If we’ve learned anything in the past week, it’s that the public debate on Manny Machado and the one had by executives around the sport have perhaps been two entirely different discussions.
Machado, a four-time All-Star that will be a free-agent at the conclusion of this season, drew criticism for failing to run a ball out in Game 2 of the NLCS. Though the 26-year-old admitted to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic that there was “no excuse” for not busting it down the line, that admission was tainted when he added that being a “Johnny Hustle” isn’t his “cup of tea.” Just hours after that interview was published, Machado found himself entangled in a different controversy, as he swiped Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar on his ankle after being thrown out at first base. National League MVP candidate Christian Yelich – before using expletives off the air – referred to the incident as “a dirty play by a dirty player.”
Thursday, Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports published a revealing article about how Machado is viewed in some league circles. In addition to one anonymous executive referring to Machado as “A-Rod without the steroids,” another unnamed executive says that the only team he believes will approach a $300 million contract with him this offseason is the Phillies:
Another rival exec opined that he doesn’t believe Machado will be adversely affected in the pocketbook one iota. And the guess here is that he still gets the monster deal in the $300-million range because talent talks — though one rival exec says his guess is that maybe “no one but Philly” may be willing to go there now.
In addition to one of the executives Heyman spoke to saying Machado won’t be affected “one iota” in terms of his free-agent contract, Jeff Fletcher of The Orange County Register also spoke to two executives with the same thought process.
With that said, a comparison to Alex Rodriguez, although still extremely productive when he wasn’t in the midst of drama, isn’t flattering. Heyman quoted three executives who used that Rodriguez comparison. Additionally, Hall of Fame NFL writer Ray Didinger, one of the most credible people in sports media, said this on Wednesday’s SportsRadio 94 WIP midday show with Joe DeCamera and Jon Ritchie:
“I talked to one guy who is into baseball. He’s a scout – I’m not going to name names, but he’s a scout. And I asked him the Machado-Harper question. And this was a month ago, so it was before this [Machado’s quotes about not being ‘Johnny Hustle’]. And I said ‘Who would you take?’ I said ‘I would take Machado.’ He said ‘I would take Harper.’ He said – it was exactly what you said Joe – he said ‘I think Machado, the way he is wired, that if he gets the big money, you’re gonna lose him. If he gets the big money, he’s just going to set back.’ And look, his talent, he’s still going to produce, but he’s a guy that’s just going to take the money and check out on you. He said Harper, he has his own warts, but he said ‘Harper’s a guy that is so ultra competitive, inherently competitive, that he’s still going to go out and play hard all the time.’ He said ‘I can’t guarantee that Machado would. In fact, I would almost guarantee you he would not.’ “
A World Series berth is looming for the Los Angeles Dodgers. So too is Machado’s free-agency, which is perhaps even more anticipated. For a fair amount of Machado detractors to be coming out now, it makes you wonder exactly what his market will look like this offseason. With Didi Gregorius recently undergoing Tommy John Surgery, Heyman says the Yankees are expected to be players for Machado this offseason. The Phillies have long been thought to be the most interested team. But the Dodgers – who, again, are one win away from reaching the World Series – don’t seem likely to compete financially for Machado. It’s easy enough to say that the shortstop/third baseman was always going to be a rental for the Dodgers, who have Justin Turner at third base and Corey Seager set to return to shortstop in 2019. But Machado is arguably one of the 10 most talented position players in baseball, and he’s still only 26. You would think if there was anyone that the Dodgers felt the need to keep in the fold, it would be him. Heyman, however, noted that “there’s a hint or two that not everything about Machado is the Dodgers cup of tea.”
As motivated as the Phillies may be, if the only other major market team they are competing with this offseason is the Yankees, perhaps there will be somewhat of a financial letdown for Machado. Even with Gregorius’ future in New York unclear, the Yankees have a talented natural shortstop in Gleyber Torres. There have been some whispers of Machado potentially being willing to move back to third base – a position he won two Gold Glove Awards at – to play for the Yankees. But he still would be a luxury addition for Brian Cashman.
Phillies president Andy MacPhail, general manager Matt Klentak and assistant general manager Ned Rice were all in Baltimore when the Orioles drafted Machado in the first round of the 2010 MLB Draft. One would think if there was a front-office around the league – other than the Orioles and Dodgers – that would be able to lend great insight on Machado, it would be the Phillies. But Heyman spoke to someone currently inside the Orioles organization that said Machado “lost some focus” in recent seasons, muddying the waters even more on what once appeared to be a perfect free-agent candidacy.
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