Manny Machado visited with the Philadelphia Phillies Thursday, finishing off a free-agent tour that also saw him meet with the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees. Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports noted Friday that Machado isn’t likely to pick his next team until January. But that doesn’t mean that general manager Matt Klentak and the Phillies will sit on their hands for the rest of 2018.
It would appear that the club will have to wrestle with just how far they are willing to go to lure Machado to Philadelphia.
The expectation from most in baseball has been that for Machado to sign with the Phillies or White Sox, it would likely take a deal in the neighborhood of 10 years and $300 million. George A. King III of The New York Post says that there’s some thought that the Phillies may be hesitant to commit to a deal of that length:
Also Friday there was industry speculation the Phillies are also leery of a 10-year deal for $300 million for Machado, who has had each knee operated on once and needs to repair his image after being labeled as a dirty player and foolishly admitting hustling wasn’t part of his makeup during the postseason.
Machado, 26, slashed .297/.367/.538 with 37 home runs, 107 RBIs and a career-high 35.6 offensive WAR in 2018, a season in which he played all 162 games. After a disappointing 2017 campaign, Machado had perhaps as good of a walk year offensively as he possible could have.
However, in 2018, a season that Machado split with the Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers, he moved back to shortstop, the position he was drafted at. A two-time Gold Glove Award winner at third base, Machado posted -13 defensive runs saved and a -6.9 ultimate zone rating at shortstop in 2018. We can debate the flaws of defensive metrics, but the reality is that at third base, Machado has always graded out very well. At shortstop, he didn’t.
The Phillies also acquired a shortstop this offseason in Jean Segura. So in a perfect scenario, Machado would sign with the Phillies as a third baseman, with the understanding that Segura, who he was a teammate of in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, is a better fit at shortstop.
At the same time, it’s probably fair for the Phillies to wonder whether Machado would still be an effective third baseman during the back-end of a 10-year deal. As King mentioned, Machado has had surgery on both knees. In 2013, his first full season in the majors, he posted 35.8 defensive runs saved, a 20.8 ultimate zone rating and 18.6 range runs above average. In 2017, when he was still primarily a third baseman for the Orioles, Machado posted six defensive runs saved, a 2.3 ultimate zone rating and -1.5 range runs above average. The translation: he was still effective as a fielder at third base two seasons ago, but even if he agreed to return to third base on a regular basis, you would be paying for what he was in the field in 2013, but not getting that player defensively.
And then, of course, Machado’s postseason – which turned into a public relations disaster, despite reaching his first World Series – is a whole other story.
Whether Machado runs out a ball in the eighth inning of the 112th game of the season when the Phillies are down by seven and it’s 88 degrees out probably isn’t that concerning to the Phillies. It no doubt will lead to a field day for sports talk radio, but that doesn’t stop you from signing someone with as much talent as Machado. The problem is that Machado’s issues with not running plays out – or blowing bubbles as he was running to first base – came in the NLCS and World Series. That’s a little bit different.
It does make you wonder about Machado’s approach as a whole. The last time the “How will he react when he gets paid?” narrative surrounded a high-profile free-agent this much was when former American League MVP Josh Hamilton reached free-agency after the 2012 season. After five consecutive All-Star appearances, Hamilton left the Texas Rangers to join the Los Angeles Angels on a five-year/$125 million deal. Hamilton played just 240 games with the Angels and his production with the team was worth $18 million, per FanGraphs. Hamilton was 32 when he joined the Angels and dealt with a variety of injuries, but it’s still never good to have your drive questioned as a payday looms.
Buck Showalter, who managed Machado from the time he entered the league until his trade to the Dodgers last July, told Joel Sherman of The New York Post that he was unsure whether Machado would become “more lackadaisical with that kind of commitment.” He did compliment the talent that Machado has and him as a person, but that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement.
In an appearance with Joe DeCamara and Jon Ritchie on SportsRadio 94 WIP, Klentak did acknowledge that Machado’s less-than-ideal postseason “got his attention.” He said, as he has multiple times this offseason, that “perception matters.” The problem for Klentak is that the perception entering the offseason was that the Phillies were near locks to sign either Machado or Bryce Harper. Given that Harper appears to be lukewarm on Philadelphia, Klentak and Phillies brass are facing an interesting predicament as 2019 approaches.
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