"It is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all."
"What we've got here is failure to communicate."
"I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse."
I can't decide which quote best applies today. No, it didn't take a "Godfather" offer to pry Manny Machado away from the Orioles. Everyone and their mother knew this day was coming. Machado, he of the .315 batting average, 24 home runs and 65 RBIs, was too big a fish to swim in a last-place pond on the final year of his contract.
Every home run of Manny Machado's Orioles career: pic.twitter.com/Exb0tpDj4q— BMOREcenter (@BMOREcenter) July 18, 2018
Still, the front office in Baltimore knew they had to get this one right, so they held out as long as you could. Depending on who you ask, you might hear that they waited this long to allow Machado to represent the O's in the 2018 MLB All-Star Game as their lone player. I'm sure that was a nice bonus, but the truth is that waiting this long allowed them to net the greatest possible return.
With every twist and turn in the story, new leaders in the sweepstakes emerged and more and more (and better) prospects were added to team's offers. The Yankees wanted to create the most fearsome lineup since the '27 Murderer's Row. The Brewers wanted to show they were aggressive, much like their acquisition of CC Sabathia exactly a decade ago. The Phillies needed to replace the struggling J.P. Crawford at short. The Braves wanted to legitimize their division title chances. The Indians wanted to form the greatest infield in recent memory. The Cubs aren't afraid to turn a strength into a super strength.
Philadelphia was the favorite, until they weren't.
In the end, it was the Dodgers, looking to replace their own injured star shortstop, who made the offer which couldn't be refused.
Yusniel Diaz, Dean Kremer, Rylan Bannon Zach Pop and Breyvic Valera are headed to Baltimore in exchange for Machado and no additional cash, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.
The Dodgers were one of the best matches with the O's in terms of prospects. Los Angeles is adept at identifying and developing talent, meaning their farm system has a wealth of talent to draw from. Their fourth-best prospect would be number one or two on many team's lists, so the Orioles were able to extract more value without the Dodgers feeling like they were giving up too much for a rental.
Many fans who think the O's would have to basically give Machado away want to remind you that he is just that; a rental. This brought his value down, though it's arguable how much. Machado isn't your average three-month player. He is a generational defender at third base and a passable defender at shortstop, all while providing a middle of the order bat. If we were ranking players on pure talent level alone, Machado would likely be in the top three in all of baseball, and at age 26 he's only now entering his prime. This is a quality of "rental" rarely, if ever, seen in baseball history.
The Dodgers didn't make this move for the next three months (though it can't be overstated how important it's become to win your division ever since the advent of the Wild Card Game and they are locked in a tight battle atop the NL West). They made this move for October.
The National League has many quality teams, but with no super teams in the ilk of the Red Sox or Astros, a move like this can serve to separate them from the pack. Los Angeles is now probably, at worst, tied with the Cubs as the prohibitive favorites to return to the Fall Classic.
For better or worse, this trade will likely come to define the next decade of Orioles baseball. They needed to nail the prospects they got back, and if nothing else, they should be commended for handling this professionally over the last few weeks. This is a quality package, representing a much-needed infusion of talent into their barren farm system.
It doesn't excuse the previous three years, in which they bungled the situation so badly they somehow managed to go 1,000 days without even talking to their most accomplished player in a generation about a potential contract extension. It's been a laughable, unacceptable, truly embarrassing failure to communicate between a decision maker and his best player.
The one silver lining to the Orioles finding themselves on a historic pace to have one of the worst seasons in Major League Baseball history is that the decision to trade Machado and officially kick off the long rebuilding process was an easy one. In previous seasons, during which the front office could have received much greater value in return for one of their stars, the team has inexplicably been unable to evaluate their own postseason chances and chosen to be buyers when they should have been sellers.
69 losses at the All-Star break is a clear message that the roster needs a reboot, and it allowed the team to not hesitate in jettisoning their most talented player in decades. The fact that the team has been bad since Opening Day has given fans plenty of time to resign themselves to this move, and hopefully they can focus on the excitement of adding a fun, talented young core, instead of the sorrow of losing a beloved figure on your favorite team.
In the coming years, as the team fights for the top spot in the draft and finds themselves looking up at the hated Red Sox and Yankees in the AL East, hopefully they can look back on some of Manny's greatest hits in Baltimore and appreciate what they had in the superstar from Miami.
After all, it is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.