Manny Machado needs to take “wait-and-see” approach to contract extension

Before the 2015 season began, Manny Machado‘s contract was renewed by the Baltimore Orioles for $548,000. As a fourth-year player, Machado’s salary was non-negotiable. That did not sit well with the 23-year-old, two-time All-Star, Gold Glove-winning third baseman. Machado was ready to commit long-term to the Orioles at the time, and voiced displeasure. He wants to win, and win in Baltimore. With no real pressure to get a deal done, the Orioles did not move to extend Machado, who was coming off two major knee injuries in two years. While most understood the reasoning for not extending one of the game’s brightest young stars, Machado still felt slighted.

A full season later, Machado still wants an extension. He wants to win, and to do so in Baltimore.

“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “This is the organization I came up with, this is the organization I want to be with. I have no doubt in my mind that we’re going to get back to where we need to be. We’ve got to make some moves, get some people, sign some people back. Hopefully, we sign Davis back.”

Coming off a fully healthy 2015 campaign that saw him hit 35 home runs and play in all 162 games, Machado is now in the driver’s seat when it comes to controlling contract extension talks. He proved himself healthy and durable. His plate discipline improved so dramatically that he nearly tripled his career high in walks. Then he threw in 20 stolen bases for good measure. Given a green light by manager Buck Showalter with greater frequency, it’s not hard to project Machado as a 30-30 threat.

If Machado and the Orioles failed to work out a contract extension, he will enter arbitration for the first time this winter. Extension talks with Manny, of course, will have to wait until after Chris Davis makes his decision. Even if Davis is re-signs, however, Machado needs to take a “wait-and-see” approach before he is willing to commit to playing for the Orioles for six or seven more seasons. Davis is not the only hole to be filled in Baltimore. The starting rotation is in major need of an upgrade at more than one spot. The farm system does not hold any immediate upgrades, as top prospects Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey barely pitched this year. Machado should watch carefully to evaluate whether Orioles’ management is truly willing to address the needs of the team. Adam Jones was none too pleased with the decisions made by the front office last winter, and has made it clear that he wants to be more heavily involved in the free agent process this time around.

Machado was in a hurry to get an extension done last year. Now, after one of the best seasons ever by a player in his age-22 season, he should sit back and wait. Committing to the Orioles now is committing to an uncertain future. Cal Ripken Jr. played in only three postseasons in his entire 21-year career, and he went 13 years between winning the World Series in 1983 and returning to the postseason in 1996. Machado will need to think long and hard about signing away the prime years of his career to an organization that may not be willing to spend aggressively in an effort to upgrade its weaknesses.

An extension now for Machado still makes sense. In signing a six-year contract, he would still be able to re-enter the free agent pool before the age of 30. It does make sense to maximize his earning potential in the intervening years, and getting an extension now instead of riding out the arbitration process allows him to do that. Machado appears increasingly happy in Baltimore, showed massive signs of maturation this year, both as a hitter and as a leader of the team. He wants to be part of the organization for as long as he possibly can be. The Orioles need to do their part and commit to Machado in more ways than one. Until that happens, however, Machado needs to wait patiently. Last year, it was Machado with something to prove to the organization. This year, the tables have turned.

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