SARASOTA, FLA. — When the reports started coming in that Manny Machado had agreed to a 10-year, $300 million contract to play for the San Diego Padres, it was hard not to laugh about the number of stories that were written over the past couple of years predicting just where he would end up.
Most of them had him going to the New York Yankees. Some of them were pretty certain about it.
Can’t remember anybody mentioning the Padres until very recently.
The Yankees made sense for a time, for the same reason Willie Sutton robbed banks. That’s where the money was. But they already had a star-quality young shortstop in Didi Gregorius and — even with him likely out until the All-Star break recovering from elbow surgery — they didn’t hang tight in the Machado derby until the end.
They signed veteran Troy Tulowitzki in early January to fill in at shortstop and it wouldn't have made a lot of sense to sign Machado for $300 million to play third base when 23-year-old Miguel Andújar hit .297 with 27 homers and 92 RBIs for them last year.
If you believed the hype two years ago, it wasn’t just that the Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers would be able to outspend everybody else. It was also speculated that Machado and Bryce Harper might command as much as $500 million apiece on the open market.
The Padres might seem like a head-scratcher, just as they did last year when they signed Eric Hosmer to a rich, eight-year deal after winning just 71 games the year before. They won only 66 games last season, but they have a ton of top prospects in their system and obviously believe they are on the cusp of contention in the National League West.
They also need to add more star power if they want to compete geographically with the Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels, both teams within reasonable driving distance of San Diego with the population booming in the affluent communities that lie between.
Still, the Padres weren’t really on the radar until this winter’s free-agent freeze kept Machado, Harper and a lot of other quality free agents in limbo for three months. With the Yankees backing away, it appeared to be coming down to the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago White Sox until rumblings started coming out of San Diego a few weeks ago.
The news that Machado had chosen the Pads sent a shock wave through the White Sox front office, since the Sox reportedly offered him an eight-year deal worth a guaranteed $250 million, which would work out to an average salary that was $1.25 million per year higher than the $30 million per year offered by the Padres.
The Padres’ offer was more attractive because it reportedly includes a fifth-year opt-out clause, which would allow Machado to return to the free-agent market when he’s still only 31 years old.
It also includes San Diego, which has the best weather in the country as well as one of the coolest new-age ballparks in the sport.
No doubt, Machado got a full scouting report from his brother-in-law, Yonder Alonso, who played for the Padres from 2012 to 2015.
The fact that most everybody was wrong about the Yankees would seem to be good for the Orioles, who won’t have to watch him from the other dugout 19 times a year, but there’s no guarantee he won’t show up in the Bronx five years from now. That would be about the time the Orioles hope to bloom into a World Series contender.