Baltimore Orioles: How does Donaldson affect Manny Machado?

The Baltimore Orioles will be paying Manny Machado $16 million this upcoming year. Or someone will be – this much we know. However another AL East third baseman signed a record contract for an arbitration-eligible player on Friday. Toronto signed Josh Donaldson to a one-year $23 million deal. Again, that’s a league record.

So how does this affect Machado, if at all? Well in the interim it doesn’t. Machado will making his $16 million, and Donaldson his $23 million. But it might come 2019. Notice I said might.

Machado is the best third baseman in baseball. He has been for a few seasons. Donaldson’s a darn good player, however. For his career, Machado’s hitting .279; Donaldson chimes in at .277. However in the field is where the two separate a bit. Machado’s fielding at a .967 clip for his career, with Donaldson at .956. Now with that said, while Donaldson’s a great third baseman who’s capable of amazing plays in his own right, neither he nor anyone else has Machado’s range. FACT.

So next season when Machado’s contract is up and he’s looking for a new deal (in Baltimore or elsewhere), don’t think that his agent won’t bring up the fact that a lesser third baseman made $7 million less than Machado in base salary in 2018. (I wouldn’t expect that Machado would feel slighted in his salary this year, because the fact is that he agreed to it in conjunction with the Orioles. If he thinks he’s underpaid, he has himself and his agent to blame for not negotiating a higher one.) From his agent’s perspective, my client is a better player than Mr. Donaldson, and he should be making a higher salary.

Incidentally, Donaldson also did himself a favor because when his deal is up after this season his agent will be negotiating from a position of strength. My client won’t accept a year-over-year salary that’s lower than what he made last season. That’s how the business of sports works, folks. Some might question what the difference is between $16 and $23 million. For regular people, that’s a valid point. But an agent’s response would be $7 million. And that’s a lot.

But remember that above I said that Donaldson’s situation could impact Machado. That indicates that it isn’t set in stone. Machado wants to play shortstop  this year, whether it’s with the Orioles or someone else. If in fact he moves back to his natural position, he’ll cease to be the best third baseman in baseball. Not because his skills would have diminished, but because he won’t be playing third base anymore.

If that ends up happening, then using Donaldson’s deal as leverage is going to be much tougher. Negotiating parties will argue you can’t compare these two players and/or their salaries because one’s a third baseman and one’s a shortstop. And that’s a very valid point. But let’s put it this way; both Donaldson and Machado are going to be paid handsomely in 2019 and beyond.

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