Manny Machado signed the 10-year mega-deal he was looking for. There’s an underrated reason the New York Yankees didn’t bite.
Leading up to the 2018-19 offseason, everyone expected Manny Machado to have all of baseball vying for his services. He was entering free agency at 26 due to his entering the league in his teens and he had seemingly established himself as one the top players in the league.
Teams across baseball could have Machado for nothing but money. So, why didn’t more of the top teams make a significant push for the now San Diego Padres third baseman?
Maybe it’s due to the notion that it’s not hard to find a good third baseman.
In 2018, Machado primarily played shortstop for the Baltimore Orioles and then the Dodgers after a midseason trade. He did so to raise his value during a contract year.
Machado is a third baseman (granted an excellent defensive third baseman, not a shortstop). He will be playing third base for the Padres. Any team that was looking to sign him to any kind of deal would have played him at third base and when compared to the rest of the third basemen in baseball, Machado’s offensive numbers begin to look a little less impressive.
In Manny’s contract year, he enjoyed his best year.
He reached or matched career highs in average (.297) homers (37) RBI (107) walks (70) and OPS (.905). He also struck out the least amount of times he ever had in a full season (104). He saw the light at the end of the Baltimore tunnel and started mashing baseballs right at it. Even at his own personal best, though, Manny wouldn’t have been the best offensive third baseman in baseball.
In fact, he might not even be the best hitting third basemen in NL West.
The NL West is currently stacked with big-time third basemen. The Dodgers’ Justin Turner and the Rockies newly-extended Nolan Arenado combine with Machado to form a trio of superstar third basemen in the NL West. Rounding out the division is one-time superstar third baseman Evan Longoria for the Giants and Arizona’s Eduardo Escobar, who has had several strong seasons with the Twins and Diamondbacks.
In a given season, Turner and Arenado could be among the best hitters in the game and Manny Machado’s offensive numbers don’t necessarily match up favorably to either.
Take Turner for instance. Over the past two seasons, Turner has OPS’d .945 and .924, respectively. Both of which are significantly higher than Machado’s best season. Go back a little further and you’ll see that since 2015 Turner’s lowest OPS was .832. Machado’s lowest in that same stretch was .782. Turner has missed significant time due to injury but the same can’t be said about Nolan Arenado.
Since 2015, Arenado has averaged about 158 games played. In those years, the Colorado stud has compiled 39 homers while never OPSing below .898. Each season in that span was better than the corresponding Manny Machado season and all but one was better than Machado’s career best.
The argument can be made that Arenado’s offensive statistics are ballooned by playing his home games in the high altitude Coors Field but that argument is hurt by the fact that Machado has played most of his home games in the hitter friendly Camden Yards.
Staying in the National League yet moving cross country, we’ll eventually get to Washington Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon who, in 2018, led the league with 44 doubles, hit .308, and OPS’d .909 while only striking out 82 times. That came after a season in which he hit 25 homers, drove in 100 runs, walked 84 times and OPS’d .937.
Going back across the country and switching leagues, we find Alex Bregman of the Houston Astros who, in 2018, and at age 24, hit 31 homers, drove in 103 runs, walked 96 times, and OPS’d .926.
In the AL Central, we have Cleveland Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez who just hit 39 homers, 38 doubles, drove in 105 runs, walked 106 times and OPSing .939 while striking out only 80 times. All of this happened following a year in which he led the league in doubles with 56 while OPSing .957.
Machado might not have even been the best third baseman in the AL East for most of the time he was there. From 2015 to 2017 Josh Donaldson averaged over 35 homers and 100 RBI while never OPSing less than .939. Then in 2018, Miguel Andujar burst on the scene tying the AL rookie record for doubles while OPSing .855.
Manny Machado is a great player and hitter but given the girth of third base talent around the league and the general ease teams have had in finding said talent he probably isn’t worth the contract that the Padres gave him.
It’s exactly why a team like the San Diego Padres were the one that ponied up all that insane money.