The Padres already grabbed headlines earlier today by agreeing to an extension with Yu Darvish that runs through 2028. It seems the next order of business will be Manny Machado, with Dennis Lin of The Athletic reporting that the club is expected to explore a long-term deal with their third baseman prior to Opening Day. Machado’s current deal runs through 2028 but he can opt out after the upcoming campaign.
After many excellent seasons with the Orioles and a brief cameo with the Dodgers, Machado hit the open market before the 2019 season. The Padres ended up winning the bidding by signing him to a 10-year, $300MM contract, though one that afforded him the ability to opt out and return to free agency after the fifth year. The first season of the deal was a bit disappointing by Machado’s standards, as he hit .256/.334/.462 for a wRC+ of 109. He also had to play 37 games at shortstop while Fernando Tatis Jr. was on the injured list, which dragged down his defensive numbers on the season. Machado finished the year with 2.2 wins above replacement per the calculations of FanGraphs, still solid but a big drop from the 7.0 fWAR he posted the year prior.
Since then, however, he’s been largely back to his old self, with the most recent campaign arguably the best he’s ever had. He hit 32 home runs and stole nine bases in 2022, finishing the year with a .298/.366/.531 batting line and 152 wRC+. Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating thought his glovework was subpar, but Machado posted eight Outs Above Average. His 7.4 fWAR was the highest tally of his career and trailed only Aaron Judge among all position players on the year. He finished second in the National League Most Valuable Player voting with Paul Goldschmidt taking the trophy.
If Machado’s 2023 campaign is even half as good as that, he should be looking at a fairly easy opt-out choice at the end of it. The original deal was structured evenly, with Machado getting a $20MM signing bonus and $10MM salary in 2019, with $30MM salaries in each season after. That means he currently has six years and $180MM remaining as of this moment, but will be down to five years and $150MM once he has to make his decision.
Machado is 30 years and will be 31 this winter, when he could theoretically be a free agent. That’s a different situation than when he was first on the open market as a 26-year-old, but a huge deal should still be attainable, especially when looking at the deals that star players have been signing lately. Judge is just about to turn 31 and secured himself a nine-year, $360MM deal that runs through his age-39 campaign. Trea Turner is about to turn 30 but got himself an 11-year, $300MM deal into his age-40 season. Carlos Correa had two separate deals scuttled by concerns over the long-term health of his ankle and still secured himself a $200MM guarantee over six years with four vesting options. Jacob deGrom is about to turn 35 and has missed significant time recently but still got $185MM over five years.
The Padres have shown that they’re not afraid to give out these kinds of deals. A couple of months ago, they gave 30-year-old Xander Bogaerts an 11-year, $280MM contract and just today agreed to keep Darvish around through his age-41 campaign. Keeping all that mind, an MVP-level talent like Machado should be able to easily find himself a guarantee larger than the five years and $150MM he’ll be sitting on at season’s end. If he were to opt out, he would arguably be the second-best free agent available in next winter’s class, behind only Shohei Ohtani. That potentially creates a situation where the ticking clock ratchets up the tension throughout the year and perhaps the club would prefer to get something done now in order to avoid that distraction.
The Padres don’t exactly have a clear long-term payroll, as Bogaerts is under contract through 2033 and Tatis 2034, but they’ve shown a clear willingness to be flexible in getting deals done when they want to. In the short term, they might have to think about the competitive balance tax, as they have been hovering around the $273MM third tier recently. If they finish the season above that line, they will not only pay higher tax rates but will also see their top pick in the 2024 draft bumped back by ten spots. Since the luxury tax is calculated by a contract’s average annual value, perhaps the Padres try to spread out a new deal in order to lower the CBT hit.
Whatever form the contract eventually takes, it seems the Padres would rather keep Machado around than see him dive back into the free agent waters. We shall find out in the next little while if they can get something done before Opening Day, which is now about seven weeks away.