Behind the Plate: Manny Machado Signed by Padres


For one man, as spring temperatures rise, so will his bank account. On Tuesday, February 19, Manny Machado signed the most lucrative free agent contract in the history of American sports. The San Diego Padres signed the 26-year-old shortstop/third baseman to a 10 year, 300-million-dollar deal. Although Giancarlo Stanton signed a 13 year, 325-million-dollar deal after the 2014 season, it was an extension of his existing contract with the Marlins. Many baseball pundits question this arcane maneuver by a small-market, rebuilding Padre organization. These concerns are real, as the Padres appear to still be several years from contention in what has been a competitive National League West division this decade. Since 2010, every member of the N.L. West has qualified for the postseason at least twice except the Padres, who haven’t done so even once.
With minimal talent around him except star first baseman Eric Hosmer, few expect Machado’s new club to challenge the two-time defending N.L. champion Los Angeles Dodgers for a division crown in the next several seasons. That is not to say that this move isn’t prudent. One only needs to look “down on the farm.” While the major league club has had a drought of talent for a considerable period, the Padres’ minor league teams are gleaming with ripe fruit. Baseball America recently voted San Diego’s minor league system as the best in the sport for 2019. Why is that significant? Since B.A. began ranking farm systems in 1984, every major league club that owned that season’s top farm system has made the playoffs within two years, with one exception: the 2011 Kansas City Royals. Though they missed the postseason in 2012 and 2013, they made back-to-back World Series appearances in 2014 and 2015, winning it all in ’15. History would appear to favor the Padres’ chances as time goes on with blossoming prospects like Fernando Tatis Jr., Mackenzie Gore, and Francisco Mejia potentially wearing Padre uniforms by 2021.
The Padres will play Machado primarily at third base. He has played both shortstop and third base at the major league level and considers shortstop his primary position. However, there is abundant evidence suggesting that he is a better third baseman defensively. He won two Gold Glove awards during his time as a third baseman for the Orioles, coming in 2013 and 2015. In 2013 Machado also received the Platinum Glove award, signifying that he was the best overall fielder in the American League regardless of position. His work at shortstop in professional baseball has only been in the minor leagues as a prospect and one season at the big-league level, which was last season with the Orioles and L.A. Dodgers. Additionally, the Padres’ top prospect, 19-year-old Fernando Tatis Jr., plays shortstop and will likely be called up to the big leagues at some point this season. Machado will be looked to for leadership, as he earned the same “teenage phenom” label in 2012 that Tatis now has. Vegas has dubbed the Padres over/under win total at 77.5 for 2019 with Machado. This would be a huge improvement over their humble 66-96 record of 2018, but certainly would not deem them a playoff contender yet. Many speculate what one $300 million player can do for a growing and reconstructing organization, but we won’t know until we see the product on the field.