I think there could be a very fair and robust debate about whether Manny Machado has hurt his free agent market in an appreciable way this week.
From his failure to hustle to his concession that he’s never going to be “Johnny Hustle” to his illegal slide(s) to his kick of Jesus Aguilar, Machado has been FRONT PAGE this week as the Dodgers play the Brewers in the NLCS, and none of it has been positive. Maybe some teams will take an extra breath now before submitting that $250+ million offer.
On the flip side, I’m not so sure anything that’s happened this week is a surprise or an unknown about Machado already. He’s had dustups in the past both with respect to a lack of hustle on certain plays, and an … overly aggressive posture on others. I’ll admit, I’d kinda forgotten about this scary and absurd one:
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) October 17, 2018
Unless many of the big market teams are convinced Machado’s selective hustle and/or aggressive style will have a significantly negative impact on his performance and/or their clubhouse going forward, I’m just not sure this week is going to damage his free agent offerings.
But Jim Salisbury at NBC Sports Philadelphia isn’t so sure, writing, “[N]ow you have to wonder if Machado could work in Philadelphia. It’s almost become cliché to say the city — i.e., the fans who pay the bills — likes a certain kind of athlete, one that goes all-out all the time, but when you think about some of the city’s all-time favorites — Chuck Bednarik, Bobby Clarke, Brian Dawkins, Chase Utley — you realize it’s not cliché, it’s fact. Even before Machado made news for the wrong reasons this week, there had been whispers that some in the Phillies organization would prefer to steer clear of Machado for just the reasons that the player articulated in his ill-advised and ill-timed comments.”
Salisbury goes on to suggest that the Yankees, too, would be put off by Machado’s week, or at least the fanbase for which they play.
Maybe so, and that would be pretty damaging to Machado’s market to lose two of his biggest would-be suitors. But when a 26-year-old superstar chooses your organization in free agency, that buys a whole lot of goodwill among the fans, who overlook a great deal if the results are there.
For Machado, on that front, he’s coming off a great platform season: .297/.367/.538, with a 140 wRC+. All four numbers are career highs. Moreover, he put up those numbers while playing shortstop – and he may have been a lot better there than the advanced metrics suggest.
Oh, and for all the talk of impact this week, it’s not like he isn’t continuing his success in the playoffs so far: .250/.325/.556, 133 wRC+.
Guys like Machado simply do not come along in free agency at age 26 very often, and even if there happens to be another 26-year-old superstar bat on the market this year (Bryce Harper), you can’t just assume you’ll have your choice of the two. If you want to add an impact bat for many of his peak years, you have to be open-minded, warts and all.
Maybe you lay out your preferred path in free agency, but if you’re the Cubs, for example, you just need to figure out how to add an impact bat or two. Maybe that means Harper. Maybe that means Machado. The Cubs would be fortunate to get either one.
Salisbury echoes rumors we’ve heard before, by the way: the Phillies have had interest in the past and figure to have plenty of money to spend, and the Yankees might be Machado’s preferred suitor. I truly doubt either club takes itself out of the running because of anything that’s happened this week.