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An early look at Manny Machado's free agency

September 19, 2018

As the regular season comes to an end and fans start to think about the offseason, we're taking a close look at some of the most prominent players eligible for free agency this offseason. We started last week with Bryce Harper, who will rival Manny Machado as the top available

As the regular season comes to an end and fans start to think about the offseason, we're taking a close look at some of the most prominent players eligible for free agency this offseason. We started last week with Bryce Harper, who will rival Manny Machado as the top available player on the market.
Name: Manny Machado
Position: Shortstop/third baseman
Team: Dodgers
Age (as of Opening Day 2019): 26
2018 statistics: .298/.369/.539, 35 HR, 96 RBIs
Looking back
A four-time All-Star and a two-time Gold Glove Award winner at third base, Machado is a player capable of turning around a franchise's fortunes. With two top-five finishes in the American League MVP Award voting and four straight seasons with 30 home runs under his belt, Machado has already established himself as one of the Majors' best players. And at the tender age of 26, he's just entering his prime years, a rarity among premier free agents. 

Looking ahead
The third baseman-turned-shortstop is hoping to sign somewhere to play the latter position, though eliminating the possibility of returning to the hot corner would limit the number of teams vying for his services. With the exception of 2014, when Machado was limited to 82 games due to two knee injuries, he has been a sturdy presence throughout his career, playing in at least 156 games in five of the past six seasons. Machado will cost quite a bit -- possibly in the $300 million range -- but at least his next team won't have to sacrifice a Draft pick, as the Dodgers can't make him a qualifying offer after acquiring him from the Orioles this summer, as part of new regulations in the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
New qualifying offer rules explained
Buyer beware? 
Machado has expressed his desire to stay at shortstop, though metrics and scouts alike suggest he's a far superior defensive player at third base. His limited postseason experience makes his impact in October something of an unknown. Machado's one true postseason, in 2012, saw him hit .158 with one homer and two RBIs over six games, though it should be noted that was during his rookie season and he had only 51 games of big league experience at the time. Machado was hurt when the O's advanced to the AL Championship Series in '14, and he went 1-for-4 in the '16 AL Wild Card Game, which Baltimore lost to Toronto.
One awesome stat
Machado is on pace to lead the Majors in hard-hit batted balls -- those with an exit velocity of 95 mph or higher, according to Statcast™ -- for the second straight season. Since the beginning of 2017, Machado's 484 hard-hit balls are 61 more than any other player's total.
Mark Feinsand answers fans' questions in Reddit AMA
Scout's take
"Manny is a marquee free agent who is hitting the market at an age where his prime years are still in front of him. He has been a remarkably consistent offensive performer who factors into the middle of the order for a championship-caliber club. The biggest question for Machado is how teams will value him defensively. He passes the eye test at shortstop, but the metrics are less enthusiastic about his play at that position. In the age of over-shifting, his defensive contributions at third base can't be understated, but the offensive production doesn't provide quite as much surplus value. Ultimately, a competitive player with style and marketability is going to receive a franchise-altering contract from someone. The floor for his production is very high, which mitigates a fair amount of risk for an acquiring club. I fully expect him to produce at a level that will be well worth what he receives for at least the first half of his next contract."

For comp's sake
Adrian Beltre became a free agent for the first time after the 2004 season, when he was entering his age-26 campaign. He was a .274/.332/.463 hitter with 147 homers and 510 RBIs, numbers that are staggeringly close to Machado's career stats (.282/.335/.486, 173 homers, 502 RBIs). After leading the Majors with 48 homers that season, Beltre left the Dodgers and signed a five-year, $64 million deal with the Mariners. That $12.8 million average annual value was the highest for a third baseman at the time (Alex Rodriguez's $252 million contract was signed while he was still playing shortstop).
Potential fits
Machado was the most sought-after player ahead of this summer's non-waiver Trade Deadline, and he figures to be just as coveted this offseason. The Yankees had been a popular would-be destination for him, though the emergence of second baseman Gleyber Torres and third baseman Miguel Andujar this season might make that a less-than-ideal fit unless they opt to trade Andujar for a starting pitcher. The Phillies, on the other hand, have been linked as a potential suitor and are viewed by many as the odds-on favorite to land Machado's services.
Other possible suitors for Machado are the Dodgers, Angels and Marlins (Machado's hometown team), though if the Dodgers are to make a run at re-signing him, they would probably have to get creative, as they have Justin Turner locked in at third and superstar Corey Seager, who is expected to return from Tommy John surgery, to play shortstop.

Mark Feinsand, executive reporter for MLB.com, has covered the Yankees and MLB since 2001 for the New York Daily News and MLB.com.