Phillies Nuggets with Tim Kelly

For Machado, “dissatisfaction” is justified, as free-agency has become referendum on league’s labor practices



Manny Machado has gone through a frustrating free-agent stint. (Ian D’Andrea)

“He just made himself baseball’s first $400-million man,” an anonymous scout told John Perrotto in March of 2017 in regards to Manny Machado.

The quote in itself wasn’t a stretch – heck, there were some around the sport who speculated that Machado and Bryce Harper could push for $500 million in free-agency after the 2018 season. The scout’s reasoning for the quote – Machado’s hot start in the 2017 World Baseball Classic – was a bit sensational, but it still represented a very real viewpoint from at least some around baseball.

Fast forward to what’s about to be February of 2019, and Machado’s free-agent stint (along with Harper’s) is approaching 100 days. And there’s no indication that he’s going to sniff $300 million, let alone $400 or $500 million. Reports of him receiving a seven-year/$175 million offer from the Chicago White Sox were fiercely contested by his agent, Dan Lozano, a couple of weeks ago. That came a few days after the New York Yankees signed DJ LeMahieu to a two-year/$24 million deal, seeming to take Machado’s preferred destination largely off the board. And since then, all we’ve really heard in regards to Machado is that the San Diego Padres may have interest in the four-time All-Star. With all due respect to the beautiful city of San Diego, this offseason didn’t begin with Machado envisioning himself spending his peak hitting at Petco Park.

Jon Heyman of MLB Network says in a non-surprising, yet noteworthy nugget that “there are whispers of dissatisfaction with how this [his much-anticipated free-agent stint] has gone.” The offseason began with Machado hoping that he would sign a deal that topped Giancarlo Stanton’s 13-year/$325 million deal with the team that currently employs Stanton, the Yankees. Heyman now calls both unlikely.

It’s simple enough for most fans to wonder why if Machado is upset with how the process has gone, he doesn’t just pick a team. According to Heyman, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Chicago White Sox and San Diego Padres are the three most serious suitors for Machado. Although, we’re not sure that both the Phillies and Padres aren’t more serious on Harper, nor are we sure that the White Sox are prepared to make an offer that would satisfy even reduced expectations from Machado’s camp.

There’s also a responsibility for both Machado and Harper, who have 10 combined All-Star Game appearances before each of their age-26 seasons, to maximize what they get in free-agency. That sets the market for the rest of the league. If they take less this offseason, we could go through this same song and dance next offseason with Nolan Arenado and Anthony Rendon. It’s difficult to imagine teams not jumping at the chance to sign either Mike Trout or Mookie Betts if either become free-agents after the 2020 season, but if Harper and Machado give in now, it will certainly affect where the conversation starts on a new contract for perhaps the two best position players in the sport two years from now.

Certainly, there are things to pick apart about Machado. His postseason, despite helping the Los Angeles Dodgers reach the World Series, was a public relations disaster. It’s a bad look for him that even with Corey Seager set to return, the Dodgers seemingly never considered mounting an attempt to retain his services. In his return to his “natural” position of shortstop in 2018, Machado graded out as one of the poorer qualified fielders at his position. Even at third base, a position where he’s won two Gold Gloves, his defensive metrics had declined in recent years, even if they were still among the better ones in the league. Defense historically does not age well.

At the same time, Machado is a 26-year-old that’s on a Hall of Fame track. For any concerns about him in the field, he’s coming off of the best offensive season of his career, having slashed .297/.367/.538 with 37 home runs, 107 RBIs and a 6.2 fWAR. In terms of fWAR, FanGraphs says that his production over the course of parts of seven seasons has been worth $235.9 million. And he should only be entering his peak. Yet, it feels unlikely he’ll top the 10-year/$275 million deal that his idol, Alex Rodriguez, signed with the Yankees in December of 2007. Sure, Rodriguez signed that deal before it became public that he had ever failed a PED test, and A-Rod statistically was having one of the greatest careers in baseball history. Machado isn’t quite there. But he’s on a Hall of Fame pace, is six years younger than Rodriguez was in 2007 and there’s been over a decade of inflation. Or at least there should have been, the league isn’t struggling financially.

This isn’t to say that the baseball world isn’t correct to want a resolution to Machado’s free-agency. The staff at Phillies Nation has memorized every available stock photo for Machado (and Harper, for that matter). But this offseason has become so much bigger than whether the Phillies land a superstar. It’s even become bigger than where Machado and Harper will spend what should be their prime years. It’s become a battle over labor practices in the sport, and makes you wonder what will happen when the current collective bargaining agreement expires in December of 2021. For Machado, who was expected to land a historic contract this offseason, it’s understandable to be frustrated that he’s become an unwitting participant in a battle over whether players will roll over to organizations that are becoming increasingly wealthy based off of their production.

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16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. czontixhldr

    February 1, 2019 at 12:48 am

    I have to disagree with you Tim.

    “FanGraphs says that his production over the course of parts of seven seasons has been worth $235.9 million.” Actually, that’s not what it says. In their words, it’s “WAR converted to a dollar scale based on what a player would make in free agency”. Their statement and your statement are not the same thing. “would make (a speculative estimate) in free agency and actually being “worth” it to a team are two different things.

    Besides, I’ve always thought that those numbers that Fangraphs uses have been rather dubious. The reason it’s a bogus number is that few teams, if any, can afford to pay free agency rates for every WAR on their roster, especially the winning ones. The division winners last year all would have had payrolls north of $400MM ( https://www.fangraphs.com/depthcharts.aspx?position=Team ), and the Indians would be in bankruptcy.

