In the midst of his best offensive season (nearing the peak of a career that already had legitimate Hall of Fame potential), Manny Machado has been traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. While most of the baseball world is fixated on how he contributes to their 2018 postseason run, we’re looking ahead several months.
Machado will be among the most sought-after players in the upcoming MLB free-agent class, and the Marlins could be in the mix to sign him.
“Mr. Miami” was selected by the Orioles with the third overall pick of the 2010 amateur draft. The star shortstop began his pro career in their organization the following August, unable to pass on the $5.25 million bonus. All these years later, he’ll finally have the freedom to select his own employer.
Machado owns a .283/.335/.487 career batting line (120 wRC+) and just celebrated his 26th birthday. His defense is spectacular at third base, though much more pedestrian as a middle infielder. With the exception of a 2014 knee injury, he ranks among the league’s most durable players. Considering all these factors, the Hialeah native is about to get paid.
The trade earlier this week was the impetus for this article because it ever so slightly increases the odds of Machado coming home.
The Dodgers acquired him to fill in for the injured Corey Seager, who’s performed similarly to Machado over the past few years (albeit with a different skill set). Seager is expected to return fully healthy from Tommy John surgery at the start of 2019. Justin Turner serves as L.A.’s regular third baseman, plus he is a significant clubhouse presence.
With a strong left side of the infield in place, the Dodgers view Machado as a rental and nothing more. Whereas other teams may have used the second half of the season as a recruiting/pre-negotiating window, they seem content letting others make what figures to be a $300-plus million investment.
Despite the exorbitant price tag and a rotten experience with the Giancarlo Stanton contract, here are a few factors that may lure the Marlins into the Machado sweepstakes:
- Players traded during their walk year—like Machado just was—are ineligible to receive a qualifying offer. The Marlins would still have to fork over gobs of money, but their future draft picks are safe. This potential signing doesn’t affect their gradually improving farm system.
- High as I am on smooth shortstop JT Riddle, Machado is nine months younger than him. He’s only a year older than NL Rookie of the Year candidate Brian Anderson. If we can agree that those Marlins still have room to grow, let’s not dismiss the possibility of Machado doing the same, which by his standards would mean challenging for the title of best player in the game. He’s the rare individual with enough talent to dramatically impact the performance of an entire team.
- Among the most critical financial decisions for the franchise in the coming years will be its next regional television deal. Before the current agreement with FOX Sports Florida expires in 2020, the Marlins will need to draw more eyeballs to the screen and prove their product has tremendous value. Machado is perfectly suited to come into this market and move the needle immediately—long track record, loud tools and hispanic heritage in an everyday role. The Marlins might actually turn a profit on this high-priced player because of the ripple effects off the field.
- Declining to sign Machado would mean playing against him. The Phillies, in particular, are expected to pursue him aggressively. That’s not a problem they want in their face for six series per season.
New ownership has been careful to set modest expectations in terms of both team performance and payroll flexibility, preaching patience until the farm system turns the corner. The majority of fans understand the plan and won’t apply pressure to spend lavishly on free agents.
That being said, the temptation will be there, especially if Machado’s asking price dips into reasonable territory...or if he’s receptive to a hometown discount.