Manny Machado Took The Bag, Not The Challenge

MLB superstar Manny Machado went for the money and the ability to take plays off whenever he sees fit without the pressure of playing in a baseball market that matters.

On Tuesday, Manny Machado beat unsigned free agent Bryce Harper to the punch and took a record chunk from MLB’s money tree. After being courted by several teams for over 100 days, Machado went for the paper.

The All-Star infielder and the lowly San Diego Padres agreed to terms on a record 10-year $300 million contract following his half-season with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The deal is this is “the biggest free-agent contract in the history of American sports.”

No.

Machado didn’t want to sign with the Padres anymore than Bryce Harper wants to sign with the Phillies, but no other team in baseball was willing to pay Machado the $300 million his agent Dan Lozano sought at the beginning of free agency.

Plus, San Diego ownership needs all of the talent it can get.  The franchise was 25th in attendance in 2018. Securing a big name like Machado should help bring a few more heads through the gates. Padres players and the fans are naturally excited about acquiring one of the supreme young talents in the game. 

The Padres finished the 2018 season with the fourth-worst record in the league and the franchise hasn’t won more than 76 games since 2010. That’s almost a decade of futility. Machado is now that glimmer of hope. 

Machado’s deal reminds me of the 13-year, $325 million deal that Giancarlo Stanton received from the Miami Marlins after the 2014 season. Miami was in contention for worst team in pro sports at the time. Stanton’s contract was basically awarded to please a dwindling and disgruntled fan base. After three more losing seasons with the Marlins, Stanton was traded to the Yankees so the Marlins could shed cap, rebuild and start all over.  

Now he’s playing for a World Series – contending squad, hit 38 bombs and won 100 games in his first year in the Bronx.

Luckily, Machado’s deal reportedly features an opt-out provision after the fifth year, because I guarantee he won’t ever make it to the end of the contract.

He really had no choice. The pickings were slim. For the first time in a long time, MLB owners seem to be colluding to keep the market at a certain level. There’s still a significant amount of quality MLB players — including guys like former Orioles All-Star Adam Jones — who have not been signed.

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Bryce Harper is among them, although the Phillies are putting on a full court press. Outside of Harper’s former team the Nationals, nobody wants to pay him $300 million. The Padres are supposedly still in the running. 

Machado made a salary of $5 million last season, so the $25 million per year jump is significant. He’s the beneficiary of a Padres team that is developing young players in its minor league system and hoping that as these players blossom around Machado as the centerpiece of the team.

San Diego had the 25th -highest payroll among the 30 MLB teams last season and are recognized as one of the most frugal franchises in the game. The results on the field and the team’s inability to acquire a star shows how few players want to rock out at Petco Park.

The Padres, haven’t had a shutdown Hall of Fame caliber player since ‘Black Knight’ Tony Gwynn in the ’80s. Machado was an All-Star starter in 2018. Gwynn is the last Padres position player to start a Midsummer Classic back in 1988.

Over the past two seasons, San Diego has attempted to change its spending philosophy and by adding Machado at $300 million and signing Eric Hosmer for $144 million last winter, the Padres have spent more on two players than they did in their previous 25 offseasons combined.

This is the ideal situation for Machado, who made a grave mistake when he admitted to not hustling all the time prior to his free agency.

Machado’s blunt revelation about his playing style became the perfect excuse for teams looking to avoid getting caught up in a spending war but concerned that fan pressure would force them into a deal that could paralyze the franchise’s ability to sign other high-priced players.

In San Diego, Machado gets paid and he gets to be the man, which is something a player with his swag and ego craves. Problem is, the Padres haven’t made the postseason since 2006.

If Machado has some patience and can deal with losing, maybe he will be around when the Padres finally become viable again. Until then, he better enjoy his treasure chest and prepare to be somewhat irrelevant for a few seasons. At least he won’t have the pressure of hustling on every play because none will be watching those games anyway.

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.