Manny Machado, who is currently enjoying a deep postseason run with the Los Angeles Dodgers, will be a free agent this winter. Here’s why almost every team in the league should make a play for his services this winter.
Manny Machado figures to, as a free agent this winter, land a contract that is equally long and rich.
That’s what happens when you’re one of baseball’s elite performers enjoying a strong walk year.
However, while the length and monetary value of Machado’s deal will rightly draw headlines, his free agency is significant for other, less obvious reasons as well.
The current Dodger and former Oriole is only 26.
He’ll turn 27 early next July.
Rarely do free agents that combine both his elite ability on the field and age hit the open market.
Since 2012 when Machado made his MLB debut, only 14 players have a higher fWAR than the 26-year-old’s 30.2 metric.
He’s also racked up a .349 wOBA, a 120 wRC+, a .204 ISO, a 7.3 BB%, a 16.4 K% and an .822 OPS. Pretty impressive for a player who made his debut as a 19-year-old.
But Machado seems to only be getting better.
While his 6.2 fWAR in 2018 wasn’t a career high, the infielder registered personal bests in several other categories, turning in his best offensive campaign to date.
Among the new career highs Machado established in 2018 were wRC+ (140), wOBA (.377), ISO (.241), walk rate (9.9%), on-base percentage (.367), slugging percentage (.538) and OPS (.905).
He did all this while also notching the lowest strikeout rate (14.7%) and the second-highest hard-hit rate (38.6%) of his career.
It’s been a nice bounce-back year for the former third-overall pick after a disastrous (at least by his lofty standards) 2017 at the plate.
Despite hitting the ball particularly hard—Machado’s 39.5% hard-hit rate in 2017 remains his lifetime best— he couldn’t overcome a .265 BABIP en route to notching offensive metrics (.328 wOBA, 103 wRC+) that hovered around league average.
Players sometimes tend to perform better in walk years, but it still highly encouraging to not only see Machado return to his past form, but to better it in many regards at the dish.
And that brings us to his free agency.
The sometimes shortstop, sometimes third baseman is still only 26, and seemingly getting better.
Just how lengthy and hefty his next contract is remains to be seen.
Still, it would behoove just about every team go after Machado. From contenders to rebuilding clubs, there are fits a plenty. Whether the infielder would sign with some of these teams remains to be seen, but just about every team should make a legitimate pitch/offer.
Why Each MLB Team Should Seriously Consider Signing Manny Machado
Well, ok, maybe not every team.
There are 10 teams that we can cross out for obvious reasons.
(This is all speculative mind you.)
- Miami Marlins: It’d be too expensive, plus the team’s rebuild is light years away. Machado may very well be in his early-to-mid-30s by the time the Fish are close to being back in contention.
- Kansas City Royals: See above.
- Baltimore Orioles: Yeah, no. Also, see the Marlins’ reasoning.
- Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays: Handing out a contract that could be anywhere from $200 million to $400 million (that’s purely speculative) flies in the face of how the A’s and Rays run things.
- Pittsburgh Pirates: Let’s toss Pittsburgh in with Oakland and Tampa Bay under the “penny-pinching” category. The Pirates could actually use Machado with glaring holes on the left side of the infield. He’d fit the club’s win-now focus after acquiring Chris Archer over summer, but even if the Pirates unloaded the salaries of Francisco Cervelli, Ivan Nova and Corey Dickerson, giving the ex-Oriole a mega deal seems unlikely.
- Houston Astros: Sure, adding Machado to the ‘Stros would make them even more of a juggernaut, but they don’t have anywhere to put him with Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve in the infield.
- Los Angeles Dodgers: Yes, that’s right, Machado’s current employer. Los Angeles already has Justin Turner at third, Corey Seager at shortstop and cost-efficient options at second base in Max Muncy and Chris Taylor. With Seager, Taylor and Yasiel Puig up for arbitration for the first time this winter and the need to sign Clayton Kershaw to a new contract potentially on the horizon, the Dodgers might be better served reinvesting their money elsewhere. In the event that the team gets into bidding war for a high-priced free agent (something that conceivably isn’t out of the question) Bryce Harper is a much better fit for Los Angeles than Machado.
