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Machado accelerates Padres' trajectory

Superstar comes in with high expectations, changes nearly everything
February 19, 2019

The Padres understand that franchises don't get that many chances to add a 26-year-old player this good. Manny Machado changes pretty much everything around this team, and in the end, that's all that matters. Expectations? Absolutely. Vibe? You bet. His signing of a record-setting 10-year, $300 million contract is a

The Padres understand that franchises don't get that many chances to add a 26-year-old player this good. Manny Machado changes pretty much everything around this team, and in the end, that's all that matters. Expectations? Absolutely. Vibe? You bet. His signing of a record-setting 10-year, $300 million contract is a loud, clear signal that a bright and shiny new era of Padres baseball has begun.
Machado is the guy they'll build the lineup around, but that's just part of why this is the right move at the right time. Machado makes plays that take your breath away, and you'll watch some of them again and again. He'll have your attention when he steps into the batter's box. You buy tickets because of players like this.
Ultimately, winning is the thing that matters, but winning a certain way, that is, winning with players who perform with joy and energy, is also important.
:: Manny Machado's deal with Padres ::
To look at the Padres this spring is to see the Astros, Cubs, Braves and Royals of recent seasons. There's so much young talent that winning, and perhaps winning big, feels inevitable.
Padres fans have heard for a few years that this era was getting close as general manager A.J. Preller threw gobs of money into player development and methodically constructed one of baseball's best Minor League systems.
Last year's signing of veteran first baseman Eric Hosmer was an important step. So is the impending arrival of Fernando Tatis Jr., a 20-year-old infielder who has blown through the Minor Leagues. He's the face of a system that just placed 10 players on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 list. That's the most any team has ever had, and as those players begin to arrive at Petco Park over the next two seasons, Machado's signing changes the dynamic for them, too.
Because he's the new face of the Padres, Machado will do the most interviews and be scrutinized the most closely. With him being the focus of so much attention, the kids will have the luxury of getting acclimated to the Major Leagues in a bit more of a normal atmosphere.
Here's what the Padres are getting in Machado: a superstar. In the end, it's that simple. Over the last four seasons, he has averaged 159 games, 36 home runs, 34 doubles and an .856 OPS. In that time, his 21.7 fWAR is the ninth highest in baseball. His 637 games played are the most in the Majors.

Machado's comments about not hustling became a huge postseason storyline around the Dodgers last fall, but the truth is that he plays, period. Plays on good days. Plays on days when he's bruised and battered. What kind of message will that attitude send to those young Padres?
Productive? He's seventh in home runs since Opening Day 2015, 32nd in wOBA (.360) and 31st in wRC+ (128). He hit 257 balls 95 mph or better in 2018, tops in baseball, according to Statcast™.
Yes, a 10-year contract -- even a 10-year contract for a 26-year-old -- is a risk. Teams, now driven more by information than emotion, have been reluctant to pay huge money to players after their 33rd birthdays.

So the Padres go into this deal knowing that at some point Machado's production will begin to decline. On the other hand, as Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman once said, "If you're always rational about every free agent, you will finish third on every free agent."
Indeed. What this contract looks like in 2026 does not matter in 2019. The Padres want to change the narrative around their team and fast-forward the rebuild. The National League West just got more interesting in 2019, and looking ahead to 2020 and beyond, the Padres appear to be on their way to powerhouse status. This is a great day for baseball in San Diego.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.