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More than three months after declaring for free agency, shortstop Manny Machado has agreed to a 10-year, $300-million contract with the San Diego Padres, sources told Yahoo Sports. Machado can opt-out of the deal after the fifth year.
The Padres were a somewhat late and surprise entrant into the bidding for Machado, even as they struck for a high-profile free agent for the second consecutive February. A year ago this month, after waiting out a similarly slow market, they signed first baseman Eric Hosmer to an eight-year, $144-million deal. Hosmer suffered through a down year, the Padres lost 96 games and it appeared they were more likely to finish their rebuild via their well-stocked farm system.
Perhaps in response to the lean market and perhaps growing impatient with their plan, the Padres — owner Ron Fowler and general manager A.J. Preller — met with Harper and Machado in past weeks, and most recently with Machado’s agent, Dan Lozano, on Monday night in a restaurant near Phoenix.
The contract, MLB’s largest free-agent deal ever, drives the Padres’ payroll past $100 million for the second time in franchise history. Even with Machado, it would not appear the Padres are equipped to challenge the Los Angeles Dodgers and Colorado Rockies in the top-heavy NL West.
Machado likely is destined to play third base for the Padres, whose top prospect, Fernando Tatis Jr., is a shortstop. In the short term, Luis Urias, 21, had been penciled in at shortstop. And the club had signed veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler to a two-year contract. Most regard Urias as a better second baseman than shortstop, and all consider Tatis to be the club’s long-term shortstop, which places Machado at third.
The week before Christmas, Machado visited the Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies. Presumed to be Machado’s favorite given similar contract terms, the Yankees will be without shortstop Didi Gregorius, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, for at least half of the 2019 season. They subsequently signed veteran Troy Tulowitzki, who seeks a return from various injuries. The Phillies appeared most likely to bid with urgency, given owner John Middleton’s revelation the club could “be a little [financially] stupid” in its attempt to finish its rebuild. Operating on the periphery, the White Sox appeared less likely to compete with the Phillies or Yankees in contract size or scope and are further away from fielding a contender. The Padres lingered on the periphery, even amid rumors they’d made the highest bid for Machado.
The Dodgers acquired the highly skilled Machado from the moribund Orioles for five minor leaguers in mid-July. Playing for a team other than the Orioles for the first time in his professional career, in a pennant race, and in a ballpark that traditionally skews better for pitchers than hitters, Machado was not the force he had been with the Orioles. Where he’d been a borderline MVP candidate in the American League, he was not as productive with the Dodgers, though by the end of the season he’d posted a .297 batting average, 37 home runs and 107 RBI across 162 games, 147 of them at shortstop.
In a turbulent postseason marked by fits of dispirited and/or reckless play, he batted .227 with an on-base percentage of .278. He hit three home runs and had 12 RBI, ending the World Series on one knee, having been struck out by Boston Red Sox left-hander Chris Sale. He failed to run hard to first base several times in October, once potentially costing him a double. He kicked the foot of Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar, seemingly on purpose, in the NLCS. Questions to him about the apparent lack of hustle or dangerous play generally were met with indifference.
Those weeks brought speculation Machado’s market could be impacted. A significant talent and among the game’s brighter stars, Machado would seek among the biggest paydays in baseball history, and on the postseason stage he was viewed as a wonderful player, and also disinterested and petulant. As one National League general manager explained, Machado’s bona fides – a four-time All-Star who averaged 35 home runs over the past four seasons, a defender capable of playing an up-the-middle position, all at 26 years old – might live large in baseball operations departments, but might not be enough to satisfy an owner seeking a face and conscience of the franchise in return for his investment.
For that reason, debates over whether the larger contract would go to Harper or Machado subsided as fall turned to winter and winter turned to spring, even as Harper had required a huge second half to post presentable numbers.
Machado was the third overall selection in the 2010 draft, behind Harper and Jameson Taillon, the Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander.
He debuted two summers later, two months after his 20th birthday. Because veteran J.J. Hardy was the incumbent shortstop, Machado played third base, his primary position through 2017. Upon Hardy’s departure, Machado returned to shortstop, where he was capable.
In seven seasons with the Orioles, Machado hit 162 home runs, including a high of 37 in 2016. He batted .283 and had an on-base percentage of .335.
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