Manny Machado, Padres strike $300M US deal
10-year free-agent contract is biggest in baseball history
With their city's long-suffering fans desperate for a winner, the rebuilding San Diego Padres delivered their splashiest free agent signing ever by agreeing with all-star infielder Manny Machado on a 10-year, $300-million US deal.
Machado's contract is the second-largest in baseball history behind Giancarlo Stanton's 13-year, $325-million deal signed with the Miami Marlins ahead of the 2015 season. Among free agents it tops Alex Rodriguez's 10-year, $275-million pact with the New York Yankees from 2008-17.
That won't matter a bit to Padres fans, who have never celebrated a World Series title and were keeping their fingers crossed in recent days as it became apparent that their team, with a mostly sad-sack history stretching back a half-century, actually had a chance at landing Machado, who is only 26.
Some fans seemed braced for yet another disappointment. But news of the deal was greeted with euphoria on social media.
8 straight losing seasons
The Padres lost 96 games last year, haven't had a winning season since 2009 and haven't been to the playoffs since 2006. They haven't won a playoff series since the 1998 NL Championship against Atlanta. They were routed in their two World Series appearances, by Detroit in 1984 and the New York Yankees in 1998.
And they've had the city's big league sports scene to themselves since the NFL's Chargers moved to the Los Angeles area two seasons ago.
The Padres have been rebuilding mostly with prospects and draft picks, although they are making a stunning move early in spring training for the second straight year after reaching a eight-year, $144-million contract last February with first baseman Eric Hosmer.
Extremely young free agent that's got a lot of amazing baseball left in him. ... We're all just glad he'll hopefully be here with us.— Padres 1st baseman Eric Hosmer on likely new teammate Manny Machado
Padres players were ecstatic.
Catcher Austin Hedges was headed toward bunting drills when he heard the news. He pumped his fists and said, "I'm just that excited about bunting."
"You see me smiling right here," said Hosmer. "We've all been practising today, obviously. We've all kind heard what's been going on, and all we can say is he's a guy we'd love to have, and I think it changes things pretty quickly if we do have him here.
"He's one of the top guys in the league. Obviously extremely young free agent that's got a lot of amazing baseball left in him and he's already had a lot of amazing baseball in his career. We're all just glad he'll hopefully be here with us in San Diego."
The Padres have been rebuilding mostly with prospects and draft picks since a failed win-now approach with high-priced veterans in 2015.
Machado is expected to fill the team's gaping need at third base. He began last year with Baltimore, was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers after the all-star break and struck out to end the World Series loss to Boston.
With the 26-year-old Machado on board, the next big move for the Padres is expected to be the promotion of shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., the 20-year-old son of a former big leaguer and the No. 2 overall prospect in baseball.
A four-time all-star, Machado hit .297 last year and set career bests with 37 homers and 107 runs batted in. A four-time all-star and two-time Gold Glove winner, he has a .282 career average with 175 homers and 513 RBI in seven big league seasons.
White Sox 'in a bit of disbelief'
The Chicago White Sox were among the teams that pursued Machado.
"Still in a bit of disbelief. The one thing I can say — I just told Rick [general manager Hahn] this and I will tell Jerry [owner Reinsdorf] and our coaching staff and players — I feel we put our best foot forward. Jerry, in particular, really stepped up," he said.
"If the acceptance of the offer that I'm seeing is true, then actually our offer had the opportunity for Manny to surpass that. But in the end we went after the guy and we didn't get him. The reason why we were going after him in the first place is because we feel we are positioned to do some good things here going forward. We wanted to accelerate that to a large degree and that's why we made the overture we did," he said.
Machado also met with the New York Yankees, a team that had expressed concern over Machado's remarks about hustling — not hustling, actually — during the playoffs.
After failing to run out a grounder in the NLCS, Machado said: "Obviously I'm not going to change, I'm not the type of player that's going to be 'Johnny Hustle' and run down the line and slide to first base."
Machado tried to clarify his remarks after the season, saying, "looking back, it doesn't come across how I meant it."
Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner took notice of Machado's initial comments, labeling them "troubling."
"If we're interested in any player, to sit down with them face to face and ask him, `Where did this come from? What was the context around the entire interview? Was there a point? How do you justify it?"' Steinbrenner said in November.
"Because that ain't going to sell where we play baseball," he said.