On Feb. 18, 2019, the San Diego Padres were considered one of the thriftiest franchises in Major League Baseball. One day later, the franchise spent money in a manner not even the mighty New York Yankees have ever spent.
10 years, $300 million for Manny Machado. It’s the richest contract in major North American sports history and it comes from ... the Padres??? And it happens in the same week the ownership of the Cubs, one of the most wealthy franchises in Baseball, came out and said it was out of money??? I don’t know what kind of Bizarro World we just walked in to but I like it.
I’m sure a few folks are wondering why this is a big deal. Here’s why it’s a big deal:
Manny Machado is a 26-year-old who’s won Gold Glove awards for his defense and Silver Slugger awards for his offense. The guy is a highlight reel waiting to happen. He’s in scoring position when he steps into the batter’s box so every one of his at-bats is Must See TV. This is a guy who will help shed the “boring baseball” label that’s been slapped on the Padres (and rightfully so) over the last decade-plus.
Oh, and they’ll win a lot more, too. By making this move the Padres have redefined themselves in a few different ways.
One: San Diego cannot claim to be a “small market” team anymore.
In the last four years, the Padres have set new franchise records for player contracts. James Shields got $75 million before Wil Myers got $83 million before Eric Hosmer got $144 million ... and now Machado. Ron Fowler and Peter Seidler said they wanted to win. They reduced the team’s debt from previous ownership regimes and now they’re doing what Padres fans have begged for years by re-investing it in the on-field product.
Two: San Diego is serious about winning now and for the next decade.
This is a franchise that has not had a Hall of Fame-caliber position player in his prime since Tony Gwynn. Now it has Machado, a 26-year-old that is showing every indication that he’s destined for Cooperstown. He immediately makes this club better and, more importantly, a whole lot more fun to watch. The Padres have been to the playoffs five times in 49 years and earned a reputation as a club that isn’t all that concerned with winning baseball. By making this kind of financial commitment to this type of talent the current owners have erased that narrative.
Three: They’re not just relying on the farm.
We’ve all heard about the stable of top prospects the Padres have assembled. With their (until now) quiet off-season the perception was they were waiting for the kids to blossom before trying to seriously contend. But even teams like the Royals and Cubs and Astros, teams that executed a successful rebuild by manufacturing a top-ranked system, had to go out and add someone else. Kansas City traded for Johnny Cueto. Chicago signed Jon Lester. Houston swung a deal for Justin Verlander. All of them needed that last piece to win a title. The Padres may have simply gone out and gotten it earlier in the process.
Now, this does not mean they’re going to the World Series in 2019. They still have, at best, a young and unproven starting pitching rotation. Most of their top prospects are pitchers expected to mature in the next couple of years.
Plus, by probably midseason, the San Diego infield will have Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr., the #2 prospect in all of baseball. Good luck trying to sneak ground balls through those two guys.
The bottom line here is the Padres are finally a team that is willing to play with the best in baseball. What a great 50th-anniversary gift.