Manny Machado's $300M Free-Agent Megadeal the Start of Padres' Fast Rise to Top

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterFebruary 19, 2019

Los Angeles Dodgers' Manny Machado reacts after hitting a double during the first inning of Game 3 of the National League Championship Series baseball game Monday, Oct. 15, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae Hong)
Jae Hong/Associated Press

After all that, Manny Machado will be paid handsomely to live in a beautiful city and play for a team that isn't far off from being a National League powerhouse.

As ESPN's Jeff Passan first reported, Machado has agreed to a deal with the San Diego Padres. Per Mark Feinsand of MLB.com, it's for 10 years and $300 million. It also has an opt-out after the fifth year, according to Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports.

It's not a done deal yet. This is straight from Padres executive chairman Ron Fowler, per Dennis Lin of The Athletic:

Dennis Lin @dennistlin

Padres executive chairman Ron Fowler: “We do not have a deal. We are continuing discussions.”

This doesn't mean there won't be a deal, however. With the terms in place, it should become official as soon as the fine print is ironed out and Machado passes a physical.

In the meantime, there's plenty about this contract worth celebrating.

For Machado, it's simple: The 26-year-old is the owner of the largest free-agent contract in Major League Baseball history. Giancarlo Stanton's 13-year, $325 million extension is still the largest contract, period, but Machado's deal tops Alex Rodriguez's 10-year, $275 million deal from 2007 as the most lucrative found on the open market.

Machado's fellow players must be feeling relief. Some of MLB's biggest names—including Mike Trout, Justin Verlander, Adam Wainwright and Evan Longoria—have publicly taken issue with teams' growing indifference toward free agency. Machado's megadeal doesn't mean everything's fixed, but it should quell some of the unrest. Bryce Harper's inevitable megadeal will quell it further.

As large as Machado's contract is, it's no overpay. Initial projections for his free-agent pact tended to be around $300 million. The folks at MLB Trade Rumors even went as high as $390 million.

Machado's youth was one element of these equations. The other, of course, was the reality that he's an exceptional player.

Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

He was generally regarded as a top-10 prospect going into the 2012 season, and he was still only 20 years old when he debuted with the Baltimore Orioles on August 9 of that year. He was a difference-maker in their postseason push right away, and he was an All-Star and Gold Glover at third base the next season.

Left knee surgery in October 2013 and right knee surgery in August 2014 temporarily sidetracked his rise. But he's been healthy enough since then to average 159 games per season. Per Baseball Reference, he's also been good enough to rank fifth among infielders in wins above replacement:

  • 1. Jose Altuve: 26.0 WAR
  • 2. Nolan Arenado: 25.3 WAR
  • 3. Paul Goldschmidt: 24.6 WAR
  • 4. Francisco Lindor: 23.9 WAR
  • 5. Manny Machado: 23.2 WAR

Machado's bat has been the driving force behind his superstardom. He's averaged an .856 OPS and 36 home runs per year since 2015, with a peak of a .905 OPS and 37 homers last season.

What's more, his offensive profile is evolving as well as he, the Padres or anyone could hope. Over time, his strikeout rate has decreased while his walk percentage and isolated power have increased:

Defensively, the early returns on Machado's move back to his native shortstop in 2018 weren't great. But his metrics did improve after the Orioles traded him to the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 1, which raises the possibility that Machado's skills weren't the problem.

In any case, his more likely long-term home is third base. He has two Gold Gloves and 84 career defensive runs saved to vouch for his ability to play the hot corner well enough to earn his keep.

That brings us to a moment of obligatory handwringing over Machado's occasional tendency to make a fool of himself, which was especially visible last October. But any notion that this somehow bars him from being a winning player isn't supported by the evidence. He played in two postseasons with the Orioles, and his behavior didn't keep the Dodgers from going to the World Series last year.

To ensure that they also win with Machado, the Padres only need to put a good supporting cast around him.

With a 96-loss 2018 fresh in their wake, that probably won't happen right away. And the club's payroll will be top-heavy in coming seasons. Assuming (for now) that Machado gets paid $30 million per year, the Padres will have north of $70 million tied up in him, Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers through 2022. That's a lot of money for a franchise with a peak Opening Day payroll of $108.4 million.

But now for the great, big bright side that is San Diego's No. 1 farm system.

PEORIA, AZ - FEBRUARY 21: Fernando Tatis Jr. #84 of the San Diego Padres poses for a portrait at the Peoria Sports Complex on February 21, 2018 in Peoria, Arizona. (Photo by Andy Hayt/San Diego Padres/Getty Images)
Andy Hayt/Getty Images

Included within are Fernando Tatis Jr., who's the best shortstop prospect in baseball, and Luis Urias, who's arguably the best second base prospect. Both should line up alongside Machado at some point in 2019 and stay there for many years.

Catcher Francisco Mejia, right-hander Chris Paddack and left-hander Logan Allen are also ready to make an impact on the 2019 Padres. The club also has a host of talented young outfielders—Franchy Cordero (24), Hunter Renfroe (27), Manuel Margot (24) and Franmil Reyes (23)—to choose from. In coming years, these guys (and more) will be cheap talent to counterbalance the expensive contracts.

The Padres could certainly use a tried-and-true ace for a starting rotation that will lean young in coming years. As noted by JJ Cooper of Baseball America, their wealth of young talent could bring one in via the trade market:

JJ Cooper @jjcoop36

The Padres' lineup is now so far ahead of the development curve of their pitching staff that I have to imagine we'll see some trades from the No. 1 farm system in the game to help the starting rotation.

All told, where the Padres are now isn't the same as where they were between 2014 and 2015.

During that period, general manager A.J. Preller tried to build a contender overnight by sacrificing both financial (the James Shields signing) and player (trades for Myers, Justin Upton, Matt Kemp and Craig Kimbrel) capital. Doing so proved to be reckless.

This time, the Padres are following a formula laid down by the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros. Both clubs slowly but surely built unstoppable rosters fueled by both youthful and veteran talent, and each was rewarded with a World Series championship.

If everything comes together around Machado the way it should, the Padres could push for the postseason as early as 2020. After that, there could be little to stop them from becoming a World Series contender.


Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs. Contract and payroll data courtesy of Roster Resource and Cot's Baseball Contracts.