After suffering an ugly-looking knee injury late this year, Orioles star youngster Manny Machado has decided to undergo surgery to repair the medial patellofemoral ligament (MPFL) of his left knee, the team announced. The club says that doctors anticipate the surgery will require four to six months to rehabilitate, which would seem to indicate that Machado could be able to return relatively early on in 2014. Indeed, both team and player expressed hope that the the 21-year-old will be ready to participate at full strength at some point in Spring Training.
For a Baltimore club that is hoping to make another run at the post-season next year, Machado's surgery will undoubtedly put a damper on expectations. More importantly for our purposes, it almost certainly eliminates the already-scant possibility that the club would entertain a trade of J.J. Hardy and move Machado to short over the coming off-season. Though Machado's long-term prospects as a middle-infielder remain unclear, the surgery could also make the club somewhat more inclined to explore an extension for Hardy, who will be eligible for free agency after 2014.
On a broader level, the timetable for Machado's return to actual game action is uncertain, and may remain that way over much of the off-season. If the O's believe that they will have him for the balance of the year, they could be more likely to continue the aggressiveness they showed before the trade deadline this year. Danny Valencia's 135 OPS+ in 170 plate appearances gives some hope that he can hold down the hot corner until Machado is ready for regular duty, or the club could utilize a player like Ryan Flaherty for a short while. Options such as these probably eliminate the need for a substantial new addition unless Machado's prognosis changes significantly.