Orioles third baseman Manny Machado hit 33 homers and drove in 95 runs in the 2017 season. That was just less than the 37 homers and 96 RBIs he produced in 2016. He was also the American League Player of the Month this past August, when he hit .341 with 12 homers and 35 RBIs.
In August, Machado hit three grand slams in an 11-game span. The last one came on Aug. 18 and was a walk-off slam, turning a potential 7-5 loss to the Angels into a 9-7 win.
If you don’t think hitting three slams in 11 games is remarkable, here is a list of 10 Orioles players that hit three grand slams in their entire careers with the club: Brady Anderson, Paul Blair, Mike Devereaux, Reggie Jackson, Nick Markakis, John Lowenstein, Curt Blefary, Bobby Bonilla, Miguel Tejada and Melvin Mora.
Despite all of this, Machado’s 2017 season was not as good offensively as his 2016 season. His slash line went from .294/.343/.533 to .259/.310/.471. His OPS dropped from .876 to .782. His Wins Above Replacement per FanGraphs.com went from 6.6 in 2016 to 2.8 this past season.
In 2016, Machado produced an OPS of .900 or more in four separate months. He did that just once in 2017. His lowest OPS month in 2016 was .625 in July. Last year, he had an OPS of .629 in May and .590 in September.
For whatever reason, Machado hit much better in 2017 batting second than batting third. When hitting second, he slashed .296/.335/.524 with an .859 OPS. When batting third, those numbers were .205/.275/.375 and .670. You would think he had more chances to drive in runs when batting third. But he averaged an RBI every 5.6 at-bats hitting second and one every 9.2 at-bats batting third.
But ultimately these days, any discussion of Machado leads back to one area: his contract status and the fact that he can be a free agent after the 2018 season.
Many readers here would love to see the team sign Machado to a new long-term contract. If they can’t get that done, many fans seem open to the team pursuing a trade for Machado. Even with just one year of team control left, it would seem he could bring back a decent haul in any deal. The concern is hanging onto Machado for 2018, but then seeing him leave the club after that via free agency.
The team has several key players with contracts up at the end of the 2018 season. But Machado is the biggest fish in the pond. At this point, he and his agent may not even be very open to talking contract with the Orioles being so close to free agency. He’ll become a free agent at 26. Some huge dollars are in his future. He may even be in line to get two more big contracts.
Machado’s 2017 season may have been disappointing in some respects. He was hitting .215 in early July. But it very likely didn’t hurt his long-term value and at least one big contract is coming his way soon.