There's no question it's been a positive few weeks for the Orioles. After an offseason that looked bleak and disconcerting, the team made a few moves on and off the field that helped spring things to life.
There was the announcement of the "Kids Cheer Free" program, which allows adults to bring children 9 and under to a game for free. Then the team backed up its signing of pitcher Andrew Cashner by bringing in another free agent starter, Alex Cobb. The O's also announced new pricing initiatives at Camden Yards, designed to help fans enjoy concessions and souvenirs at the game without breaking the bank.
After being dormant all winter, the organization pushed down on the accelerator right before the season, leading to a thrilling opening day win capped by Adam Jones' mammoth walk-off home run. While there's still a long way to go (it is a 162-game season, after all), there's now some hope in Baltimore when it comes to the Birds. It's located in that same place where there was little to no hope before.
But what if I told you that hope could actually go even further? It could go even higher. The Orioles could come out tomorrow and say they are signing Manny Machado to a long-term extension.
I know that sounds like a pipedream to many. But honestly, so did allowing kids into games for free. So, too, did signing Alex Cobb. The idea of lowering concession prices was also farfetched, but it happened. There is something happening with the Orioles as an organization. Something seems to be changing from within. Whether it's changes near the top of the decision-making chain or some other influence, something is different. There's absolutely nothing stopping the O's from putting a big pile of cash in front of Machado, and for that matter, Jones and Jonathan Schoop, too.
Obviously, it takes two to tango. There would have to be some willingness from Machado to sign a deal, something of which there is obviously no guarantee. There's also no question that the Orioles would have to be prepared to hand out the largest contract in team history, shattering the deal they gave to first baseman Chris Davis. But let's also be clear -Machado is no Davis. Davis is a good player, and one of the game's many "three true outcome" players in this day and age. Machado is perhaps the most talented player to ever wear the Oriole uniform. That may sound blasphemous to some who saw the likes of Brooks Robinson, Cal Ripken Jr. and Jim Palmer play the game. But Machado is an otherworldly talent and the market will show that.
Part of what makes the business of baseball wonderful is that the market dictates what a player is worth. This past offseason was a strange one, but make no mistake that next winter will be different. There will be large contracts handed out to some of the game's best players. The most cynical of fans will bark about how no player is worth the big bucks, but then keep watching in awe of their talents. Machado is that player. He's a generational talent. Whether or not the Orioles are the ones to sign him, he will be paid like the generational talent that he is.
I fully recognize that every word I'm writing in this blog sounds like a fantasy to many. It's illogical to think the Orioles would somehow drag their feet on getting a deal done with Machado over the last few years before suddenly coming to terms on one when it's one of the biggest storylines in baseball. All the brightest lights are shining on Machado this season. Every national pundit believes that not only will he sign in New York or Philadelphia or St. Louis this offseason, but also that he'll be traded away before the July 31 deadline. I don't think Machado is going anywhere this season. I think he's playing out the season in Baltimore. I only hope Machado plays more of them after 2018. In order to make that happen, all the Orioles have to do is keep building on the positive momentum they've already produced in the last month. Is that so much to ask?
Andrew Stetka blogs about the Orioles for Eutaw Street Report. Follow him on Twitter: @AStetka. His thoughts on the O's appear here as part of MASNsports.com's continuing commitment to welcome guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.