- Arizona Diamondbacks: If the D-Backs didn’t shell out to keep J.D. Martinez, paying to add an expensive infield solution doesn’t seem like the best fit, especially with Jake Lamb and Nick Ahmed on hand. Machado would surely be an upgrade, but financially, it doesn’t make sense for Arizona, who will potentially have to replace Patrick Corbin, A.J. Pollock, Clay Buchholz, Jeff Mathis, Eduardo Escobar, Daniel Descalso, Jon Jay Jake Diekman and Brad Ziegler this winter.
- Colorado Rockies: If the Rockies, who have spent heavily in the last few years, are going to hand out a rich contract to a left-side infielder, it’s probably going to be to their own Nolan Arenado and not Machado.
Ok, so maybe more like 20 teams instead of all 30. But there’s still legitimate reasoning why two thirds of the league should seriously go after Machado, regardless of what his next contract looks like.
And here’s why.
Not Perfect Fits, but Fits all the Same
Boston Red Sox
Signing Machado would certainly be quite a coup for the Sox, especially considering how often the 26-year-old has been linked with the arch-rival Yankees.
Whether Boston would shell out money for Machado remains to be seen, but he’d make a fearsome lineup even more dangerous and help the Red Sox stave off both the Astros and Yankees in the American League.
Dave Dombrowski, Alex Cora and company could approach Machado’s arrival in a number of ways.
Option Two: Machado could handle the hot corner, Bogaerts would stay at shortstop and Rafael Devers would see more time at first base. Among third baseman with at least 1,500 defensive innings since 2017—when he debuted—Devers has arguably been baseball’s worst fielding third baseman with a league-worst -6.5 Def and a -14 DRS and -9.1 UZR/150 that only ranks above Philadelphia’s Maikel Franco. Devers could form an effective platoon with Mitch Moreland. Devers is much better against southpaws, while Moreland has found more success against righties.
Machado’s arrival would also give Boston some long-term security in the infield considering Bogaerts is a free agent after 2019 (according to Spotrac).
New York Mets
The Mets very nearly made the above list of teams that should be out of the Machado running, but if they keep hold of Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard and get bounce-back years from Yoenis Cespedes and Jay Bruce, adding Machado to the mix could give them enough to make a run in the National League East, a division that outside of Atlanta is entirely up in the air.
If the Mets trade one or both of Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, though they’d join Miami, Kansas City and Baltimore in terms of long-haul rebuilds with no end in sight, conceivably taking them out of the Machado running.
It’s hard to tell where the Mets are going. Their farm system is largely shot, and they weren’t particularly close to the 90-win team in Atlanta.
Still, Brian Snitker’s squad is still young and adding Machado could shake things up. If not in the division, then in the Wild Card, which is similarly up in the air in the Senior Circuit.
San Francisco Giants
Like their rivals to the south, the Giants could be players on big-name free agents, but unless they can convince someone to take Evan Longoria’s remaining contract, the fit with Machado isn’t the best.
Still, they could get weird and move Brandon Crawford to second base in order to accommodate Machado in the infield. Bringing in the four-time All-Star would certainly help the Giants vault back into contention in a division that has largely passed them by.
If Washington is comfortable with handing Bryce Harper a mega-rich contract and he signs elsewhere, then they shouldn’t think twice about offering a similar deal for Machado.
He’d go a long way to restoring them as National League East favorites.
As with Boston, they could go about incorporating Machado in a number of different ways.
Option One: Machado inherits third base from Anthony Rendon, who could slide back to second base where he saw significant action earlier in his career but hasn’t played the position since 2015.
Jean Segura was a good-but-not great decent as a defensive shortstop last year. Also, as recently as 2016, he saw the majority of his playing time at second base.
Those two variables make him the ideal candidate to move off the position to second base in order to accommodate Machado.
It’s easier that or finding a taker for Kyle Seager’s contract. And that probably isn’t happening.
Seattle has never been to a World Series and has come agonizingly close to breaking a 13-year playoff drought in the past few years. Adding Machado to the mix would certainly put them on level pegging with, or even ahead of, the A’s and Rays in the American League Wild Card hierarchy.
