It’s finally over. Manny Machado has signed a ten-year deal worth $300 million to join the San Diego Padres. This is the richest free agent contract in American sports history, and it’s a shocker, to say the least. Very few saw the Padres being able to compete with the larger market teams to give out a contract of this magnitude, especially considering they won just 66 games a season ago. Still, here we are, and Machado is heading to San Diego to become the new face of the Padres. It’s a rather strange fit, but what do the Padres see that we’re not seeing? Let’s investigate.
Let’s start off by acknowledging Machado. The 26-year-old has accounted for a 30.2 WAR over his six seasons, according to Fangraphs, and is coming off a career-best season offensively. With the Orioles and Dodgers, Machado posted a .905 OPS, 141 weighted runs created plus (wrc+), and a .377 weighted on-base percentage (wOBA). That was good enough for a 6.2 win season according to Fangraphs, and a 5.7 win season, according to Baseball Reference. Considering a 6 win season is considered an MVP level season, it seems like Machado’s 2018 campaign is being overlooked, especially with how it ended. Machado was involved in a lot of postseason drama, whether it was his refusal to hustle, or him cleating Jesus Aguillar on a ground out. That’s too small of a sample size to judge Machado’s character, so let’s stay to what we know about him on the field. It’s important to remember since he’s just 26-years-old, Machado is still improving and just entering his prime. In 2018, Machado decreased his strikeout rate to just 14.7%, decreased his soft contact rate to 17.4%, and once again put the ball in the air more than on the ground (.95 GB/FB). Plus, his .304 BABIP proves that his production was both not a fluke and sustainable, and this may be the beginning to Machado’s progression into a consistent, MVP caliber player. Defensively, Machado’s -13 drs at shortstop is not encouraging, but his 5 drs once he moved to Los Angeles is. It’s likely that with a more modern team with better positioning, he can be a solid defender at the position at the very least. If he moves back to third base, which he may since San Diego’s top prospect is a shortstop in Fernando Tatis Jr., then he’s moving back to a position where he’s posted 84 drs and is an elite defender. A move back to his old position would tremendously increase his value; my personal metric to valuing players (coming soon) claims that while Machado would be a solid player at short, he’d be a well above, superstar-caliber at third base, and his value would more than increase. Considering that San Diego is counting on him to be the face of the franchise, they need to convince Machado to move to third base for this contract to work out. If they do, they’ll at the very least be getting market value for one of the game’s premier talents, with the chance to reap the benefits of his expected ascension to one of the game’s top five or ten players. It’s a gamble for the Padres, but as far as the player is concerned, Machado will come close to matching that contract at worse, but the likely scenario is that his production matches what he’s getting paid.
On the short term, this signing does not make the Padres a playoff contender, as seen in their projected lineup with Machado:
Ian Kinsler 2B
Eric Hosmer 1B
Manny Machado 3B
Will Myers LF
Hunter Renfroe RF
Luis Urias SS
Austin Hedges C
Manuel Margot CF
This is not a bad offense, just an unproven one. Urias, Renfroe, and Margot could all breakout this season, as good Tatis Jr. and top catching prospect Francisco Mejia when they’re called up this season. However, San Diego is relying too heavily on young talent with little MLB experience to contend. Even if their offense comes through, there’s still the issue of the rotation:
Honestly, this could compete for the worst rotation in the MLB. The pitcher in this rotation with any sort of upside is Lucchesi, and his 4.31 FIP last year suggests he still isn’t ready to be a front-line starter for this staff. San Diego definitely should look to add a veteran presence such as Gio Gonzalez, but either way, there’s no way the Padres will contend with this pitching staff.
As seen by their current MLB roster, the Padres clearly made this deal for the long-haul. They have ten prospects in MLB.Com‘s Top 100 prospect rankings, and Machado could theoretically fit their timeline given their age. Here’s what San Diego’s lineup could like look in the future:
Luis Urias 2B
Eric Hosmer 1B
Manny Machado 3B
Fernando Tatis Jr. SS
Francisco Mejia C
Hunter Renfroe RF
Franmil Reyes LF
Manuel Margot CF
There’s a lot of talent in the lineup, especially with the top five, but can the Padres be certain all of these prospects will turn out. Tatis Jr. is a blue-chip, can’t-miss prospect, but the rest aren’t. Urias lacks power, Mejia is currently liability defensively, while Renfroe and Margot have yet to prove in the majors that they can be trusted long-term. This lineup could be stellar in the future, but even with the signing with Machado, their long-term outlook offensively isn’t done, though Machado and Hosmer’s contracts tamper with their payroll.
The main hope of San Diego’s future comes from their pitching prospects; seven of those ten prospects are pitchers:
Mackenzie Gore (ETA:2021, 4.45 ERA in Single-A)
Chris Paddack (ETA: 2019, 2.10 ERA between High-A, Double-A)
Luis Patino (ETA: 2021, 2.16 ERA Single-A)
Adrian Morejon (ETA: 2020, 3.30 ERA High-A)
Michel Baez (ETA: 2020, 3.69 ERA between High-A, Double-A)
Logan Allen (ETA: 2019, 2.54 ERA between Double-A, Triple-A)
Ryan Weathers (ETA: 2021, 3.44 ERA between Rookie, Single-A)
As you can see with the “ETA’s” for these seven, San Diego likely won’t have their pitching core in place until the 2021 season. From there, it usually takes pitchers one to two years at least to establish themselves into the majors. That means San Diego won’t have this “young core’ in their prime and established as MLB-caliber players until the 2022 season at the best. Therefore, their best case scenario is that only Machado’s first three years are wasted; they won’t contend before then. It’s shame since Tatis Jr. and Urias are ready now, but general manager AJ Preller has failed to institute a youth movement that will be ready around the same time, so as excellent as all these top 100 prospects sound, San Diego is putting too much pressure on them to all work out and develop quickly. If not, this signing will be a waste and a failure, although it helps make the Padres relevant and watchable.
Manny Machado got what he was worth- $300 million over ten years. He’s shown signs of progression and could become an MVP candidate as soon as this season. At the very least, he’s a star awaiting superstar level status and is still well in his prime at age 26. It’s a great theory on paper for San Diego, but I’m skeptical of how reliant they are on all of their main prospects to work out. It’s likely that Machado’s first three to four years will be wasted, meaning the rest of his prime years. At this point, by the time you’re contending, Machado will be over age 30, when his defense is likely to regress, bringing his whole value down. That’s concerning considering he already has two knee surgeries already, and it’s a shame that Machado wasn’t able to match up with a better long term fit; the Phillies were ready to win now while the White Sox are further into their rebuilding process than San Diego. General manager AJ Preller is trying to speed up his rebuild with this massive signing. Machado will have no problem living up to this deal considering the trajectory his production seems to be heading, but could this be a waste for the Padres and Machado as far as winning? That seems far too likely for it not to be the case.
New stat mentioned will be fully written in another piece soon. It’s simply a different way to measure a players value, with some similarities to WAR.