Manny Machado is signing with a team other than the Orioles, and it’s still music to the ears of everyone in Baltimore.
Not the Yankees. Not the AL East. Not even a team on the East Coast. If you’re an O’s fan who likes to go to bed early, you may never have to watch Machado again.
It could have been so much worse.
For a long time, it’s been rumored that Machado had his heart set on the bright lights of New York City. He wouldn’t have been the first major free agent to head for the Bronx at his earliest opportunity, and he wouldn’t have been the last.
Instead, the Yankees front office decided to show some restraint, given an internal desire to not spend as much money as in the past. This left an opening for the rest of Major League Baseball to try to woo Machado.
yanks execs were always said to be "mixed" on machado. hard to go to 300M, or even close, if you are sorta enthusiastic.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 11, 2019
The Yankees weren’t the only team to shy away from signing Machado to an historic deal.
White Sox executive Kenny Williams discussed the Padres' winning offer with the media, claiming “that level wasn't feasible to us because we still have to project putting together a total winning roster."
Any team in baseball could have afforded this deal, as owners have never been richer than they are today. But to see the Padres actually pull the trigger has to be a welcome sight in league offices. The deal clearly makes sense for both sides, and free agents across baseball are breathing a big sigh of relief that the market is opening up.
Orioles fans are relieved too, as a Mike Mussina-esque move to New York would have sullied Machado’s reputation in the eyes of many in Charm City. Having to watch the most purely talented player in your team’s history play for its biggest rival, and facing him 19 games a season, would have been a lot to handle.
From the moment the Orioles inked Chris Davis to his own huge deal, Machado was never going to return to Baltimore. The fear was he’d join a team where he could torture Orioles fans for years with glimpses of what might have been. The nightmare scenario was the hated Yankees.
Instead, fans got literally the best-case scenario. If O’s fans had to power rank where they wanted to see Machado end up, Baltimore would obviously have been number one, but again, that was never happening. Number two on the list probably would have been the Padres.
The NL West is on the opposite end of the spectrum in every way from the AL East, and even within that division, a big-market team like the Dodgers or a historically prominent team like the Giants would have been marginally tougher to see. A medium-sized market team on the West Coast that hasn’t been close to a World Series in recent years sounds perfect.
The Padres do appear to be a good fit for the star infielder, as they’ve assembled one of the greatest collections of young talent in minor league history. MLB Pipeline had a whopping 10 members of San Diego’s farm system in their Top 100 prospects list, and many of those stars are on the cusp of readiness.
The top prospect in the bunch, Fernando Tatis, Jr. is also a shortstop, but as Machado clearly displayed for a half-decade in Baltimore, he is more than capable of sliding to third base. However San Diego lines up the two, this looks like the new future best left side of the infield in the sport.
San Diego may be a year or two away from truly competing, but that wasn’t enough to deter Machado from signing the largest free agent contract in the history of North American sports (Giancarlo Stanton’s $325 million deal was an extension, not a free agent signing). It’s a great look for baseball to have a smaller market team willing to make such an enormous investment despite not being ready to win a World Series quite yet.
If Machado had gone to the Yankees, we may have seen the now-mandatory viral videos of fans burning their Orioles Machado jerseys. Instead, who can blame him for taking $300 million to live in San Diego for 10 years?
Instead of the chorus of boos Machado would have received had he returned to Baltimore in pinstripes, he’ll now certainly receive an ovation when the Padres come to town at the end of June this year.
Unfortunately, if he continues on his Hall of Fame trajectory (a big if, considering how high a bar that is to clear), he’d likely enter wearing a San Diego cap. It would be frustrating for O’s fans, knowing they had him in Baltimore for six seasons. But it would be a whole lot worse to see “NY” on his hat for the next decade. For getting to avoid that misery, O’s fans should be celebrating nearly as much as Padres fans.
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