Depending on Houston’s offseason activity, it could put the division title back in play for Seattle.
What’s more, the move to add Machado would allow Robinson Cano to spend more time at first base and designated hitter, prolonging his career.
And, Dee Gordon could shift back to center field with Segura at second base. That part of the equation is key considering Seattle is hurting for long-term outfield solutions not named Mitch Haniger and Ben Gamel.
This one is probably financially out of the question, but Cleveland did hand relatively large free-agent deals to Edwin Encarnacion and Yonder Alonso in years past. Of course, neither of those deals is likely to approach Machado’s in terms of value and scope, but they’ve shown that Cleveland has been willing to go for it before in the free agent market.
If the contracts of Alonso and Jason Kipnis were suddenly wiped away from Cleveland’s financial situation, it would be a whole lot more feasible.
That being said, Cleveland will see a large batch of contracts come off the books this winter, including Cody Allen, Andrew Miller, Oliver Perez, Josh Tomlin, Josh Donaldson, Michael Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall, Rajai Davis and Adam Rosales.
The More Natural Fits (including some speculative favorites, in no particular order)
If Addison Russell doesn’t stay in Chicago, the fit is there.
Chicago would probably prefer to unload one or both of Jason Heyward and Tyler Chatwood’s contracts before making a significant signing, but it’s not hard to imagine a lineup consisting of Machado, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber, Ben Zobrist, Ian Happ and Willson Contreras wreaking havoc on opposing pitching staffs.
Seriously, if the Cubs sign Machado, that would be their lineup.
Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta
Both National League East franchise enjoyed bounce-back seasons. It only ended with one making the playoffs, but both made significant strides.
Adding Machado to the mix would take both to the next level in several ways.
First, each would be adding a 6-win player to an already strong team.
That’s the obvious one.
Second, Machado’s presence would allow each team’s previous long-term solution at third base to be used as a trade chip to bring in another notable addition.
The two teams have the farm system depth to get most deals done, but a Machado acquisition would make Riley and Franco immediately expendable.
Plus, both have a need for a frontline starter.
Signing Machado would give the franchises more flexibility in which to approach those trades.
The Brewers have tinkered with their infield significantly after the trade deadline.
Throwing Machado into the mix would probably require more shifting around, but he’d worth the addition.
For as much as Orlando Arcia has broke out in the postseason, he registered a 54 wRC+ in the regular season in 366 plate appearances.
To put that in perspective, of player with at least 350 plate appearances, only Chris Davis had a lower number.
Bringing in Machado would allow the fielding ace to slide into a reserve role. With Mike Moustakas a free agent, Shaw and Schoop can move back to their natural positions as third base and second base respectively.
That’d make Milwaukee National League favorites heading into next season.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Whether they can fill out a champion-caliber roster, though, remains to be seen.
The pitching staff, specifically the rotation, needs some serious help. It’s lacking in both depth and frontline starters. Additionally, the bullpen is similarly lacking on answers.
But, it’s hard to ignore the upside of the Halos’ lineup plus Machado.
He could step in at third base alongside Simmons, shifting Zack Cozart to second base.
Adding the former Oriole, or a player of his ilk, almost seems like something close to a must for Anaheim this winter. At least in terms of getting back in the division race.
That’s how far behind Houston, Oakland and Seattle that Anaheim has fallen, that they need to add a superstar to even be in the conversation of being close to the Astros, A’s and M’s.
Perhaps with Machado in the fold, the Halos will go all in and package Jo Adell with some combination of Griffin Canning, Brandon Marsh, Jahmai Jones, Matt Thaiss, Jordyn Adams and Kevin Maitan to get something done regarding the rotation.
If the Angels can keep Machado in Southern California, selling him on the prospect of playing with Trout and Ohtani, and add a true ace, then we can start talking about them as serious postseason threats.
But to even get to that point, Anaheim has to sign the infielder first.
St. Louis Cardinals
Similar to their division rivals in Wisconsin, St. Louis has a bevy of different infield options.
Still, they could desperately use another bat to beef up the lineup.
This is true whether Martinez is traded or not.
