If it weren’t for Bryce Harper, Manny Machado would be the top free agent of the 2018-19 class. Still, he’s a pretty close second (and in the minds of some, he’s first!).
In 2018, Machado slashed an excellent .297/.367/.538, and hit 37 home runs, driving in 107 RBIs in 709 plate appearances split between the Orioles and the Dodgers. By wRC+, his 141 mark was the highest of his career. His defense still rated slightly above-average (+2.0 runs).
All in all, Machado was worth 6.2 fWAR, the third time in seven seasons he’s surpassed the 6 win mark in a season.
Oh, and he is heading into his age-26 season.
It’s not hard to see why Machado is one of the most coveted free agents this offseason. He’s one of the 10 best players in Major League Baseball. His bat, always a plus, seemed to take a step forward this season. And his defense, though rating worse than it has in years’ past, is far from a liability.
Machado is due for a big contract, potentially spanning over a decade in length. Using the algorithm described on FanGraphs’ Contract Estimation Tool, here is what Machado could be worth over the next 10 years:
Manny Machado’s Next 10 Years
Despite what the chart indicated, Manny Machado likely won’t be earning $442 million in his contract this offseason. While FanGraphs values 1 WAR at about $8.3 million, it’s rare that you see a 1-WAR player sign a contract that is valued at $8.3 million per season. What the chart does estimate, however, is the amount of value that Machado could produce for his next club (whichever team that may be).
MLB Trade Rumors projected Machado to earn $390 million over 13 years at the beginning of this month. That sum would easily surpass Giancarlo Stanton’s record 13-year, $325 million contract, but even still, it might not be the largest contract in MLB history once the offseason ends with Harper also likely to earn a large sum.
Money aside, an interesting wrinkle in Machado’s free agency is his postseason behavior. Machado’s hustle and attitude were put in question due to various “incidents” throughout the playoffs (one of which resulted in a fine), with Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports going as far to say that Machado’s actions this postseason caused one team to decide not to pursue him.
Of course, no team will publicly admit that they refused to sign Machado because of his reputation, but it may have an impact on the size of the contract he receives. Whether his behavior should have an impact is absolutely a different question than whether it will; Machado’s on-field performance certainly speaks for itself.
Regardless, the Yankees, Phillies, Cubs, Cardinals and White Sox are expected to be among the various suitors for Machado this offseason, though each of those five clubs have shown varying degrees of interest.
The Phillies, for one, seem to be the most aggressive in both Machado’s and Harper’s sweepstakes this offseason, with oddsmakers favoriting them to sign both of the players when the offseason began in late October.
As for the Cardinals and the Yankees, two other potential suitors, neither have been nearly as aggressive as the team in Philadelphia, but that may just be as a result of the youth of the offseason. Heyman reported last week that the Cardinals “do not seem interested” in signing Machado, but that could change depending on how the next few months unfold. The Yankees, on the other hand, have interest according to Heyman, especially in the wake of Didi Gregorius’ Tommy John surgery that will sideline him for most of 2019 (the last year of his contract). There is also a sense that Machado likes the idea of playing in New York.
The Dodgers — Machado’s home for the second half of the season — do not seem like a fit for him in free agency. Young shortstop Corey Seager expects to be ready for 2019 after having Tommy John and hip surgeries this year which limited him to just 26 games last season. With Seager back on the active roster and the money that would be required to sign him, Machado is likely not on the Dodgers’ wishlist.
Machado is a franchise-altering player that would be an upgrade to almost any team. Since he entered the league in 2012, he is the only player to have been worth both 90+ runs above-average on offense and 60+ runs above-average on defense. His ability to dominate on both sides of the ball makes him a unique talent that should result in a potentially record-setting sum of money when it’s all set and done.
Devan Fink is a Featured Writer for Beyond The Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter @DevanFink.