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Manny Machado to the Padres is the best-case scenario for Orioles fans

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Manny Machado to the Padres is the best-case scenario for Orioles fans

Manny Machado is signing with a team other than the Orioles, and it’s still music to the ears of everyone in Baltimore.

On Tuesday, multiple reports spread that Manny Machado was signing a record-breaking deal with the San Diego Padres.

Not the Yankees. Not the AL East. Not even a team on the East Coast. If you’re an O’s fan who likes to go to bed early, you may never have to watch Machado again.

It could have been so much worse.

For a long time, it’s been rumored that Machado had his heart set on the bright lights of New York City. He wouldn’t have been the first major free agent to head for the Bronx at his earliest opportunity, and he wouldn’t have been the last.

Instead, the Yankees front office decided to show some restraint, given an internal desire to not spend as much money as in the past. This left an opening for the rest of Major League Baseball to try to woo Machado.

The Yankees weren’t the only team to shy away from signing Machado to an historic deal. 

White Sox executive Kenny Williams discussed the Padres' winning offer with the media, claiming “that level wasn't feasible to us because we still have to project putting together a total winning roster."

Any team in baseball could have afforded this deal, as owners have never been richer than they are today. But to see the Padres actually pull the trigger has to be a welcome sight in league offices. The deal clearly makes sense for both sides, and free agents across baseball are breathing a big sigh of relief that the market is opening up. 

Orioles fans are relieved too, as a Mike Mussina-esque move to New York would have sullied Machado’s reputation in the eyes of many in Charm City. Having to watch the most purely talented player in your team’s history play for its biggest rival, and facing him 19 games a season, would have been a lot to handle.

From the moment the Orioles inked Chris Davis to his own huge deal, Machado was never going to return to Baltimore. The fear was he’d join a team where he could torture Orioles fans for years with glimpses of what might have been. The nightmare scenario was the hated Yankees. 

Instead, fans got literally the best-case scenario. If O’s fans had to power rank where they wanted to see Machado end up, Baltimore would obviously have been number one, but again, that was never happening. Number two on the list probably would have been the Padres.

The NL West is on the opposite end of the spectrum in every way from the AL East, and even within that division, a big-market team like the Dodgers or a historically prominent team like the Giants would have been marginally tougher to see. A medium-sized market team on the West Coast that hasn’t been close to a World Series in recent years sounds perfect.

The Padres do appear to be a good fit for the star infielder, as they’ve assembled one of the greatest collections of young talent in minor league history. MLB Pipeline had a whopping 10 members of San Diego’s farm system in their Top 100 prospects list, and many of those stars are on the cusp of readiness.

The top prospect in the bunch, Fernando Tatis, Jr. is also a shortstop, but as Machado clearly displayed for a half-decade in Baltimore, he is more than capable of sliding to third base. However San Diego lines up the two, this looks like the new future best left side of the infield in the sport.

San Diego may be a year or two away from truly competing, but that wasn’t enough to deter Machado from signing the largest free agent contract in the history of North American sports (Giancarlo Stanton’s $325 million deal was an extension, not a free agent signing). It’s a great look for baseball to have a smaller market team willing to make such an enormous investment despite not being ready to win a World Series quite yet. 

If Machado had gone to the Yankees, we may have seen the now-mandatory viral videos of fans burning their Orioles Machado jerseys. Instead, who can blame him for taking $300 million to live in San Diego for 10 years?

Instead of the chorus of boos Machado would have received had he returned to Baltimore in pinstripes, he’ll now certainly receive an ovation when the Padres come to town at the end of June this year.

Unfortunately, if he continues on his Hall of Fame trajectory (a big if, considering how high a bar that is to clear), he’d likely enter wearing a San Diego cap. It would be frustrating for O’s fans, knowing they had him in Baltimore for six seasons. But it would be a whole lot worse to see “NY” on his hat for the next decade. For getting to avoid that misery, O’s fans should be celebrating nearly as much as Padres fans.


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Mike Elias expects big things from Adley Rutschman in 2020 and beyond

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Mike Elias expects big things from Adley Rutschman in 2020 and beyond

As excited as Orioles fans are for the future of the franchise, and as desperate as they are for any glimpses of that future in the form of their top prospects, it doesn’t guarantee they’ll see Adley Rutschman in the big leagues any time soon.

