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Why the Manny Machado deal is good for him, Padres

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Manny Machado signing with the San Diego Padres is not something anyone considered possible when the offseason began. Even when the rumors began to trickle in about the Padres’ interest, there was considerable skepticism. “Surely they won’t go big for Machado, will they?” the conventional wisdom went. “They’re just trying to look like they’re trying, right?”

Nope. They were trying. And they succeeded. They signed one of the best and youngest free agents to hit the open market in many, many years. And now, I expect, we’ll hear a lot of people complaining about it.

You’re going to hear people saying that Machado is dumb for signing with a team that is unlikely to contend this year. That, as a top free agent, he should’ve chosen a “win now” situation. While most free agents give lip service to that idea — and while Machado will likely do the same when he’s introduced by the Padres — Don’t listen to that. Machado is entering his age 26 season. He’s committed to the Padres for at least five years and possibly ten. There is no reason why he should be bashed for not winning in 2019 — I figure the Padres for a third place team at the moment — when they may very well have a great chance to win for seven or eight or maybe even nine years of the next ten.

Will that happen? I don’t know. But I do know that one cannot, as so many often do, talk up the critical and crucial importance of building up a farm system and aiming for “sustained success” and bashing the idea of a win-now mentality when it comes to team-building and also bash a player for thinking in those terms as well. It’s not the most consistent look.

You’re also going to hear a lot of people bashing the Padres for being financially irresponsible in committing as much as $300 million to Machado. Sure, maybe that looks anomalous for San Diego, but let’s put it in perspective. If you assume that the Padres will commit $30 million to Machado in 2019, that would put their estimated 2019 payroll at a little over $100 million or so. Their Opening Day Payroll last year was about $96 million. In 2016 it was $112 million. They are not out of whack with what they’ve been able to do historically.

Might they decide later to unload Machado? Sure, depending on the no-trade language in his deal, if any. But if we hear rumors about the Padres looking to trade Machado to the Yankees or something in two or three years, it’s not because the Padres can’t afford Machado. It’s because they just don’t want to pay him anymore. Those are two very different things.

Finally, you’re going to hear people saying that, for Machado, it was “all about the money,” and they’ll say it as if that’s an indictment of his character. Stuff like this:

This is a Philly radio guy, by the way. Based on my experience with such beasts, this should be read as whining that Machado didn’t sign with the team he covers. It may also be worth noting that the Phillies only outdrew the Padres by 11,000 or so total fans last season — Philly was ranked 17th, the Padres 18th — so spare me the “he didn’t want to go to a baseball town” thing. That aside, if taking the highest offer on the market to play in arguably the most beautiful city in the country reveals some sort of flawed character, I don’t want to be virtuous.

Did he go to a situation that, in 2019, may not be as great a situation as he might’ve found in, say, New York or Philly? Sure, but he signed a ten-year deal, not a one-year deal. Did Machado take the money? Damn right he did. And he was right to do so, because there’s no one looking out for him but him, and you’d almost certainly do the same thing. Can the Padres afford it? Yeah, they can afford it.

The deal may end up looking bad for Machado one day, of course. Or it may end up looking bad for the Padres. But as we sit here right now, let’s hold our fire and avoid the usual kneejerk reactions. Or at least think about them a bit first.

Blue Jays release John Axford

John Axford
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The Blue Jays have released right-handed reliever John Axford from his minor league contract, per an announcement on Saturday. Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi speculates that the move could provide an avenue for the club to rework Axford’s contract, but the Blue Jays have yet to confirm or deny the report.

Axford, 35, was dealt a blow on Thursday after getting diagnosed with a stress reaction in the olecranon bone of his right elbow. Elbow soreness dogged the right-hander through much of his time in camp, and although he was scheduled for a follow-up examination later this spring, a definite return date had not been established.

Prior to the diagnosis, Axford was tabbed for a setup role with the team in 2019. He pitched to mixed results in 2018 (thanks in part to a late-season fracture of his right fibula) with a 5.27 ERA, 4.9 BB/9, and 9.8 SO/9 through 54 2/3 innings with the Blue Jays and Dodgers. Now, however, it’s not certain that he’ll return to the mound this season in any capacity.

Axford isn’t the only reliever the Blue Jays have lost to injury lately, either, as right-handers Ryan Tepera and Bud Norris have been sidelined with right elbow inflammation and forearm fatigue, respectively. Per Davidi, the Blue Jays offered Norris a $100,000 retention bonus to prevent him from opting out of the minor league contract he signed in February.