit more time to do that.”"

It sounds reasonable enough, but there’s just one problem: we already know exactly what the Baltimore Orioles are going to be in 2018. Per Fangraphs, the Birds have an 0.1% chance of making the postseason this year. Even if you’re leery of computers and projections, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the difficulty of rebounding from an 8-21 start, especially in a division with supercharged teams like the Red Sox and Yankees.

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It’s depressing to think that a team with a $150 million payroll can be down and out before the second week of May, but isn’t self-awareness better than delusion? The Orioles rank last in the AL in runs scored and 12th in ERA. Healthy or not, they’re not digging themselves out of this hole. Duquette wants to take a wait-and-see approach, but at 20th in the league in attendance, the truth is that most fans have already seen enough.

That’s why the front office should be aggressive and move their prized asset this month. If potential deadline buyers would pay through the nose for two months of Machado, then why wouldn’t one of those teams be willing to offer an even better package for four months?

For a non-contending team, the future is all that matters. Even if moving Machado early would net just one additional prospect, it’d be worth it. As fun as he is to watch, keeping him around for one last hurrah would be a poor allocation of resources.

With Corey Seager out for the year, the Dodgers seem to be a natural landing spot. Machado says he wants to stay with the Orioles, but he may be singing a different tune after a couple more losing months.

Trading a superstar is never fun, but sometimes it’s the only move to make. Dan Duquette has an obligation to O’s fans, and he’s not doing them any favors by waiting to cash in the frustrating present for a better future.

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