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For Padres, Manny's magic worth every penny

February 19, 2019

This is how free agency is supposed to work, whether you agree with 10-year contracts in baseball or not, whether you think the San Diego Padres just made a good $300 million bet on Manny Machado or not, as sources tell MLB.com. The Padres spent this big to buy hope

This is how free agency is supposed to work, whether you agree with 10-year contracts in baseball or not, whether you think the San Diego Padres just made a good $300 million bet on Manny Machado or not, as sources tell MLB.com. The Padres spent this big to buy hope in San Diego, where fans haven't seen a World Series in more than 20 years. They acquire one of the two biggest guys on the market, along with Bryce Harper.
So Machado doesn't end up with the Yankees or the Phillies or the White Sox. He last played for the Dodgers in the World Series, making the last out of the Series by striking out against Chris Sale. Now Machado moves down the coast and tries to make the Padres matter again. He gets his money. Machado cracks the magic $300 million barrier, one previously only cracked by Giancarlo Stanton when he was still with the Marlins. The Padres? They get their man.
Or Manny, in this case.
:: Manny Machado's deal with Padres ::
The Padres spent big to buy hope in San Diego. Simple as that. They get a 26-year-old player, who might just be approaching his prime, whom his former manager Buck Showalter says "can be as impactful, because of the position he plays, as any player in our game."
The late Tony Gwynn, of course, was the greatest and most important Padre of them all, and one of the great pure hitters baseball has ever produced. The best all-around player they've ever had, when you add it all up, was probably another Hall of Famer, Dave Winfield. Now they get Machado, which means they get as talented an all-around player as they've ever had.
• Biggest free-agent contracts in MLB history
There has been a lot of thoughtful analysis during this baseball offseason about how perhaps this isn't the perfect time for the Padres to make this kind of big play because they still don't have enough pitching in play to become a serious contender in their division or in their league. And there is something to that. A year ago, San Diego signed Eric Hosmer to an eight-year deal, and Hosmer didn't move the needle all that much in his first season at Petco Park.
But now they put Machado on the field with him. At a time of year when there is the usual magic about players reporting to Spring Training camps in Florida and Arizona, the Padres buy a different kind of excitement, because the new guy is about to report to their camp at the Peoria Sports Complex in Arizona. Once, when Machado first hit the big leagues to play for Buck with the Orioles, it seemed that the O's could build a future around him. Now San Diego will try to do the same.

At the same time, Machado breaks a record for free-agent contracts in American professional sports. That will last until Harper signs his own $300 million contract somewhere, because you know Harper's agent, Scott Boras, is set on breaking a record the way he was when Alex Rodriguez signed with the Rangers back in December 2000. Rodriguez got $252 million at the time. It wasn't a coincidence that the sum was exactly twice what Kevin Garnett had gotten from the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves, when Garnett was the one setting a record.
Now, as Machado has this kind of career change, we will find out if the Padres can build a culture change around him, with their team and with their fans. If it happens, it is about time. In the past 11 seasons, San Diego has won more than 77 games once. The Padres have had one winning season.
Now San Diego goes all-in on a guy who made waves last October for not hustling. This is what Machado said to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal during the postseason after not running out a ground ball in a close game:
"I've never given excuses for not running. I'm not hurt, there's no excuse but I've been the same player … I've been doing this for [seven] years, I'm in The Show for [seven] years. 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 and … you know, whatever can happen. That's just not my personality, that's not my cup of tea, that's not who I am."

Machado said what he said even knowing that all he had to do was finish the season with the Dodgers and keep his mouth shut before cashing in as a free agent. So he said what he said, and then he did his best to clean those comments up. But Machado is still just 26 years old. He is still one of the most gifted two-way players in the game, and now he takes his talents down the Southern California coast.
Do 10-year contracts work for anybody except the player? Hardly ever. But no player since A-Rod has ever gotten one this long at this age. So we will see what happens with Machado, as he knows he probably isn't going anywhere for five years, which is when he can reportedly opt out. And guess what? If the Padres win a World Series while he's still with them, they will consider their investment well worth it.
For now, they absolutely do get one of the two biggest guys on the market. You know what they say at this time of year: Hope springs eternal. And sure is expensive.

Mike Lupica is a columnist for MLB.com.