To be clear, all 30 teams should at least entertain the idea of adding Manny Machado. Very rarely does a player of Machado’s age and ability hit the free agent market. At the age of 26, we’re talking about an MVP-caliber player who is just entering the prime of his career.
Earlier this week, Buster Olney of ESPN reported that Machado had been offered 7 years and $175 million by the Chicago White Sox. This information was corroborated by Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
The White Sox offer to Machado is for $175 million, over seven years. In some ways, their approach is like Boston's w/ J.D. Martinez last winter -- the Red Sox offered $100 million and waited for two months. If CWS offer emerges as best, a big ? is: Would Machado/NYY re-engage?— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) January 16, 2019
Machado’s agent, Dan Lozano, quickly denounced the reports and went on to accuse certain parties of violating the CBA by using the media as a way to publicly “affect negotiations.”
While it appears that Machado will ultimately cost much more than $175 million, there’s still the overall sense that he is being undercut by the market.
This leads us to the Marlins’ biggest hurdle in such a pursuit: the money. According to Jon Heyman of Fancred, Machado’s group is seeking a Stanton-esque deal...the very same deal the Marlins fought hard to shake last offseason.
Why the Marlins should pursue Manny Machado
If the 2019 season began today, the Marlins would have about $65 million on the books, plus another $10 million or so to fill out the active roster. The next year, they are freed from Martín Prado‘s contract. And what of the 2021 season? The Wei-Yin Chen and Starlin Castro move out of the picture, too. The Marlins are on the cusp of financial flexibility that will be further fueled by stadium naming rights and a new TV deal. This sets up the team to splurge on the 2020-2021 free agent class which currently includes stars like Mike Trout, Andrelton Simmons, and George Springer.
But what if the Marlins decided to spend that money now? A 25-30 million dollar annual commitment wouldn’t set them close to threatening the luxury tax and they wouldn’t be strapped for cash as they start to piece together a contending team.
The popular philosophy in free agency now is that big money and lots of years are bad, but that makes more sense when players are hitting the market at the age of 30 or older. Machado is hitting the market at 26; he could conceivably be productive throughout the duration of a 10-year deal. Expecting legitimate All-Star or MVP-caliber performance out of any player after the age of 35 is generally foolish, but if the whole league is reluctant to go past seven years for Machado, maybe the Marlins could step up (at a lower annual dollar figure).
Overall, Machado’s offensive game should be one that maintains itself well, unlike players such as Chone Figgins, Carl Crawford, and Grady Sizemore who relied heavily on their speed to make an impact. The team who signs him into his mid 30s should expect sustained performance and extreme durability.
Defensively, he is one of the best at third base and an at least average at shortstop with a fantastic arm. A move back to third base seems to be in order for his later years, but in the meantime, Machado seems determined to stick at his preferred position. The defensive metrics didn’t have much love for his play at shortstop for the Orioles, but they did markedly improve in his brief time with the Dodgers.
Let’s be clear—the Marlins front office would have to dramatically change their line of thinking to bring this relationship closer to reality. SiriusXM and Five Reasons Sports Network host Craig Mish tweets that they aren’t involved in any negotiations as a “mystery team” for the time being.
But if that happens, what do the Marlins get for their investment? They get a long term answer at shortstop—a position their current farm system doesn’t have much to offer—and a face of the franchise. Beyond that, the Marlins would get one of the best players of this generation to come out of Miami and a player whose slick flair blends well with the culture of the the city.
Why Manny Machado should be intrigued by the Marlins
It’s pretty easy to see why the Marlins could want a player like Manny Machado. But for any deal to happen, the player needs to buy in.
One reason to suspect that there may be mutual interest? The Marlins can bring him home. Machado was born and raised in Miami, and played at local private school Brito Miami. The opportunity to come home and represent the city one grew up in is a privilege valued by many players and one that not many players get.
Machado has been very vocal in his intent to play shortstop, although it’s been said by a former coach of his that he would go back to third base for “the right contract.” The Marlins have all sorts of needs throughout all levels of the organization, shortstop being chief among them. The Phillies, for example, can no longer offer that fit due to their recent acquisition of Jean Segura, and the Yankees would be saying goodbye to Didi Gregorius to accommodate that.
“I’m a shortstop. I play shortstop.” - Manny Machado, when asked if he’d move back to third base if traded to contender.— Marc Carig (@MarcCarig) July 10, 2018
On top of that, the Marlins with all their recent turnover and staff changes are now following a philosophy that is known to work. They have restocked their rotation with some intriguing young arms, with plenty more on the way. Their sizable outfield prospect group will set them up to have an elite outfield once again, and much sooner than many believe. Machado would not be joining the Marlins organization he grew up watching—he’d be joining a new Marlins organization with an unwavering commitment to building their team the correct way by engaging the international free agent market and dedicating more resources to their scouting and analytics department.
While it’s not the immediate championship contender he likely prefers, there is value in a team with a focus on its youth and analytics. Machado’s interest in the Chicago White Sox is based in those same principles. The Marlins would have to get him to buy into the process and assure him that with joining would expedite their turnaround. Included in such a pitch would likely be a renewed commitment to building around All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto and re-opening extension talks, but with dollar figures more representative of Realmuto’s ability.
What the Marlins should do if they snag Manny Machado
Say the Marlins shock the world and sign Manny Machado. The immediate question is, “What in the heck are they going to do next?” And it’s a question that could have a pretty disappointing answer. One path they could take is to move some of their newly acquired prospects for a starting pitcher to anchor their rotation, for some much needed offense at first base, or for some immediate help in the outfield. The other path, and in my opinion, the correct path, would be to stick to their process and show faith in their scouting and development.
As I mentioned previously, at this point the Marlins should be using Machado’s addition as a way to prove to Realmuto that they are fully invested in not only winning later, but very soon. The hope being they convince Realmuto to be a part of the core along with Machado and Brian Anderson.
Even further, the Marlins should use all their resources in seeking their next ace. While that pitcher could already be in the organization, their focus should be placed on drafting advanced college pitching, particularly in the first few rounds. An example of such a pick would be Duke LHP Graeme Stinson who is eligible for the 2019 MLB Draft where the Marlins will be selecting fourth overall, and will have three picks in the top 50.
The Marlins’ ascension can be very fast if they add proven stars and remain committed to their youth. Regardless of where Machado signs, his employer will get great value from the deal. One could only hope that they build their future together in Miami.
Thank you for reading, until next time.