    There is a difference between what a team is willing to pay for a marginal win in free agency and what a win (1WAR) is worth overall to a team. Based on their estimated 2019 payroll(b-ref), and projected fWAR, the Phillies are projected to pay around $3.5 – 4.0MM for a win in 2019. Now, if they sign one of Harchado, that will jump significantly because they’ll be willing to pay that much more for the marginal wins to a free agent.

    And I think what is happening to free agents in baseball right now, is teams have run the numbers and don’t think it makes much sense to pay that much more for marginal wins to a free agent. It’s also why I predict there will be an ugly labor stoppage.

    As far as Manny is concerned, I’d like to see him on the Phillies, but not at any where near the number or years he wants, or what you apparently think he’s worth. Given that a lot of his value is derived from his defense (at 3B ) (and defense doesn’t age that well), we’re talking about a guy with a lifetime OPS of .822, and at .845 even if you toss out his first two seasons when he was learning. Using wRC+ he’s been 20% above average for his career, and yes, he’s coming off his best offensive year, but the year before that was his worst. Are we supposed to dismiss that?

    He’s a really nice player and I’d love for the Phillies to have him for the next 5 – 7 years, but nothing screams 10/300+ about him to me.

    We just disagree.

    • Tim Kelly

      February 1, 2019 at 1:22 am

      Right before the part you quoted, I said “in terms of fWAR.” I don’t believe they are exact comparisons, but I think it speaks to how salaries haven’t kept up with production, much like we see in the real world. That doesn’t mean I don’t get why salaries don’t balloon that high, but I also get players feeling that they are more deserving of the salaries than what is being offered.

    • schmenkman

      February 1, 2019 at 8:05 am

      I think he’ll continue being a very good player for the next 5+ or so years, and will still be good beyond that. Keeping in mind how rare it will be to add a player this good and this young in free agency, I wouldn’t balk at 10/300.

      • Matthew Veasey

        February 1, 2019 at 8:50 am

        Have to agree on Machado…and Harper as well. While I began the off-season anti-Manny for attitude reasons, hard to argue with the talent. I still believe Harper would play better with the fans here, but at this point, I’ll take either, or both.

  2. Jeff J.

    February 1, 2019 at 7:53 am

    I think teams are getting more wary about tying all their capital in ONE player. It’s not just the amount of money, its the time. No organization (or their fan base) wants to experience what Anaheim did or Washington the first few years after signing Pujols and Werth for them to get started while they’re making a mint not producing. It’s the same reason the Phillies landed Areita last year. Nobody wanted to lock in a pitcher for five years for him when he is at the tail end of his prime. Besides; nobody doubts Machado’s talent. But his work ethic is piss-poor. He even stated as much. Not something the Phillies want to wast their efforts on.

    • czontixhldr

      February 1, 2019 at 10:39 am

      Jeff, where I believe we disagree is that I’ll take Manny, even with all the warts you mention. I am just very wary of going beyond 7 years on a deal.

      And I’ll go as far to say I’d prefer Manny over Harper.

  3. betasigmadeltashag

    February 1, 2019 at 12:50 pm

    Initially I was for Machado over Harper, but I think the one question about Manny is once he gets his 30 mil a year will he be motivated at all to play, since he doesn’t even like to try that hard in a contract year. But I also think 10 years for either of them or anyone, I know I will killed for this, but even Trout. Tie yourself to Harper till he 36 with how he plays is not smart. In the last 2-3 years of that contract how many games a year will he play, because he will be hurt. When they signed Chase to his long term deal it was worth the 13 million they paid him a year when you only played half a year because it was a good deal. But to pay some one 35 million a year and only getting 90 games a year would be dumb. In my opinion I think if they would go after Keuchal and the new Pitching coach is good, I think this offense can be better then last year, especially if you can get something for Hernandez so Kingery can get comfortable at his national position. I think Franco might have figured some things out at the end of last year, and also think Altherr’s trip down last summer did him somme good. I still believe that you have to run out a consistent line up for a few weeks and let the young guys play through slumps, and get comfortable with their spot. And stop all the match up of the day, especially in the first few months. And if they don’t over use the pen like last year there might be some more in the tank at the end of they year.

  4. czontixhldr

    February 1, 2019 at 5:26 pm

    betasigmadeltashag, what about Kingery’s MLB performance so far has convinced you that he can hit MLB pitching?

    • Tim Kelly

      February 2, 2019 at 12:42 pm

      This is a fair question.

      • czontixhldr

        February 2, 2019 at 5:40 pm

        I think so, that’s why I’m not an advocate of trading Cesar. If Kingery proves he can live up to people’s expectations and hit MLB pitching I’ll have no problem with it. Until then I’m hanging on to the guy who’s proven he can put up 3+ WAR in a season.

  5. denzen

    February 1, 2019 at 7:43 pm

    There is something interesting about a guy who threw 11 random letters together to make his name, having a conversation with a guy who used 18 random letters to form his name. haha

    • czontixhldr

      February 1, 2019 at 8:48 pm

      Aww, cmon, you can’t read phonetically?

      😉

      • schmenkman

        February 1, 2019 at 9:02 pm

        Have to admit it took me a long time to get yours, until just recently.

  6. Bigdog

    February 1, 2019 at 9:48 pm

    What a shame that such a simple, beautiful game has become corrupted by us.

    • schmenkman

      February 1, 2019 at 10:06 pm

      It seems it was always corrupted going back to the 1869 Red Stockings. Even before free agency, when players had no power, they argued over contracts, carried grudges about how they were treated, or they held out.

      • Bigdog

        February 2, 2019 at 1:13 am

        True. But still sad. Bigger stakes. Bigger corruption.

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