It’s nearly February, and we have a new suitor for four-time All-Star free-agent Manny Machado: the San Diego Padres.
According to Kevin Acee of The San Diego Union-Tribune, the Padres have emerged as a contender to sign Machado:
According to multiple sources aware of talks between the sides but not authorized to speak publicly, the Padres are pursuing the 26-year-old superstar with the intention of playing him at third base.
The market is limited, and the Padres are believed to be legitimate suitors.
The Padres join a market that includes the Phillies, who hosted Machado on Dec. 20 and the Chicago White Sox. It’s not immediately clear, however, if the Phillies prefer Machado or Bryce Harper, the other 26-year-old star free-agent. ESPN‘s Buster Olney reported that the White Sox had offered Machado a seven-year/$175 million deal – which felt underwhelming – only for Dan Lozano, Machado’s agent, to issue a strong denial of the truth of said report. The New York Yankees were seen as the favorite to land Machado early in the offseason, though after signing Troy Tulowitzki and DJ LeMahieu, the belief is that the Yankees are unlikely to make the financial commitment necessary to land him.
For a variety of reasons, the Padres don’t seem to be a natural fit. They aren’t a major market team, and though they currently only have $72 million in financial commitments in 2019, it would be quite the turn of events for them to sign Machado to a deal in excess of $200 million one offseason after signing Eric Hosmer to an eight-year/$144 million deal. Secondly, the Padres employ the top overall shortstop prospect in the sport – Fernando Tatis Jr. – meaning they would be pitching Machado on playing third base for essentially his entire time in San Diego. And finally, for as much as San Diego is a destination city, the belief has long been that the former No. 3 overall pick would prefer to return to the East Coast.
However, given the pace at which this offseason has played out at, general manager A.J. Preller and the Padres could jump to the front of the line of potential landing spots for Machado with the right offer.
If serious, the Padres interest in Machado could affect the Phillies in a variety of different ways. Obviously, the Padres would be another team for the Phillies to compete against to land Machado, though it still feels less-than-likely that the Padres would be able to outbid the Phillies if managing partner John Middleton puts on a full-court press to land Machado. If the Phillies really are torn on whether they would prefer to sign Machado or Harper – it’s hard to decipher if that’s the case or not – perhaps a second serious suitor for Machado, in addition to the White Sox, could push the Phillies in the direction of Harper.
If the Phillies aren’t able to land Machado, Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports reported earlier this month that the Phillies would have interest in veteran free-agent Mike Moustakas at third base. That would seem to suggest that regardless of how the coming weeks play out, the Phillies don’t anticipate Maikel Franco being on their Opening Day roster. That isn’t exactly breaking news, as Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reported in November that Franco, 26, was “pretty much a sure bet” to be dealt this offseason. With that said, he also noted that the Phillies believed they could fall back on a trade with the Padres, who have been known to be interested in Franco since last summer. Such a trade obviously won’t still be an option if the Padres sign Machado, causing the Phillies to make a push for Harper and sign Moustakas to play third base.
Phillies pitchers and catchers will report to Clearwater on Feb. 13. Even a month ago, it would have been hard to believe that the free-agent sweepstakes for Machado and/or Harper, who have a combined 10 All-Star Game appearances, could drag into Spring Training. Now, it feels at least like a possibility. At the very least, corresponding trades and signings related to Machado and Harper will almost certainly be taking place right up until the Phillies host the defending National League East champion Atlanta Braves on March 28.
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