SAN DIEGO -- If, indeed, the Padres were the mystery team for Manny Machado, they aren't a mystery any longer.
The Friars are actively pursuing the superstar third baseman, as the San Diego Union-Tribune first reported.
The concept of a deal for Machado isn't so far-fetched. He is a surprisingly seamless fit in San Diego, assuming his price is reasonable. Here's a deeper look into that fit:
How would he fit positionally?
Though he was once a highly touted shortstop prospect, Machado spent the first six seasons of his career at third base in Baltimore. He spent 2018 at shortstop.
In theory, he could play either position in San Diego in 2019. The Padres currently have Luis Urias slated to open the season at short, with Ian Kinsler at second. But Urias is believed to be the team's second baseman of the future, and if Machado fits best at short, Urias could slide back to second base. Kinsler could platoon at third.
Of course, Machado could just as easily play third in the short term. If that's the case, he'd almost certainly stick there. Fernando Tatis Jr., the No. 2 prospect in baseball according to MLB Pipeline, is the team's shortstop of the future and he could be called up within the first few months. It's easy to project a long-term infield of Machado at third, Tatis at short, Urias at second and Eric Hosmer at first.
How would he fit financially?
Obviously, Machado wouldn't come cheap. His contract would easily eclipse the $144 million deal the team gave to Hosmer last season. That was a franchise record, as was the $83 million contract given to William Myers in the previous offseason. A Machado signing would mean three consecutive offseasons in which the Padres eclipsed their past franchise record.
The thing is, after Machado, Hosmer and Myers, the Padres aren't tied up with a lot of money in contracts. They boast the best farm system in baseball -- with 10 players among MLB Pipeline's Top 100 prospects -- and all of them, including Tatis and Urias, will be on rookie contracts through 2024. They won't be eligible for arbitration until at least '21.
On top of that, players like Hunter Renfroe, Manuel Margot, Franmil Reyes, Joey Lucchesi and Eric Lauer are controllable through at least 2022 and in some cases '23. If the Padres' elite farm system pans out, the club can probably afford to invest heavily in a few expensive long-term deals because of the bargains they'll be getting elsewhere.
How would he fit the Padres' long-term plan?
Machado would probably play at third -- possibly at short, if the team decides Tatis is ultimately better-suited for third. Either way, he's easy to fit into the long-term trajectory of the Padres. The team's biggest need is a middle-of-the-order bat and a third baseman. Machado checks both boxes.
Otherwise, their long-term lineup is surprisingly complete:
C: Austin Hedges or Francisco Mejia
SS: Tatis Jr.
CF: Margot/Franchy Cordero
There are a few question marks in that lineup. But at those spots, the Padres generally have multiple options -- like center field and catcher. Plus, after the bullpen posted the fifth-best season ever recorded by Fangraphs WAR, San Diego believes its long-term relief options are also set.
That, of course, leaves the rotation as the last puzzle to solve -- and it's no small question mark. But the Friars might be content to bank on their top-ranked farm system to fill the gap over the next few years with youngsters like Chris Paddack, Logan Allen, MacKenzie Gore and Luis Patino.
There isn't a team in baseball that wouldn't improve significantly by signing Machado. He's a generational talent who can play a premier position (shortstop) or elite defense at another hard-to-find spot (third).
But Machado's fit with the Padres is probably better than it is almost anywhere else. San Diego probably doesn't have the resources to compete with some major-market teams, should those teams start bidding extensively and drive the price up. It doesn't appear as though that's happened -- in which case, there are a number of reasons why it's easy to envision Machado in Padres' blue (and eventually brown).