(Via AP Photo/Jae Hong)
So here I was, just trying to enjoy my Tuesday afternoon, when the bomb dropped. Manny Machado is now a member of the San Diego Padres. So, what does it mean for the Padres, the NL West, Major League Baseball as a whole, and the Red Sox?
Firstly, the Padres. At the major league level on the surface, it's a little troubling. The Padres gave out a monster contract to Eric Hosmer a year ago, and Hosmer only produced a WAR of 1.4 with a .720 OPS. They also gave a lot of money to Wil Myers, who has been injury-prone and positionless for a couple seasons. It echos the Padres of a few years back, where they signed guys like James Shields, Craig Kimbrel, Justin Upton, and BJ Upton, only to lose them all within a few seasons. Where it gets interesting though is their minor league system. The Padres have the consensus top farm system in the majors, and their crown jewel is infielder Fernando Tatis Jr, the #2 prospect in all of baseball. Other highlights include former third overall pick lefthander Mackenzie Gore, infielder Luis Urias, and catcher Francisco Mejia. They have ten prospects in the top 100. The real question mark is still the pitching staff, despite having Mackenzie Gore and maybe the return of Anderson Espinoza after two injured seasons.
For the NL West, the Padres may be the favorite in 2021, but they're not there yet. They're just too young. Mackenzie Gore turns 20 this month. Luis Urias is only 21. Fernando Tatis Jr just turned 20. And then there's Francisco Mejia, the “old man” of this group, and he's only 23. For the immediate future, the Dodgers are still likely the favorites in the division, being the team that represented the National League in back to back World Series and all that. They still have Clayton Kershaw, they're getting Corey Seager back from Tommy John Surgery, and that's not even mentioning guys like Cody Bellinger, Kenley Jansen, and recent free agent addition AJ Pollock. And knowing the Dodgers, they'll probably find some other team's major league flameout off the scrap heap and turn him into a productive player like they did with Justin Turner, Chris Taylor, and Max Muncy. Outside of them, there is still the Rockies, who may have lost DJ LeMahieu to the Yankees, but still return Trevor Story, Charlie Blackmon, and of course Nolan Arenado. Pitching, they still have young stud Kyle Freeman, and in the pen, even though Adam Ottavino signed with the Yankees, they still have Scott Oberg. They also still have the best manager in the entire division in Bud Black. Fortunately for the Padres, the Diamondbacks (who traded the best position player they've ever had in Paul Goldschmidt) and Giants (who have made no significant improvements) are now behind them in the race for the division title.
Talking about how the majors as a whole is impacted, this move was really unexpected, at least to me. Machado signed the largest free agent contract in sports history (second-largest contract including extensions, behind Giancarlo Stanton's Marlins extension in 2014) at 10 years, $300 million. That part makes enough sense. The shocking aspect is that he did it with the Padres of all teams. All logic seemed to point towards Machado signing in Chicago with the White Sox, since they made the effort to sign his Miami buddies Yonder Alonso and Jon Jay. Another one of his Miami buddies, Albert Almora, plays crosstown for the Cubs. Allegedly, they offered even more for him than the Padres did. Barring that, it looked like the Yankees would be the best bet, since Machado is a shortstop/third baseman from Miami, so he was a huge fan of another shortstop/third baseman from Miami who happened to play for the Yankees while Machado was growing up. Outside of that, the discussion on how this impacts the entirety of Major League Baseball is about Bryce Harper. Harper is still unsigned. Unsurprisingly, this takes the Padres out of the running for him, and given that they went out and signed Machado, have to believe that they were serious. Harper now has his pick from the other 29 teams who are willing to pay him, but logically, it looks like the Phillies are the favorite. And now that Machado has $300 million, Harper will likely ask for at least that much, if not more. Harper's contract, when he signs, will almost certainly beat Machado's and possibly even Stanton's as well.
Now, for the Red Sox. They should be breathing a sigh of relief right now. The Yankees were a legitimate threat for a long time to sign Machado, and now they don't have to worry about that anymore. Remember, just two years ago the Yankees were a game away from the World Series. Just last year they won 100 games. They added Giancarlo Stanton, who is great at baseball, and if they added another player like him, maybe someone to take over for Didi Gregorius (who will miss roughly half the season with Tommy John Surgery) until he was back and healthy, it would put them ahead of the Red Sox, at least on paper. Even though Brian Cashman said he wouldn't pay Manny Machado more than he was paying Stanton, there's nothing saying Machado wouldn't have taken a discount so he could be their next Alex Rodriguez and win multiple World Series rings. Fortunately for the Red Sox, he won't be in the division. He won't even be in the same league anymore. They only have to play the Padres three times in 2019, all in San Diego, and all in late August, barring an unlikely matchup in the World Series.
Now, one of the big ones is off the market. We as a baseball community can now turn all of our attention towards Bryce Harper’s free agency, assuming he actually signs a contract before the regular season starts. This offseason really sucks, doesn't it?