Pirates cut Lastings Milledge rather than pay him $1 million

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Once upon a time Lastings Milledge was a top prospect whose on-field upside was clouded by his problematic personality. Three teams and 1,655 plate appearances later, it turns out maybe he just wasn’t all that good.

Milledge has hit just .269 with a modest .723 OPS in his five-season career, including .277 with a .712 OPS in 113 games this year, and last night the Pirates non-tendered him just before the midnight deadline.

The move came out of nowhere in part because Milledge is still just 26 years old, but mostly because he was arbitration eligible for the first time and would have been in line for a modest raise to around $1 million.

For the perpetually rebuilding Pirates to cut bait on him for that price shows that they soured on him completely in the 18 months since acquiring Milledge from the Nationals along with Joel Hanrahan for Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett.

General manager Neal Huntington told Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette that the Pirates “remain open to continuing dialogue with Lastings” and possibly re-signing him for a lesser salary, but that makes little sense given that his salary would have been just $1 million or so. You don’t cut a player projected to make $1 million and then try to re-sign him for, say, $500,000 if you think he has any kind of upside.

BREAKING: Manny Machado to sign with the Padres: 10 years, $300 million

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Jeff Passan of ESPN reports that Manny Machado has a deal with the San Diego Padres. Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports that the deal is for ten years and $300 million with an opt-out after year five.

At the moment there is some disagreement as to how “done” this deal is, with Padres chairman Ron Fowler saying “We do not have a deal. We are continuing discussions.” Ken Rosenthal, however, says that’s “semantics” and that the financial terms are in place, with the deal requiring over some final touches on language and Machado’s physical, which will likely be a formality.

The Padres were a late entrant into the Machado sweepstakes, but they reportedly met with Machado last week. The club has obviously not won for a long time, but they have a strong farm system. While that usually mitigates against a big free agent signing, Machado’s age — 26 — means that he’s still likely to be a productive player when that core of prospects is mature. And if it doesn’t develop, hey, he’s made some serious bank and can still opt-out at an age when he might get another decent paycheck.

For the Padres, Machado represents the biggest single investment in a player in club history. Last year they spent too, of course, giving Eric Hosmer an eight-year, $144 million contract, but this is definitely next-level. As for the baseball side of things, it’s likely that Machado will be the full-time third baseman with Luis Urias handling shortstop. While all of the talk about Machado over the past several months has been focused on money and, sometimes, his alleged lack of hustle, the Padres are getting a player with a career line of .282/.335/.487 (121 OPS+), 175 career homers and a 33.8 career WAR in seven big league seasons. While he played shortstop last year and as a minor leaguer, his past and future is at third, where he is a superior defender. As for the hustle: it has almost exclusively been an obsession of the media, based on an ill-advised postgame quote in October. He has received no bad reviews from former teammates, all of whom speak highly of his game and his work ethic.

When the offseason began it appeared that the Phillies or the Yankees or, perhaps, the White Sox had the inside track on Machado. Everyone took a wait-and-see approach, reasonably believing that by waiting out Machado, a better deal could be struck. The risk of that approach, of course, is that it allowed the Padres to talk themselves into getting bold and, ultimately, swooping in to strike this deal.