Manny Machado is kind of a dingus. I’m a moderately pro-Manny force in this wacky world, but the results have been tabulated, and the dude can be kind of a dingus. He kicks ankles for no reason, has a history of sketchy slides, chucks his bat in retaliation, and has an exceptional commitment to efforting in such a way as to conserve resources and limit energy expenditure. Which is to say that he can enjoy a good lollygagging experience or two.
Dingus stuff. This is all dingus stuff.
But Machado is also preternaturally talented, and along with Bryce Harper, one of the rare superstars to reach free agency before starting his age-26 season. (Technically, Machado is already 26, but baseball age is different than actual age ... look, just trust me.) And being a dingus is but a mild impediment to all-time greatness. I remember a season in which two dinguses from my favorite team finished 1-2 in the MVP voting. There was a lot to write about the Giants in 2000, and barely any of it had to do with the unprecedented levels of dingosity. Talent usually wins out.
Machado is young enough and good enough to show up on a lot of the fun lists that we get to run for Bryce Harper, too. How many players have hit 175 home runs before their age-26 season? Just 17, including Hank Aaron, with whom Machado is tied. How many players have accumulated 30 wins above replacement before their age-26 season? That would be 32, with Lou Gehrig, Willie Mays, Stan Musial, Barry Bonds, and Joe DiMaggio just sneaking on the bottom of the list, behind Machado.
You will tolerate a dingus watching a long single or trying to kick an opponent for no earthly reason if he can hit. And Machado can hit. His mysterious dip in 2017 looks like the outlier, and his combined 2018 stats suggest he’s still one of the best players in baseball. His weird defensive-stat hiccups after he switched to shortstop went away when he went to the Dodgers, who like to “study numbers” and “figure out ways to get better,” so it’s probably safe to consider him a shortstop if needed.
Shortstops generally don’t put up offensive numbers like this. They certainly don’t before their age-26 season. It’s A-Rod and Cal Ripken, Jr. and Machado. And eventually Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor, but for now Machado is in a rare club. Your team can get him for money, you know. The money of your owners, who really don’t need any more of it. It won’t cost you a dime.
Ah, but which team will take the plunge? We’ll have to look at the likely candidates, followed by his ideal landing spot.
It took about two seconds after Didi Gregorius’ injury was announced for the internet to pair Machado with the Yankees. The Yankees, if these notes from my intern are to be believed, like “excellent players,” especially if they can hit home runs. These notes also say that the Yankees are rich? Strange, if true, and you can basically pre-order the Machado shirsey.
Except the Yankees really aren’t acting like the rich jerks they used to be. Sure, they’re still spending, and they happened to be one of the few teams that could even consider Giancarlo Stanton, much less absorb the bulk of his contract, but they aren’t jumping into the middle of the offseason with a scimitar and yelling “KIIIYYYYYYYYAAAAAAAHHHH” like they used to. They don’t want to spend, see ...
General manager Brian Cashman prefers the Yankees stay under the luxury tax threshold again, so as “to not line the pockets of opponents to use that (revenue) against us.”
Ah, yes, making your roster worse to own the Rays. Classic strategic gambit.
While that could just be a negotiating tactic, we should probably look at some other likely teams, just in case.
The Phillies just might be interested in spending a chunk of their available money on a young superstar. It was probably the plan to attack this offseason before 2018 even started, and their relative success likely emboldened them. They are near the bottom of the league in attendance, and while I’m not sure if Machado sells tickets on his own, he certainly helps teams win. Winning sells tickets.
The White Sox are looking at Machado, which seems like a fine idea.
The Dodgers had a ... confusing Machado experience, with a painful World Series and lower numbers after the trade. But they would certainly figure out a way to play him and pay him, even with Corey Seager and Justin Turner being long-term solutions. It’s just an open question if they want to pay him. The rumor mill suggests that the Dodgers want to stay under the salary cap that isn’t a salary cap for the next four years, and considering that info came from what they were promising their investors, I believe them.
If you want to get goofy, note that the Cubs are exploring trade options with Kris Bryant because they’re not sure they can lock him up long term, and there’s a way that they could lock up an even younger third baseman while getting prospects in return. I’m not sure how thrilled Cubs fans would be with a Machado-for-Bryant swap, but the logic is sound.
The Yankees would appear to be the likeliest team, still. They just have to admit it.
The Ideal Fit
For this exercise, we need to look for teams that have all of the qualifications:
- A little extra money
- A fan base that needs a jolt
- An excellent farm system that will allow them to subsidize an expensive superstar for years and years
- A young, up-and-coming team
Whereas the Yankees seemingly go out and get a Stanton every year, we need to find a team that isn’t used to emerging on top, that wants to send a signal flare to their fans that they’re capital-T Trying.
We need a team that is used to losing players like Machado and can spin his signing as proof that things are different. We need a franchise that has no problem latching onto a player as proof that they’re exciting again.
We need the Padres. Machado needs the Padres. The Padres need Machado.
We’ve been through this before, when the Padres signed Eric Hosmer for a lot of money, even though they were likely to be bad again. Why would they do that? What’s up with throwing money away before the team is actually contending?
I tried my best to answer here:
Hosmer pushes the team closer to contention, even if he’s not enough to get them there on his own, but there’s also a chance that the opposite version of the doomsday scenario happens. That is, it’s possible that the 2021 Padres will need a first baseman, and Hosmer will already be in place, kicking butt. It’s possible that the 2019 Padres will need exactly this player.
Every team should be interested in a 26-year-old superstar who won’t be 30 for another four seasons. At some point, a player like Machado should help his team win while he’s in his prime. If you need proof, consider that he almost took the Orioles to the World Series.
This is the spot for silliness, not actual predictions, so, fine, this probably won’t happen. You know it makes sense, though. I’m thinking based on the Hosmer deal that the Padres think it makes sense, too, but Machado still gets to pick where he wants to play, you know.
San Diego has great weather, Manny. Think about it.
Cubs, 10 years, $330 million. I really don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Bryant trade rumors are floating now. They know what kind of extension Bryant is expecting, and if their choice is between Bryant at $300 million with an extension that starts after the 2021 season, or a younger Machado at $300 million-plus on a deal that ends sooner and he comes with some of the best prospects in baseball, well, that’s an awfully tempting swap.
How do you say no?
Right, right, the part about Machado being a dingus and Bryant being a fan favorite. Still, Cubs fans have rooted for dinguses before. They’ll root for them again. The talent and winning is all that matters, and I have a hunch that the front office is thinking as pragmatically as they can on this one.
Cubs. There’s absolutely no way this take can be wrong, and I’m logging off until April. See you then.