This morning, SNY’s Andy Martino reported that the Yankees’ baseball operations and scouting departments are “lukewarm” on the pursuit of free agent SS/3B Manny Machado due to the trouble he got into during the postseason. On two occasions, Machado did not run hard after putting a ball in play. After the first incident, he justified the lack of effort, saying that running hard wasn’t his “cup of tea.” He also illegally slid into Brewers shortstop Orlando Arcia twice, and intentionally slammed his leg into Brewers first baseman Jesús Aguilar’s leg as he ran through the first base bag. Machado was not much of a factor in the postseason, hitting .227/.278/.394 in 72 trips to the plate.
Earlier this month, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia said there were whispers that some in the Phillies organization preferred to “steer clear” of Machado. Part of it has to do with Phillies fans, generally speaking, greatly preferring gritty, hard-nosed players (like Chase Utley). They have not been shy about shunning players who don’t always put in 100 percent (e.g. Jimmy Rollins, Odúbel Herrera).
With the offseason now under way, we will probably get a few more reports of teams’ front offices having lesser interest in Machado given everything involved in his postseason. Very little of it will be true. Rather, it’s just a ploy by front offices to reduce Machado’s leverage so he won’t cost so much in free agency.
Machado is a 26-year-old four-time All-Star and a two-time Gold Glove Award winner. He is coming off of the best offensive season of his career, hitting .297/.367/.438 with 37 home runs, 107 RBI, 84 runs scored, and 14 stolen bases in 709 plate appearances. He played in all 162 games. According to FanGraphs, Machado was one of nine players to put up 6.0 WAR or better. The Indians’ Francisco Lindor (7.6) was the only shortstop with a better season. (Machado’s preference is to play shortstop.) Machado and outfielder Bryce Harper are the cream of the free agent crop and any team that doesn’t seriously entertain the idea of signing Machado is one that isn’t truly committed to putting together a winning ball club.
We have seen countless times in the past that teams have absolutely no issue employing problematic players. The Mets hung onto José Reyes, an alleged domestic abuser, long after he ceased being productive. The Yankees traded for alleged domestic abuser Aroldis Chapman in December 2015 and signed him to a five-year, $86 million deal one year later, a record contract for a reliever. The Astros used alleged domestic abuser Roberto Osuna‘s problems as an incentive to pick him up on the cheap in a trade with the Blue Jays near the end of July. The Pirates brought out the welcome mat for Jung-ho Kang this summer. Kang was arrested for his third DUI in South Korea two years ago after fleeing the scene of his single-car accident. Kang had also been investigated by Chicago police for an alleged sexual assault incident. If Reyes, Chapman, Osuna, Kang, et. al. can draw legitimate interest from major league teams, then so too will Machado, whose offenses are much less serious.
Machado will be courted by just about every team in the league. The less-serious, smaller-market teams will be winnowed out as the offseason progresses as they normally do. Machado will eventually land a lucrative free agent contract. Whether that contract is for $300 million, or $250 million, or $200 million depends on how successfully front offices are able to use his spotty postseason performance against him.