Manny Machado will frustrate you and drive you crazy, whether he’s on your team or in the opposing lineup. That’s the choice a team must make: Whether it believes it’s better to have him on the inside or the outside.
The Dodgers made that particular bed when they acquired Machado on July 18 from the Orioles for five minor-leaguers. Surely another big-market club will make a much more expensive deal for the four-time All-Star this winter because he’s one of the two best players in a stacked free agent market this year.
Machado doesn’t hustle, he concedes. He’s going to cross the line into questionable sportsmanship, as we all saw during the National League Championship Series when he clipped the Brewers’ Jesús Aguilar’s leg at first and slid way past second twice.
But Machado can hit. He’s a special talent, and it won’t be a surprise if he walks away with a $300 million contract this winter.
There are very few secrets in baseball. The strikes against Machado are as clear now as the strikes were against Alex Rodriguez’s personality and demands after the 2000 season. That winter, then-Mets general manager Steve Phillips famously said that he had “serious reservations about a structure in which you have a 24-plus-one man roster. I don’t think it can work.”
Phillips was worried about Rodriguez tearing apart the fabric of the team after the Mets reached the 2000 World Series against the Yankees. The Mets balked at all the requests Rodriguez made at a time long before the superstar was ever linked to performance-enhancement drugs.
Whatever the case, Rodriguez was a special talent. He ultimately received a then-record, 10-year, $252 million contract from the Rangers, who were said to have actually bid against themselves.
The Rangers never won a title with Rodriguez before trading him to the Yankees on Feb. 16, 2004. As difficult as it might be to fathom considering all the controversy in Rodriguez’s career, Machado actually carries more baggage this winter than his mentor and hero Rodriguez carried into the 2000 Hot Stove League.
Machado’s talent, however, will override the character questions.
“There are a lot more pluses on him than minuses,” Buck Showalter told the New York Post’s Joel Sherman. “When you are a manager, you don’t want to spend a lot of time on maintenance on players who can’t play. Manny is worth the time. You have to tell him what is expected. He is easy to talk to, and he usually is remorseful when he does something wrong.”
Being remorseful at times is a lot better than never being remorseful, but it’s clear that there are times when Machado isn’t remorseful.
Whatever the case, Machado and the Washington Nationals’ Bryce Harper are the types of superstars who can transform contending teams into champions.
The numbers rarely lie.
Machado, a 6-foot-3, 185-pound Dominican-American from Hialeah, Fla., showed he’s an All-Star talent at shortstop and third base this past season. He’s a middle-of-the-order bat who strikes fear in opponents.
At 26, he already has a 33.8 Wins Above Replacement over seven seasons in the majors with 175 home runs and 513 RBIs. He has a career .282 batting average, .335 on-base percentage, .487 slugging and .822 OPS.
The four-time All-Star hit .297 with 37 home runs and 107 RBI while posting a .367 on-base percentage, .538 slugging percentage and .905 OPS and a 5.7 WAR this year between the Orioles and Dodgers.
His 6.7 offensive WAR was the seventh best in the majors this season.
According to Baseball Reference, Machado’s career path through the age 25 season is most similar to the career arc of Adrian Beltre’s through the same period. That’s a good comparison, considering Beltre has already secured his spot in the exclusive 3,000-hit club.
The list of the other similar players to Machado through his age 25 season is quite impressive. It includes Beltré, a potential Hall of Famer, Ron Santo, a Hall of Famer, and then Andruw Jones, Ruben Sierra, Ryan Zimmerman, Harper, Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr., Eric Chavez, Hall of Famer Ken Griffey, Jr., and Cesar Cedeño.
You don’t have to be a baseball scholar to realize those are some legendary names. That’s the future a team is betting on with Machado. Despite the questions about his hustle and antics, Machado is set to cash in. The Yankees and Phillies are among the teams eager to make a run at him. The math makes the money worth it.
Featured Image: La Vida Baseball