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What Manny Machado signing means for Marlins’ future

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No, he didn’t come home. But Machado became the latest free agent to sign a mega deal with a rebuilding franchise.

Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Manny Machado and his representatives at MVP Sports Group were patient with his free agency, and it paid off big time on Tuesday:

Padres executive chairman Ron Fowler has not confirmed the deal yet, per Dennis Lin of The Athletic. Ken Rosenthal clarifies that the two sides are indeed in agreement, just awaiting a physical and finalizing other details.

The 26-year-old infielder falls short of Giancarlo Stanton’s record-setting, 13-year, $325 million Marlins extension. On the other hand, Machado easily beats him in terms of average annual value, and as Mark Feinsand of MLB.com points out, this is the largest free-agent guarantee we’ve ever seen.

Outfielder Bryce Harper remains on the open market and could potentially top this payday. The Phillies, White Sox and Nationals appear to be his most likely destinations.

The Marlins never seemed to be in the mix for Machado’s services, even though he’s a Miami native who reportedly hosted several free-agent meetings locally. President of baseball operations Michael Hill has suggested that they don’t expect to make any more free-agent signings heading into 2019. The Opening Day payroll figures to be in the $80 million range.

However, there’s no excuse for the Marlins missing out on big free agents moving forward.

Machado goes to the Padres, who went 66-96 last season. Earlier this decade, Jayson Werth and José Reyes signed nine-figure deals with teams that had posted 69-93 and 72-90 records, respectively. The Cubs wooed Jon Lester to the Windy City fresh off a 73-89 campaign.

Elite players believe in their ability to improve any situation and are undeterred by what may have happened prior to their arrival. Show them the money!

Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

The Marlins currently boast a middle-of-the-pack farm system, but they figure to move up following the upcoming MLB Draft where they hold the No. 4 overall selection and three picks inside the top 50. Combined with a bunch of solid controllable major leaguers (particularly on the pitching side), they truthfully aren’t that far away from relevance...if ownership spends to support that core with established talent.

There are opportunities to substantially increase revenue through the renegotiation of their local television deal and finding a ballpark naming rights partner. This past offseason, the Marlins turned their focus toward enhancing the fan experience in an effort to attract crowds more consistently (worst MLB attendance in 2018).

They certainly don’t need to invest $300 million in one player to be taken seriously—with the exception of Mike Trout, projected free agents over the next two offseasons won’t have the leverage to get that much, anyway.

But there will come a point when Bruce Sherman has to back up his words by allocating more resources to keep pace in an increasingly tough National League.