by Logan Perrone
After a frustrating offseason for Major League baseball executives, players, and its fans, a question to one of the biggest uncertainties was answered on Tuesday.
Infielder Manny Machado, one of the league’s premier free agents, signed the biggest contract (per average annual value) in American sports history with the San Diego Padres. The deal is worth $300 Million over 10 years with an opt-out clause after five years.
The deal comes after months of speculation, rumors, and general hysteria about where the five-time All-Star would play in 2019. Other teams who were in the sweepstakes include the Yankees, White Sox, and Philadelphia. It was rumored that New York was his ideal destination, but he was offered significantly less from the club.
The deal boasts well for Machado, who now becomes the center piece to an organization that features a promising farm system headlined by Fernando Tatis Jr., Luis Urias, and Francisco Mejia. While it’s unlikely the Padres will contend in 2019, it seems to be only a matter of time before the team makes its way back into the postseason.
The signing also has implications for current free agent Bryce Harper and 2020 free agent Nolan Arenado’s markets, and reflects the new climate of MLB free agency.
As for the Harper sweepstakes, Machado off the board means a couple of things. First, San Diego is, most likely, out of the running for Harper. The two sides engaged in talks, however they already have $48 million committed to first baseman Eric Hosmer and Machado, and it seems implausible (and downright crazy) that they would dish out another $30+ Million on another single player.
Secondly, the contract serves as a starting value for any team looking to ink the 26-year-old slugger. Harper’s agent Scott Boras is notorious for getting his clients paid, and with the bar now set by Machado, it’s almost given that any contract Harper will agree to will surpass that amount, whether in overall value, average annual value, or both.
Rockies’ third baseman Nolan Arenado is also impacted from the signing. With his impending free agency after the 2019 season, it is unclear if a return to the Mile-High City will happen. With a strong Dodgers team currently dominating the NL West and the Padres looming just beyond the horizon, Colorado may struggle to contend going forward, which doesn’t bode well for the possibility of bringing back the face of its franchise.
To make matters worse for the Rockies, plenty of teams who could contend in 2020 and outbid the Rockies for Arenado may need a third baseman. Teams like Philadelphia, Milwaukee, the Chicago Cubs, and Washington all have players in the hot corner with contracts that expire in 2019. They also have money to spend on a superstar free agent.
Machado’s massive contract is undoubtedly impressive, but it has a larger impact on nature of free agency in today’s game. The business aspect has become a very interesting part of baseball as it has transformed with the game’s evolution.
Most noticeable is how teams dish out money in contracts. Traditionally, players have been paid for what they have done and accomplished prior to exploring the market; players that performed well early in their careers had a higher price tag going into free agency. Now, in an age where analytics and metrics are common place in Major League Baseball, players sign contracts that reflect their projected success.
With the MLB’s analytical revolution, players now look to get paid in the early stretch of their career instead of later. Young talent across the league sees how free agency has changed, and are aware that the best time for them to obtain maximum value is during the peak years of their career when the numbers say they will have the most success. Gone are they days where players receive sizeable contracts in their early thirties, since front offices also understand what their worth will be down the line.
These two factors combined have culminated in two very stagnant offseasons. MLB clubs have noticed the kickbacks of trying to negotiate with players’ large asking prices and would rather take a gamble on a young promising prospect for a fraction of the price. The athletes are not the victim, however- players use competing teams as bargaining chips to milk organizations for the greatest amount of dollars- which, like in Machado’s case, leaves the biggest names in the game without a team until the eleventh-hour.
Overall, the Machado signing is a revelation that baseball is evolving. The signing affects not only who’s available in this year’s market but next year’s as well. It also reflects the uneasy relationship between players and executives that have made for back-to-back consecutive frustrating offseasons. Nonetheless, the Padres have acquired a generational talent to headline a possible dynasty just a few years away from postseason contention.
Edited by Garrett Jones | @email@example.com