Buster Olney of ESPN just reported that the White Sox’ current offer to free agent Manny Machado is for seven years and $175 million.
Buster frames that information as a question: if that’s the best offer Machado receives, would the Yankees jump back into the bidding, which they seem to have abandoned. I think the better question is “if this is the best offer Machado has right now, why aren’t there a dozen or more teams trying to beat it?” Because 7/$175 million for a player of Machado’s age and talents is a stone cold bargain.
That deal breaks down to $25 million a year, which at present — unless I’m missing someone — would tie him for the 13th-highest annual salary in baseball. Guys making more than that include Jason Heyward, Albert Pujols, Jon Lester, Felix Hernandez Yoenis Cespedes, David Price and Jake Arrieta. To say that Machado, who is 26 years-old, puts up near-MVP offensive numbers and plays a premium defensive position passably and an important defensive position excellently, is not worth substantially more than that is insane talk. To say that he’s nor worth more than seven years given how old he is now is equally insane.
This deal could be beat with fewer years and the same money, disposing of the alleged fear teams have of offering a player a contract that is too long. It could be beat with a longer contract and less of an annual outlay which makes the risk of a long deal — that it might financially hamstring a club — nonexistent. There is no team that could not afford Machado at this price and hardly any teams who would not be improved by his presence.
If this is where the bidding for Machado tops out, something is very, very broken in baseball’s labor market. Possibly intentionally so. Short of that, there is no rational reason whatsoever that only two or three teams would be in on that action.
We’ve had a couple of notable incidents of sign stealing in Major League Baseball over the past couple of years. Most famously, the Red Sox were found to be using Apple Watches of all things to relay signs spied via video feed. Sports Illustrated reported yesterday that there have been other less-publicized and unpublicized incidents as well, mostly with in-house TV cameras — as opposed to network TV cameras — stationed in the outfield and trained on catchers, for the specific purpose of stealing signs.
As such, SI reports, Major League Baseball is cracking down beginning this year. Within the next couple weeks an already-drafted and circulated rule will take effect which will (a) ban in-house outfield cameras from foul pole to foul pole; (b) will limit live broadcasts available to teams to the team’s replay official only, and the replay official will be watched by a league official to keep them from relaying signs to the team; and (c) other TV monitors that are available to the clubs will be on an eight-second delay to prevent real-time sign stealing. There will likewise be limits on TV monitors showing the game feed in certain places like tunnels and clubhouses.
Penalties for violation of the rules will include the forfeiting of draft picks and/or international spending money. General managers will have to sign a document in which they swear they know of know sign-stealing schemes.
As was the case when the Apple Watch incident came up, there will not be any new rules regarding old fashioned sign stealing by runners on second base or what have you, as that is viewed as part of the game. Only the technology-aided sign stealing that has become more prominent in recent years — but which has, of course, existed in other forms for a very, very long time — is subject to the crackdown.
While gamesmanship of one form or another has always been part of baseball, the current wave of sign-stealing is seen as a pace-of-play issue just as much as a fairness issue. Because of the actual sign-stealing — and because of paranoia that any opponent could be stealing signs — clubs have gone to far more elaborate and constantly changing sign protocols. This requires mound meetings and pitchers coming off the rubber in order to re-start the increasingly complex series of signs from dugout to catcher and from catcher to pitcher.
Now, presumably, with these new rules coming online, teams will figure out a new way to cheat. It’s baseball, after all. It’s in their DNA.