With $352 million in salary commitments this winter, the good times never seem to end for the San Diego Padres.
Yet they are something of a baseball paradox, because even as they guaranteed Xander Bogaerts $280 million to play shortstop until 2033, their window as a superteam is actually narrowing.
The club was reminded of that Friday when All-Star third baseman Manny Machado reported to spring training and confirmed to reporters that he will opt out of his contract after the 2023 season, a fact that on its face isn’t surprising.
Machado and Bogaerts will comprise the best left side of an infield in baseball, arguably one of the greatest in the game’s modern history. Yet we are once again reminded that they’re only guaranteed to be together this year.
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Bogaerts, the great Juan Soto and Machado in the middle of the lineup? At best that’s a two-year guarantee, what with Soto headed for free agency after 2024 and aiming to get back on track for a $400 million payday.
But it is Machado who is ninth among all position players with 11.9 WAR the past two seasons, who has posted an .855 OPS and 136 adjusted OPS since joining the Padres in 2019, with second- and third-place finishes in MVP voting two of the past three seasons.
It’s also Machado whose 10-year, $300 million contract (which he did not sign until after spring training began in 2019, a nod to the glorious days of soft collusion) has now become grossly outdated. And Machado whose representation wisely stuck an opt-out clause into that deal after this season.
And here we are.
“I’ve expressed that I will be opting out after this year,” Machado told reporters Friday, noting his focus remains on this year and taking the Padres a step further than their stirring run to the National League Championship Series in 2022.
“There’s gonna be a lot of noise in the Padres’ stadium, but also around the league with a lot of different things.”
The Padres, of course, can quiet that noise.
Will San Diego extend Machado?
Machado declined comment on the club’s effort to extend his deal before this season begins, or whether such talks exist. But the Machado-Padres situation is almost like a crossword puzzle that’s 80% complete:
The Padres aren’t shy about spending money.
Machado is wildly valuable to them, that even as Fernando Tatis Jr. generated more buzz than a keg party, it was Machado who was reliably consistent, healthy, MVP-caliber in his play and not running afoul of Major League Baseball’s policy on banned substances.
And it is Machado whose agent, Dan Lozano, is not averse to hammering out massive extensions for his clients, be it Albert Pujols, Joey Votto. Lozano is not quite Scott Boras when it comes to marching his clients to the open market; but he also does not get shortchanged.
With that backdrop, it’s clear what Machado would command:
His $300 million deal is now tied with Trea Turner for 11th among active players, lighter in both total and average annual value than Rafael Devers’ 10-year, $313.5 million extension signed with Boston last month. Devers is in his prime (as Machado was when Manny signed his $300 million deal) but also not as accomplished, at this point.
But consider that a starting point of sorts. Ponder whether Machado wants to goose his AAV or play nice for the purpose of helping the Padres’ luxury tax scenarios going forward (a situation he could also run into on the open market next winter).
A new contract: Length or value?
Are the Padres willing to have a pair of 40-year-olds under contract a decade from now? Or be willing to exceed a higher tier of the luxury tax threshold, which they would if Machado’s AAV jumps appreciably from its current $30 million?
That’s their choice at the moment. The Padres are reportedly just under the second, $273 million threshold that would trigger a 42.5% penalty over that amount. Theoretically, their payroll could drop, say, if and when Soto leaves as a free agent.
Realistically, wild-eyed GM A.J. Preller and owner Peter Seidler apparently can’t stop, won’t stop adding and retaining (Yu Darvish, $108 million extension) elite players.
They certainly can’t stop with Machado.
“They know where we stand,” Machado said Friday, speaking as a man holding all of the cards, “and that’s all I can answer.”
The next response will likely come from the Padres’ checkbook.
Story Credit: usatoday.com