Manny Machado Will Opt Out of His Contract at the End of the Season
Although the Cubs are more than just one piece away from projecting as a legitimately competitive team this offseason, third base is that big question mark spot. It’s arguably the one position on the diamond where the Cubs don’t have an obvious starter — Patrick Wisdom, Nick Madrigal, Chris Morel all have other duties as well as giant question marks. Which is why the Cubs were reportedly considering signing both Dansby Swanson and Xander Bogaerts at one point. And it’s why we all desperately hoped the Red Sox would fail in their efforts to extend Rafael Devers.
Obviously, the Cubs ended up with just Swanson, and Devers did ink that massive deal in Boston, which leaves us looking ahead to next year’s free agent list and the possible stars available at third base. Although there will be some familiar veterans available next winter, like Josh Donaldson, Evan Longoria, Justin Turner, Eduardo Escobar, etc., the real prizes of the class are Matt Chapman and Manny Machado.
Out of those two players, Chapman has always felt like a good bet to reach free agency. But Machado? Not so much. The Padres have been spending money like crazy lately, as they look to take advantage of their time with Juan Soto, and Machado was surely in their long-term plans.
Well, good news for us. Even if the Padres did intend to try to extend Machado this spring, it sounds like he’s not going to be particularly receptive, telling reporters he’ll be opting out at the end of the year.
After 2023, Machado will have 5 years and $150 million remaining on his deal, earning exactly $30M per season. That’s what he’d be opting out of.
Whether or not the Cubs are actually interested in Machado is another question entirely. And vice versa. But there’s no doubt that he’s reestablished himself as one of the premier overall players in MLB, finishing among the top-3 in MVP voting in two of the last three seasons.
2020: 60 games, 150 wRC+; 2.6 WAR
2021: 153 games, 122 wRC+; 4.3 WAR
2022: 150 games, 152 wRC+; 7.4 WAR
In short, Machado has been healthy, a force at the plate, and a wizard defensively at third. And he’s just now entering his age-30 season.
And while the Cubs didn’t seem to demonstrate any interest in Machado the last time he was available alongside Bryce Harper in that 2019 free agent class, I think things are a little different this time around.
For one, the Cubs don’t have an obvious starter at third right now and most of their best/closest offensive prospects are outfielders.
For another, the Cubs seem to be ramping up their spending with an eye on competing more seriously starting in 2024. That said, and until he proves otherwise, Jed Hoyer doesn’t quite feel like the guy who’ll pay a 31-year-old third baseman the massive deal he’s likely to command on the free agent market next winter.
But even if he doesn’t, Machado’s availability is a good thing. It feels likely the Cubs *will* need a new third baseman next season (look, I hope Morel answers that bell, too … I’m just trying to be realistic), and if Machado is out there, he’s just one more option for all teams out there. And that includes teams that might otherwise compete against the Cubs for Matt Chapman or some other trade target.