Despite finishing with the ninth-highest fWAR among position players in 2018, St. Louis was rather pedestrian offensively with a cumulative .316 wOBA (15th) and 98 wRC+ (14th) as a team.
If they’re going to keep up with the two teams ahead of them in the National League Central, Milwaukee and Chicago, they’ll need the requisite firepower.
And that’s where Machado comes in.
Him starting at third base would allow Carpenter to see more action at first.
That move alone would drastically improve St. Louis’ infield defense.
Matt Carpenter in 2018 at first base: 611.1 innings, -4.4 Def, 1.1 UZR/150, +1 DRS.
Jose Martinez in 2018 at first base: 675.1 innings, -9.0 Def, -4.3 UZR/150, -5 DRS.
Installing Machado at third would also move Gyorko into a more complementary role behind Kolten Wong.
This might actually improve St. Louis as a team. Not only does the stellar fielding Wong (15.0 Def, 17.6 UZR/150, +19 DRS) stay on the field more, but Gyorko would be able to be used solely against lefties and less against right-handers.
Jedd Gyorko in 2018 vs left-handed pitchers: 112 PA, 150 wRC+, .393 wOBA, .919 OPS, .216 ISO, 11.6 BB%, 15.2 K%, 5 HR.
Jedd Gyorko in 2018 vs right-handed pitchers: 290 PA, 94 wRC+, .309 wOBA, .702 OPS, .130 ISO, 10.7 BB%, 20.7 K%, 6 HR.
New York Yankees
New York took a step back in 2019 behind Boston and Houston in the American League and adding a player of Machado’s quality would certainly go a long way towards helping the Yankees overcome their two American League rivals.
In terms of adding Machado, the Yankees would likely play him at shortstop until Gregorius is healthy and then move the current Dodger to the hot corner.
In that situation, Miguel Andujar would either move to first base in a time share with Luke Voit and Greg Bird, or simply be used as trade bait to add another starting pitcher to start after Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka.
And New York may have the financial flexibility to do it too.
Sure, the Yankees have a habit of spending in the past, but this offseason will see a mass grouping of contracts come off the books.
(All salary information via Spotrac).
The Athletic NYC’s Marc Craig tweeted the following from a press conference with Yankees general manager and senior vice president Brian Cashman:
Cashman on Gray: Yankees will enter offseason” open to a relocation.” Also “it’s probably best to try this somewhere else.” So, Sonny Gray is on the trading block.
— Marc Carig (@MarcCarig) October 12, 2018
Cashman says he’ll be seeking a trade for Gray, for his sake and the sake of the Yankees. So, on a day when Cashman was pretty guarded about offseason, he was clear on Sonny Gray. If he finds a trade for him, he’s getting moved out of here.
— Marc Carig (@MarcCarig) October 12, 2018
“Someone that if they trade for him is going to get the player that we wanted.”
Cashman on Gray
— Marc Carig (@MarcCarig) October 12, 2018
Let’s be honest though. Even if all those players were on New York’s roster next year making similar amounts of money, they probably would still stand out an obvious fit for Manny Machado.
The added financial wiggle room only makes them more dangerous if they decide to pursue the All-Star.
What will the Texas Rangers do this winter? That’s an under-the-radar storyline to watch out for this winter.
Texas could dive head on into a full-blown rebuild or use their newfound financial flexibility to make a splash on the free agent market.
They certainly have room for the former first-round pick at third base if Adrian Beltre retires or signs elsewhere. Plus, line up Machado along with Nomar Mazara, Joey Gallo, Elvis Andrus and Shin-Soo Choo and there’s the makings of a potent offense.
Add in another big-name signing or two (Patrick Corbin anyone?) or perhaps a few more mid-tier additions like Nathan Eovaldi, J.A. Happ and Lance Lynn and the Rangers could go from basement dweller to Wild Card player real quick.
As is the case with many rebuilding clubs—or at least clubs with significant talent in the minor leagues—Machado’s age comes into play.
Add Machado into the mix with some shrewd acquisitions down the road and you’ve got the makings of a championship core.
Machado would still only be 27 to start the 2020 season. That’d leave the contending window propped firmly open.