The number one overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, Rutschman is one of the most highly-touted prospects to enter the draft in years, and as an experienced college catcher, is the prototype of a fast-moving player through the farm system.

According to the man tasked with ultimately making those types of timeline-based decisions, Rutschman will play the biggest role in determining how quickly he advances.

“Well it’s his first full season in pro ball, so it’s hard to put too much expectation on that,” General Manager Mike Elias cautioned to NBC Sports Washington when asked about the hype surrounding his first-ever draft pick. “It’s about starting in A-ball, or High-A, or wherever we decide to start him, and having success. And once he has success, we’ll get him moving.”

Elias told reporters at the Winter Meetings that Rustchman would have a chance to play with the big league club at Spring Training next season, but that will be more about the learning experience and less about a true opportunity to break camp with the team.

It’s hard to imagine a player like Rutschman not having success. He showed flashes of his talent across three lower levels of the Orioles’ minor league system after signing last summer, ultimately landing with the Delmarva Shorebirds.

The skills necessary for success, both on and off the field, were readily apparent to Elias and the Orioles front office throughout the draft process.

They say timing is everything, and Elias considers the Orioles very lucky to have earned the top pick in a year with a player like Rutschman.

“I think we were very fortunate that we had the number one pick in a year when Adley Rutschman was in the draft,” he said while praising the future face of the franchise. “He fits the type of player that we’re looking for perfectly, being an impact hitter but also a really good defensive catcher and team leader type. So it’s a perfect guy to sort of kick off this whole era of our rebuild, and I think it’s going to be fun seeing what he does in our minor league affiliates this year.”

Of course, Rutschman isn’t the only young player fans will be keying in on this season. Austin Hays is one of the more exciting young players in the organization, and he will enter Spring Training as the favorite for the everyday job in centerfield. If the gifted outfielder can stay healthy, he will be given every opportunity to solidify himself as the centerfielder of the future.

“He’s what we call in the scouting parlance ‘tooled out’,” Elias described when asked about Hays’ highlight-reel plays late in the 2019 season. “I mean he can run, he can really throw, he’s got power, all the physical capabilities. And he’s shown that when he’s healthy he can hit at the Major League level too.”

Of course, injuries have been the one thing that can stop Hays early in his promising career. 

“Health has been the issue for him,” Elias continued. “He’s had two injury-plagued seasons in a row, but when he came up at the end of last season he was playing with energy, he was healthy. So that’s all we want to see for him, but I think he’s an impact centerfielder and a huge part of our next good team.”

The next good Orioles team is still a few years away, but the pieces are starting to come into place. Not every top prospect will pan out -- there’s no such thing as a sure thing when it comes to minor league players -- but the Orioles are stocking the organization with talented, hard-working players.

Looking ahead to another long season in 2020, Orioles fans will have to look beyond the win-loss column to find signs of hope. If things go according to Mike Elias’ plan, Rustchman and Hays should provide plenty of moments worth getting excited.

Rutschman’s time is coming. For Hays, the future is now. For both, the eyes of Baltimore are upon them as the franchise enters the next era of Orioles baseball.


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Orioles and Scott Boras have met to discuss how Chris Davis can improve

Orioles and Scott Boras have met to discuss how Chris Davis can improve

When the Orioles signed Chris Davis to a team-record $161 million deal ahead of the 2016 season, they were expecting the left-handed slugger to be a perennial candidate for the league lead in home runs while being a versatile defender at multiple positions.

Instead, Davis has been a black hole in the lineup. No one in the majors has more strikeouts than Davis since the start of that contract, his home run totals have fallen every year and he’s played almost exclusively first base and designated hitter.

“We’re trying everything we can,” Orioles GM Mike Elias told NBC Sports Washington’s Todd Dybas. “He’s been struggling now for years and there are a lot of reasons for that and we continue to look into it. But the reality is, as you said, he is under contract and it’s something not to take lightly and because of that we’re going to be focused on getting the most out of him that we can. But it’s a very frustrating situation for him and for us.”

At his annual Winter Meetings impromptu press conference, Davis’ agent Scott Boras told reporters that he’s spoken with Orioles officials about how they can help the first baseman improve his production next season.

Davis, who spends his offseasons in Dallas, is reportedly not interested in attending a hitting school. Both Boras and the Orioles are hoping to come up with a different approach that will help him contribute to the lineup next season.

Baltimore still has Davis under contract for three more seasons, but the deferred money in his contract has the team paying him until 2037.