When Manny Machado injured his knee last week, the immediate question for the Orioles was how they would cope without their star third baseman for a few weeks. Now, it appears they will be without Machado for much longer than that.
Earlier today, Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports reported that Machado would have season-ending surgery on his right knee. His report was confirmed by multiple sources. So obviously that's awful news for both Machado and the Orioles, who are currently 20 games above .500 and have a comfortable 8-game lead in the American League East. Those wins are already in the books, which is great.
Looking for another potentially positive angle? Here's more from Brown:
Upside on Machado surgery: Small abnormality found in left knee also exists in right. That will be fixed during surgery.That "small abnormality" was also discovered in Machado's left knee. So maybe, just maybe, Machado will be done dealing with serious knee injuries. Still, the 22-year-old Machado will now be forced to overcome his second season-ending knee injury in as many years.
— Tim Brown (@TBrownYahoo) August 22, 2014
Losing Machado for the rest of the season probably won't be a huge hindrance when it comes to the O's making the playoffs. They have jumped out to a sizable lead, and they'd have to totally collapse to blow it at this point. FanGraphs' playoff odds have the O's chances of earning a playoff berth at 96%, and Baseball Prospectus has the O's at 98.2%. That may not be completely reassuring for fans until the Orioles officially lock up a spot -- no lead is insurmountable, etc. -- but it's tough to be pessimistic about what the Orioles have been able to do so far.
So what will the O's do without Machado? Likely what they've been doing the past week-plus. Chris Davis has seen the majority of work at third with Machado out, with a resurgent Steve Pearce mostly manning first base. Ryan Flaherty can also fill in at third, as can Cord Phelps. Pearce playing frequently at first base will mean more Nelson Cruz and Delmon Young in left field, which is unfortunate.
When rosters expand in September, the O's could bring up Steve Lombardozzi, Jimmy Paredes, and/or Jemile Weeks, but none of those moves would help much. Perhaps the O's would also consider promoting 23-year-old Christian Walker as a bench bat and occasional starter at first base, though that probably isn't the answer either. And then, as Roch Kubatko suggests, the Orioles could always decide to "intensify their efforts to acquire an infielder who's passed through waivers." But that may be a long shot.
There likely isn't a way for the O's to fill the void of Machado's absence. Before he got hurt, his bat was heating up, and he's one of the best defensive players in all of baseball. Considering much of the Orioles' success is due to their defense, playing without Machado will be challenging.
But it's not like everything has broken right for the Orioles in 2014. They've been playing without Matt Wieters since May. They started the season without Machado, who predictably got off to a slow start before heating up. Ubaldo Jimenez, recently banished to the bullpen, has been a disappointment. And Davis, who is batting .192/.294/.392, has been terrible after dominating the league last season.
If you want to write the Orioles off, that's certainly your right. But you'd be wrong to do so.
Photo via Keith Allison