For the next 12 months and perhaps longer, you'll be hearing about Manny Machado's contract. The Baltimore Orioles' star third baseman is eligible for free agency a year from now.
In what promises to be a tumultuous year for the team -- closer Zach Britton, center fielder Adam Jones, manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette all have contracts ending at the end of the 2018 season -- Machado's ups and downs are going to be monitored even more closely.
Let's take a look at five factors that could affect Machado in 2018.
1. What kind of a year will he have?
In 2017, Machado hit .335 with 15 home runs and 50 RBIs in July and August. In the other months, he hit .215 with 18 homers and 45 RBIs.
His season average (.259) and on-base percentage (.310) were the lowest of any of his five full seasons. Machado effectively began his 2017 season much earlier, playing in high-intensity games for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, and it's natural to think that helped wear him down.
Interestingly, when J.J. Hardy was hurt, Showalter didn't move Machado to shortstop as he did the year before. Showalter felt the move tired Machado.
When the Orioles acquired Tim Beckham to play shortstop, Machado eagerly embraced him.
2. Will Machado be unnerved by the scrutiny of potential free agency?
As soon as Machado reports to spring training, he'll have to address his contract situation, and he'll regularly be questioned by out-of-town media about free agency: "Manny, do you think you'd like play in New York?"
Other times when he's been the center of attention -- surrounding his two suspensions and the booing in Boston following Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia's slide -- Machado has been able to ignore the noise and perform well.
3. Is there any chance the Orioles trade Machado?
Prior to the season's final game, Duquette said he wasn't planning on trading either Machado or Britton. With so many key pieces set for free agency, the Orioles are planning on taking a genuine shot at contending in 2018, and Machado is huge for them.
However, if the team flounders to begin next season and isn't competitive come July, it will have to trade Machado.
4. Is there any chance the Orioles could sign Machado?
The Orioles have tried to sign Machado to an extension in the past but failed. Duquette indicated the team might try again this offseason, but he didn't sound enthusiastic about the prospects for it.
There will be countless estimates of what a 26-year-old third baseman could sign for, but it's obvious the Orioles have never had a player who could command, say an eight or 10-year contract north of $250 million.
While some say the Orioles would never pay that kind of money, two years ago it seemed impossible the Orioles would spend $161 million over seven years on first baseman Chris Davis.
5. Is there any chance Machado wants to stay?
Machado has always professed his loyalty to the Orioles, and that's good politics. It's also smart when he's asked by every writer about playing in their city not to dismiss those possibilities.
He's been comfortable with the Orioles. He enjoys playing with his friend, second baseman Jonathan Schoop, who's eligible for free agency two years from now.
Machado also enjoys close relationships with third base coach Bobby Dickerson, who has worked with Machado throughout his professional career, first base coach and chess partner Wayne Kirby and hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh, who he's defended against outside criticism.
Maybe Machado wants to play third base in New York. Perhaps Machado would like to play at home in Miami. Before the Derek Jeter group took over the Marlins, slugger Giancarlo Stanton was signed to a back-loaded, 13-year, $325 million contract. There's talk the Marlins would like to get out from that deal, and maybe a year from now, go after Machado.
In May 2015, when the Orioles visited Marlins Park for Machado's only three major league games in Miami, none of the games even drew 24,000.
There'll be many of those scenarios offered in the next year or so, and maybe one of them will be accurate.