MIAMI — One scout who attended last weekend’s World Baseball Classic games at Marlins Park had a very brief but telling assessment of Manny Machado’s performance.
“He just made himself baseball’s first $400-million man,” said the scout, who works for a National League team, after Machado went 5-for-14 with a double and a home run as the Dominican Republic won all three of its games.
There has been much speculation that Machado, the Baltimore Orioles’ third baseman, or Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper will become the first player to receive a contract of $400 million or more if they reach free agency after the 2018 season, as expected.
However, the scout is sure which of the two will break that barrier.
“It’s going to be Machado,” he said. “He just does more things that Harper. For me, he’s the better all-around player, probably second in all of baseball to Mike Trout.”
While some would argue that Harper or Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant is No. 2 to Trout, Machado’s teammates with the Orioles will argue the point.
“When you have a chance to see every day like we do, you truly appreciated how great he is,” utility infielder Ryan Flaherty said earlier in spring training. “Not only is he an impact player but he has a really good feel for the subtleties of the game. He has it all, both from a physical and mental standpoint.
“And he’s a great guy and a great teammate, too.”
Despite entering his sixth major-league season, Machado is just 24 years old. He has helped lead the Orioles to three postseason appearances, including in 2012 when he made his major-league debut on Aug. 9 and played a part in Baltimore ending a streak of 14 losing seasons in a row.
Machado has endured two major knee surgeries to hit .284/.333/.477 in 608 career games while averaging 28 home runs per 162 games. He has won two Gold Gloves despite being switched to third base from shortstop just two weeks before called up from the minor leagues.
Potentially enhancing Machado further is that he is expected to move to shortstop next season to replace impending free agent J.J. Hardy. Machado has made 43 career starts at short in the big leagues.
Machado, for his part, isn’t thinking two seasons ahead and about the jackpot that is likely to await. In fact, he prefers to remain a lifelong Oriole like such Hall of Famers as Cal Ripken, Jr., Brooks Robinson and Jim Palmer.
Though he has been willing to spend more in recent seasons, whether owner Peter Angelos would OK a $400-million expenditure on a player is open to debate.
“They want guys to stay here,” Machado said. “They want them to build their legacy here. They want them to bring it back like back in the day when they had Cal and Brooks and Palmer and all these guys who stayed here a long time in their careers.
“They know I want to play here. This is my organization. This is the team that drafted me. I came up through this organization. I’ve done everything with this team. This is the only team I know. I’m all for it. I’d rather win a ring than sign a long-term contract. And they’re doing the right things to put the pieces in the right direction.”