The Rest of the Rebuilding Clubs
Detroit Tigers, San Diego Padres, Cincinnati Reds, Toronto Blue Jays, Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins
You can pretty much use the same formula with Texas’ brightest young players and Machado with just about any other rebuilding team without significant, long-term financial commitments.
Let’s say, for all intents and purposes that all of the following young players/prospects listed live up to their potential and are in the Majors by 2020 or 2021. Add a still 27 or 28-year-old Machado to that mix and you’ve got the makings of a core of a serious contender.
(Granted, not all prospects reach the majors, and not all reach their ceilings, but this is all hypothetical and speculative mind you.)
Some of those cores have the potential to do some serious damage.
The Tigers, Padres and White Sox make particular sense because there aren’t long-term solutions at one or both of Machado’s positions depending upon the team.
Detroit has plenty of pitching for the future, and a decent reserve of outfield prospects, but is lacking in middle-infield depth in the minors.
Meanwhile, San Diego doesn’t have a long-term answer after Christian Villanueva at third base. Then there’s the White Sox, who could slot in Machado at third base alongside shortstop Tim Anderson. Chicago could also opt for Jake Burger at the hot corner long-term and eventually shop Beckham with Machado at shortstop.
Toronto does have Guerrero Jr. and Bichette likely occupying two long-term infield spots, but they can shift Bichette to second and slide Machado in at shortstop where they have Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and little else long-term.
The Reds, like the Blue Jays, have infield pieces in Suarez, Senzel and India, but could shuffle the deck from a fielding standpoint to make things work with an infield quarter that could be among the league’s best in a few years’ time.
The fits in Detroit, Chicago and Minnesota are also particularly interesting given the unpredictability of the American League Central.
Adding a six-win player to either Detroit, Chicago or Minnesota could start to turn things on its head. Sure, even if one of the organizations signed Machado, they’d still be a ways off Cleveland in 2019, but would be dramatically better in 2019, kickstarting their respective rebuilds significantly.
And after 2019? Things could start to shift.
Cleveland has a stranglehold on first place, and likely will continue to preside over the divisional standings next season as well.
But the organization hasn’t had the best time adding players from outside the organization as long-term replacements. See Alonso taking over for Carlos Santana and Adam Cimber’s initial struggles with Andrew Miller and Cody Allen set to be free agents this winter.
If Cleveland’s payroll doesn’t rise with the trio’s salaries, it may mean a very different kind of roster construction as time goes by.
And plus, for all that talent that Cleveland has and considering they played in a dreadful division with four of baseball’s 12 worst teams, Terry Francona and friends still only finished with 91 wins, tied for the joint-lowest among playoff teams.
They should have coasted to a whole lot more victories than that. Especially considering that three of the teams in the division (Detroit, Chicago and Kansas City) finished 26th, 28th and 29th where win totals were concerned in 2018.
Now, whether Machado would willingly sign up for a situation that might be a rebuild for a year or two before giving way to a contending situation—a la Hosmer joining the Padres last winter—remains to be seen. But he could somewhat shift the future balance of the league by helping cement a future contender.
Another factor that should make him appealing to all clubs, rebuilding and contending alike, is that any team that signs him won’t have to forfeit a draft pick because the infielder was traded mid-season.
That in itself should open up the flood gates to potential suitors.
Machado has been an offensive force in his time in the Majors. He could follow as similar path, at least offensively, to the one J.D. Martinez followed this season.
Like Machado, Martinez was a very, very good hitter for years before vaulting himself to the next level in 2018 and becoming an MVP candidate.
That’s not to say that Machado’s hitting needs to stake a step forward. He’s already one of most dangerous hitters in the league, but if he runs into another hot start to begin 2019 or really any other year, he could garner serious MVP consideration.
The two clearly aren’t the same player, but the parallels are there.
(For what it’s worth, Machado has finished ninth, fourth and fifth in MVP voting in 2013, 2015 and 2016 respectively. Seeing him win an MVP soon would surprise no one.)
He could be doing that for another team as soon as 2019, but just where that team is located remains to be seen.
Two-thirds of the league should be doing their best to try to make sure that location is their home stadium, even if they have to pay a premium.
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