The offseason may not have baseball games at your ballpark, but baseball is never truly “off.” There’s ball in Japan, Winter Ball, Winter Meetings, Sox Winter Weekend, and of course, all the moves being made in the free agent market. This year, the market is flush, with big-name players ripe for the picking. And MLB teams are lining up like shoppers on Black Friday before the internet made it possible to avoid the real-life frenzy.
One of the biggest names is also Boston’s #1 fan, Manny Machado. The former Oriole turned-Dodger midseason acquisition turned-final out of the World Series is available and looking for a payday as big as his ego.
And despite the fact that he’s kind of the worst, humanity-wise, he’s a very talented ballplayer, and a lot of teams will be willing to overlook the former if it means a chance at the postseason. So who will take home the dirtiest get in baseball this winter?
It’s not going to be the Dodgers. Machado’s postseason performance or lack thereof took care of that. The Phillies are likely to make an offer; after all, they made the second-best offer for Machado during the 2018 season. Led by rookie manager Gabe Kapler, Philly was strong in their division for a large part of the season, but went 16-33 at the end, and ultimately, the Braves and offensive beast Ronald Acuña Jr. were too much for them. Machado could be the difference-maker if he makes an effort, but the Phillies are also interested in Harper, and it’s doubtful they’ll get both; each is a diva who wants to be a superstar in their own spotlight. The White Sox, currently the second-lowest payroll in baseball, are also reportedly interested in both Machado and Harper.
The Mets are rumored to make a run at the righty if the Wilpons decide to loosen the vice grip on their wallets. New York has a lot of lefty hitting power, but with fellow righty Yoenis Cespedes needing double ankle surgery, Machado’s powerful bat would be a strong boost to their lineup. After all, he has 142 home runs over his last four seasons, the same as Mike Trout. And with an agent-turned-GM in Brodie Van Wagenen, the Mets might be able to do some serious negotiating with Machado, or with the Wilpons to get them to pony up the necessary funds to land a big fish. Something has to change for the Mets eventually.
The Yankees, once thought to be Machado’s biggest suitors during his free agency, have soured on him after his limp October performance. After all, what New York really needs is depth in their starting rotation, and they already have Gary Sanchez, so why beef up the lack-of-hustle department? But with Didi Gregorius needing Tommy John, it’s still likely they’ll make at least a half-hearted bid apropos of Machado’s half-hearted postseason performance.
Machado hasn’t shied away from the narrative that he doesn’t make an effort. In fact, he’s owned up to it. More than that, he’s said that it is who he is, and that he has no plans to change. Ahead of the World Series, Machado made it clear that after seven years in the big leagues, there will likely be no Machado 2.0:
“I’ve been thinking about it and it happens every time, there’s no excuse for it honestly… 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… you know, whatever can happen. That’s just not my personality, that’s not my cup of tea, that’s not who I am.” (New York Post)
Combine this disturbing attitude with Machado’s reputation for being a dirty player, and you have one problematic athlete. These are what will and should be deciding factors for these teams. Among many on-field misbehaviors is his dirty spike to Dustin Pedroia’s newly surgically-repaired knee in 2017, injuring the team’s veteran player. Pedroia missed a good chunk of the rest of the season and only played in three games this year. When asked whether Machado’s slide had contributed to his injury woes, Pedroia told the Times, “It didn’t help – I’ll tell you that.”
In this year’s NLCS, Machado upped his antics. In Game 3, he had two takeout slides on Orlando Arcia, including an interference call because Machado grabbed the Brewers shortstop’s leg. Then, in Game 4, he stepped on first baseman Jesus Aguilar’s food as he ran out a ground ball. Along with a few choice cuss words, Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich put him on blast:
“He is a player that has a history of those types of incidents… One time is an accident, Repeated over and over and over again, it’s a dirty play. It’s a dirty play by a dirty player… you can’t respect a guy who plays the game like that.”
Machado has long been a player at the center of the drama, getting into fights, throwing bats at opposing players, charging the mound. Teams might want to win, but most of them don’t want the headache of a player who’s getting fined and earning a worse reputation by the day. At the very least, don’t give him a lengthy $300 million dollar contract. He’s a PR headache and an on-field monster.
When someone tells you who they are, believe them. When they show you who they are, believe them. Manny Machado has done both, and now only time will tell us which teams will be desperate enough to overpay him and pray that he behaves himself.