A lot can happen between now and November 2018. That's when Manny Machado's contract expires, sparking what's sure to be an intense bidding war for one of the best players in the game. Will he choose to stay with the only team he has ever known, or will he opt for a certain division rival that has a habit of seducing superstar free agents? (Or will he go for what's behind door No. 3?)
With the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles kicking off a key three-game set at Camden Yards (1 p.m. ET, ESPN), baseball writers Andrew Marchand and Eddie Matz debate.
Marchand: Machado makes a lot of sense for the Yankees, because he seems like A-Rod with less drama and just as much of a rivalry with the Red Sox. Plus, if you look at the Yankees' system, they don't necessarily have an out-of-this-world prospect at third. Well, they might have one: They could move Gleyber Torres there, as he's playing the position some at Triple-A, and Miguel Andujar, though he's no sure thing, is a pretty talented 22-year-old at Double-A. Still, Machado could be the Yankees' play over Bryce Harper after the 2018 season.
Matz: Machado makes just as much sense, if not more, for the Orioles. Everyone wants to talk about how New York has gone out of its way to clear the books in preparation for the 2018 free-agent class, but Baltimore currently has just $43 million on the books for 2019, or about $30 million less than the Yanks. Not to mention, Manny's heart still belongs to his first love: shortstop. In related news, with J.J. Hardy's contract expiring, the O's should have a vacancy at short.
Marchand: If he wants to play shortstop, maybe he'll stay in Baltimore (or go someplace else), but from my experience, players usually take top dollar. When was the last time the Orioles outbid the Yankees for a player? I'm waiting ...
Matz: I'm not saying Machado takes a hometown discount. What I am saying is that, despite their frugal reputation, the Orioles -- whose $163 million payroll this year is MLB's 10th highest -- have shown a willingness to spend when needed. If they were willing to plunk down $23 million a year on Chris Davis, it wouldn't surprise me to see them break the Bird bank on Machado and at least match any offer from the Yanks.
Marchand: The Orioles really should be the highest bidder for Machado. It is an indictment of their franchise if they can't keep one of the most special young players in the game in that market. It would be doubly insulting for them if he ended up in the Bronx, which could be a superteam. If Torres becomes a star at second, the Yankees' infield might be Greg Bird, Torres, Didi Gregorius and Machado. Two years is longer than it might seem, so the combination could be different, but you put Machado into the Yankees' mix and wow, it'd be something.
Matz: No question Machado donning pinstripes would be viewed in Baltimore as heresy. Which is a big reason the O's are likely to back up the Brink's truck. But it's not the only reason. While owner Peter Angelos is notorious for pinching pennies when it comes to pitching, dude loves the long ball and is willing to pay for it. In related news, Manny is on pace to hit 35-plus homers for the third straight season.
Marchand: Machado would be an absolute star in New York. He wouldn't make the splash Harper's arrival would, but if he wants the ultimate spotlight, that might very well be 2019 with the Yankees. Their prospects could all be good to go, making Machado the final cog for an unbelievable offense. Plus, the Yankees might pay him the most. There are a lot of factors, but the Yankees definitely could be big players for Machado.
Matz: The one X factor we haven't mentioned yet? Jonathan Schoop. The O's second baseman and Machado are thicker than Baltimore humidity. They came up together. They locker next to each other. Even though Schoop isn't slated to hit free agency until a year after his bestie, signing him early to a long-term extension -- if the Birds are able to swing it -- could help persuade Manny to choose B-more over the Bronx.