The new 2018 calendars are hardly in place on the walls, and the New Year’s Eve hangover is barely a memory, and yet, you, the Baltimore sports fandom, are already facing another countdown and a crisis.
The countdown is to July 31 and the crisis is a reference to end of quality Orioles baseball as we’ve known it for the last five seasons or so.
The date in question is the non-waiver trading deadline. After that date, it becomes significantly more difficult to make a trade for the final two months of the season.
And it’s after that date where if third baseman Manny Machado is still on the Orioles roster where it will become increasingly more likely that Machado will walk after the season ends with the team receiving nothing in return.
In a little over five major league seasons, Machado has been an All-Star three times and finished in the top five in Most Valuable Player voting twice.
At 25 years old, Machado, who is a brilliant defensive player as well as a gifted hitter, is approaching the prime of his career.
While he has some maturing to do, Manny Machado should be poised to become the leader of a new era of Oriole excellence.
It’s become more and more clear that Machado will not lead the franchise to the first World Series title since 1983, nine years before he was born.
That’s because Machado, who makes $5 million – a paltry sum for a player of his skill level -- will be a free agent after October.
The betting is that he will command an annual salary of at least five times what he is making now.
Orioles fans are left to wonder what is the team doing to keep the best homegrown player to come through the system in a generation. The answer appears to be very little.
From all accounts, Orioles general manager Dan Duquette has spent a good chunk of the offseason trying not to sign Machado, but to trade him for a passel of cheap, young talent.
It appears that keeping Machado will be a casualty of the decision two years ago to sign first baseman Chris Davis to a seven-year, $160 million contract.
The Orioles brass seems to be tacitly saying that it can’t afford to pay Davis and other players and keep Machado at the price the third baseman will want.
Of course, you could argue that a forward-thinking front office might have tried to lock up Machado a few seasons ago to a reasonable price, rather than gamble that he would take less money to stay in a place he has always called home.
Keep in mind that the franchise, though not nearly as valuable as the Yankees, Red Sox or Cubs, who are expected to pursue Machado, is worth more than $1 billion now, and likely worth even more since the Miami Marlins were sold recently for over $1 billion.
Barring a miracle, though, another ball will drop in eight months and that countdown will not be so pleasant.
And that’s how I see it for this week.