This didn’t seem possible a few weeks back, but in the end the San Diego Padres have signed the biggest MLB free-agent prize of this winter. Manny Machado is a SS, but will soon move to 3B when top prospect Fernando Tatis, Jr (acquired James Shields to White Sox) arrives sometime in 2019. Along with prospect hitting-machine 2B Luis Urias, the Padres have a good infield that will be under team control through at least 2022.
Their current outfield mix is young and has upside, with legit prospects in the minors. All their stud pitching is in the minors, and the first wave is set to arrive in 2019. RHP Chris Paddack (Fernando Rodney to the Marlins), & LHP Logan Allen (Craig Kimbrel to the Red Sox) will get their first opportunities in 2019.
The Machado signing signals the Padres will be aggressive in bringing their young pitchers up. The Padres haven’t made any free-agent pitching acquisitions in the off season, starter or reliever, that will pitch for them in 2019. The signal is that they believe in their young talent and are ready to promote their top performers to Petco. Padres fans have never seen anything like this in franchise history: a fertile farm system, along with ownership that spends on free agent talent as needed. In the last two off seasons, the Padres have signed the 2 richest free agents: 1B Eric Hosmer $144M last winter, and now SS/3B Manny Machado for 10 years, $300M.
Note that all the arguments & protests made by veteran MLB players & know-nothing media pundits over “collusion,” have now fallen to the wayside. There is no collusion in modern MLB free agency. There is only MLBPA stupidity & blindness, by agreeing to a system that will only reward the biggest stars, and freeze out the rest. Outspoken players should re-direct their anger towards those who agreed to this rotten CBA deal. The word is RF Bryce Harper is about to sign a deal with the Phillies. Whether it is more or less than Machado’s deal is irrelevant, next to the bigger point, which is that no one else will get anything close to what these two get.
Lefty starter Dallas Keuchel & righty reliever Craig Kimbrel remain available, and can be had for a song. The reason they are still available is because they probably don’t have much left, and are high-risk signings that also cost a high draft pick. That’s the value killer. Impending free agents (who aren’t superstars) that are made qualifying offers, need to start taking them.
A player can only be offered a QO once, so by accepting, they become unrestricted free agents the next winter. Otherwise, they’re taking less money under this system. Both Keuchel & Kimbrel refused a $17.9M qualifying offer (QO) offer by their clubs last November. This isn’t collusion, it’s lack of understanding by the MLB players, MLBPA bureaucrats & their agents.
Keuchel won’t get a multi-year deal that matches the AAV of his QO, and Kimbrel probably won’t even get $10M on a 1-year deal at this point. The Red Sox have said they can’t afford him, as he puts them over the luxury tax threshold, which means his salary would cost ~50% more (in MLB penalty taxes) if the Red Sox re-sign him. That’s the only team that doesn’t lose a pick if they sign him, saying they won’t sign him. So who wants him? Answer: No one who spends big money on a closer.
Kimbrel & his agent should have seen this early, and lowered their demands. Now it’s too late, and Kimbrel is at the mercy of the market full of hungry vultures who missed out on the real prizes, and are now bargain shopping. The 6/$80M deal Craig Kimbrel was seeking has not materialized, and now he’ll have to take whatever he can get– just like the rest of the remaining free agents. Those non-superstar free agents who signed early (generally speaking) got the best deals. Those who held out, got left behind. So when the Twins, etc, come a-calling with their low-ball offers, remaining free-agents better be ready to sign.
Pitchers & catchers have been in camp for a week, and by now all the signed players have reported too. When Bryce Harper’s signing is soon announced, every other unsigned free agent officially moves into panic mode. They have to sign and get to camp, otherwise they risk losing the season to someone else who took their spot, simply because they said “Yes” to an offer as the available jobs ran out. That’s the way teams are with veteran free agents these days, and it’s called hardball moneyball.
Remember that Harper & Machado are both age 26, which means they are young and in their prime. They both have Hall-of-Fame arcs, so every franchise that wants to win is seeking to add them. This market fell to the Padres because so many teams have already maxed-out their payrolls. The Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs & Dodgers are big market heavyweights that weren’t in on either superstar this winter. Why? Because they all have high payrolls, and can’t afford either Harper or Machado.
I’m not saying 10 years, $300 million is a bargain (it’s actually crazy money), but I will say that not having any of those 4 aforementioned teams involved kept the cost down, if that seems possible. That’s the only way the Padres were able to get precisely the superstar they needed. Until this deal, it was Ty France at 3B for the Padres.
This adds 5-6 wins to the Padres in 2019, and makes the Fernando Tatis, Jr. transition to the majors a much easier process. Any time you can add a HoFer in his prime to your team, it’s a good move. Especially when you’ve planned so you can afford it. The was a brilliant campaign by Padres GM AJ Preller, who has done it again. What looked like a quiet (but dominant) winter for him, turned into his biggest coup yet. No one seriously thought the Padres would get Manny Machado– myself included. Ownership support is crucial, and anyone can see that management is leading, with ownership on the same page, which is what you want as a fan.
I am a Padres fan, so I’m now officially excited for 2019. I had heard the Machado rumors in the wind, and dreamed on it for a bit, but never took it too seriously– and neither did anyone else. Only a few weeks back, did the buzz start to become more focused on the Padres, who also met with Bryce Harper. The Padres did a great job of staying under-the-radar, and then striking when the time was right, getting exactly the player they needed.
Evidentially, Manny Machado didn’t like the White Sox or the Phillies as much, which says something, because both teams needed him. In the case of the White Sox, it’s the fact that they’re going to be bad for awhile which is the turn-off. For the Phillies, I see them as an organization that can’t make up their mind on what they really need, because you can’t sign both. The Phillies seemed to believe they could. Only the Yankees can do that, and they don’t anymore, as even they have limits.
The Phillies are now the favorites to sign Bryce Harper, as they need him the most (which means they’ll spend the most) among the remaining suitors. They signed RHP Jake Arrieta late last spring to 3/$75M, and the first year was a disappointment, as his ERA was near 4.00, and he faded down the stretch. This team has good young pitchers, but have too many holes to fill. Harper will help them, of course, but he maxes them out on payroll, while still leaving too many positions at replacement level. That’s why the Phillies signing Harper, won’t mean as much as the Padres signing Machado. When you sign a free-agent for this much money, he has to fulfill all your needs, otherwise it will be an overpay and/or bust. Those are the hard lessons of MLB free agency.
San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy (above) announced this would be his last season the other day. He’s won 3 World Series managing the Giants. Bochy lost one (1998 to NYY) as the skipper of the Padres from 1995-2006. He never should have been fired, but the Friars had unstable ownership & constantly-changing management back then. He’s still one of the best, but his team is old. The Padres 2019 win projection before the Machado signing was 76, meaning the NL West is (again) the toughest division in the senior circuit.