Machado attracted by Padres’ farm system _ and $300 million
PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) — Manny Machado pulled on a dark blue San Diego hat and slipped a crisp No. 13 Padres jersey over his broad shoulders.
"It's finally over," Machado said with a grin.
Machado joined his new team on Friday, a day after finalizing a $300 million, 10-deal contract that signals the Padres think their loaded farm system is just about ready to help the club return to playoff contention. The blockbuster deal with spring training already in full swing is the highest ever for a free agent and second only to Giancarlo Stanton's $325 million, 13-year agreement.
After months of speculation that roped in Machado's family and friends and tested the patience of fans in several cities, the All-Star slugger is headed for the sunshine and beaches of San Diego.
"With the players, coaching staff and front office, you know it was just like a perfect fit for us," Machado said.
San Diego had just 66 wins last year in its eighth consecutive losing season. The Padres have never won the World Series, but they have a group of highly regarded prospects on the brink of the majors — led by shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. and left-hander MacKenzie Gore.
Making room for Tatis, the 26-year-old Machado will play third in an infield that also includes first baseman Eric Hosmer, who agreed to a $144 million, seven-year contract last February.
Bryce Harper, Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel remain on the free-agent market, and general manager A.J. Preller isn't ruling out another big addition.
"We're always open-minded to looking at improving our club," Preller said. "We understand we want to be at the top part of the standings. We have a lot of work to do from that standpoint."
Machado hit .297 last year and set career bests with 37 homers and 107 RBIs. A four-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner, he has a .282 career average with 175 homers and 513 RBIs in seven big league seasons.
Machado was traded from Baltimore to Los Angeles in July and helped the Dodgers to their second straight World Series appearance — and loss. But he caused a stir during the NL Championship Series when he failed to run out a grounder and later said: "Obviously I'm not going to change, I'm not the type of player that's going to be 'Johnny Hustle' and run down the line and slide to first base."
Asked if his comments were brought up during free agency, Machado said it was the kind of stuff "you leave in the past."
"You address it at the moment and you just move forward from it," he said.
Machado shifted from third base to shortstop at the start of last season and had expressed a preference to stay at that position. But he maintained it was only one factor of his decision-making process.
"Shortstop was a big key, but at the end of the day it's always a matter of what team, what position, how would it be?" he said. "I've played third base my entire life, moved over obviously because I've always wanted to, the spot was open, but coming here to come play third base, I saw a great opportunity to help out other guys, help out young guys, help out Tatis."
The Padres had been searching for a third baseman all offseason. Preller had been in contact with Machado's camp, but the team got more serious in its pursuit about six weeks ago.
The deal was finalized after team chairman Ron Fowler and general partner Peter Seidler had a two-hour lunch with Machado on Wednesday in San Diego.
"They knew about the organization. They knew what our priorities were with family and I think that helped us sign them," Fowler said. "Obviously 300 million didn't hurt, but I think this is where they wanted to be."
Machado also was hotly pursued by the Chicago White Sox, another struggling club looking to add a marquee player to its strong farm system. Chicago's offer was worth $250 million over eight years, with the potential to go even higher with options years that could become guaranteed. The White Sox also traded for Yonder Alonso, Machado's brother-in-law, and signed outfielder Jon Jay, one of Machado's close friends.
But Alonso and Jay also spent time in San Diego earlier in their careers, and Machado said they enjoyed the experience.
"They talk great about San Diego. They never stop talking about it," he said. "Yonder loves it, Jon Jay as well. So they're just happy for me, for my family and for our situation."
The Padres took out insurance to cover the entirety of Machado's deal, but Fowler declined to say how much it cost. He didn't seem to mind the extra cash too much, either.
"I guess my state would be I'm much happier as to where we are now than where the White Sox are," Fowler said.