Way, way back in May 2016
PressBox issue No. 221
hit the streets and newsstands. The subject of the cover story, written by Dan Connolly, was the very close relationship between then-Orioles third baseman Manny Machado and then-second baseman Jonathan Schoop. The title was,
"A Lasting Handshake."
As then-editor Kaitlyn Wilson, Connolly and I discussed the hook for the story, clearly our minds were on the special bond between the two young Orioles who fans hoped would be in orange and black for years to come. But the very real possibility that the two would break up was just as much on our minds.
At the time we planned that article, the money was already on Machado not being around Baltimore for the long haul. Even with how great of a player he was becoming, it seemed two significant knee surgeries to repair torn medial patellofemoral ligaments --first on his left knee in October 2013 and then on the right knee in August 2014 -- set the stage for the Orioles to be squeamish about buying out his arbitration years and extending him beyond 2018, his last year under team control.
Conversely, there was optimism that the club's reluctance to sign Machado wouldn't carry over to Schoop and that the club would be more proactive in locking up a deal with its likable, improving and more affordable second baseman.
It's been more than two years since then, and we can now look back with almost total accuracy on how things would play out with Machado, including how big of a long-term deal -- $200-plus million -- Machado would be able to attain.
We can argue now that the Orioles waited a year too late to deal Machado and closer Zach Britton. Britton's injury during the 2017-18 offseason (a torn Achilles tendon) and the short window of owning Machado led to a "sell low" return for both players who were such soldiers for the Orioles.
However, for whatever management's reasons, the Orioles' horrid 2018 season and Schoop's rough 2018 led the club to do a total about-face on Schoop and deal him for a middling return from the Milwaukee Brewers.
Machado, who was traded July 18, had a solid but less than spectacular two months with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and he got to play in a World Series against the Boston Red Sox, his old American League East rivals.
Meanwhile, Schoop was dealt to Milwaukee July 31 amid a final crescendo of deals by former executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette, who was frantically trying retain his job with a series of moves aimed to jumpstart the Orioles' rebuild.
Schoop, who had a two-week hot streak leading up to the deal, immediately played like a fish out of water in Milwaukee. Schoop's performance was so bad that the Brewers elected to non-tender Schoop, rather than be locked into a one-year deal worth about $10 million through arbitration. That made Schoop a free agent, albeit a slightly tainted one.
If you're thinking Schoop's sudden free agency makes him a candidate to return to Baltimore, then think again. Orioles general manager Mike Elias isn't feeling warm and fuzzy about hugging fan favorites. Rather, as his decisions to release director of player development Brian Graham and scouting director Gary Rajsich indicate, Elias is coldly and unemotionally doing the dirty work of changing the dysfunction that existed in the warehouse.
Schoop, who may very well be looking at a one-year deal worth between $4.5 million and $5 million, will find work. But as much as I loved Schoop and was in favor of paying him big money -- say, a $60-70 million deal -- everything that has happened since the start of the 2018 season has me wearing a lot of egg on my face (as are a lot of scouts who saw what I thought I saw).
But the reality for Schoop is that after five full seasons, we know he has power. We know he isn't really a high-average hitter -- .258 lifetime. We also know he is a solid and fearless defender. But his career on-base percentage is just .294. He finished with a .338 OBP in 2017, but he slipped badly at the wrong time. After a while, you are what your numbers say you are.
Machado is still set to get a large deal. It may not be as long in term as some projections;
Machado would sign a 13-year deal for $390 million (average annual value of $30 million). But he could easily get a six- or seven-year deal for a slightly higher annual average plus an opt-out after four years.
Where does Machado end up? The Dodgers had him in their locker room and have made no attempt to wrestle him back. We know the Chicago White Sox will make a play for him. We also know the Philadelphia Phillies will be an ardent suitor, and we know that while the New York Yankees may play it coy, they'll probably end up in the middle of it all.
While I still think it comes down to the latter two teams, we know one thing for sure about the Phillies. Their trade for the former Seattle Mariners shortstop Jean Segura, who has a four years and $57 million left on his contract with a 2023 team option at $17 million with a $1 million buyout, makes one thing crystal clear regarding Machado.
If he wants to come to Philadelphia, the brain trust of club president Andy MacPhail and GM Matt Klentak is making it clear he'll come on their terms and that'll be a highly paid third baseman.
It will sure be interesting to see how these two special former Orioles and two special friends that appeared together on the cover of issue No. 221 continue their careers.
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox