Padres owner tabs Machado as 'top priority'

February 22nd, 2023

PEORIA, Ariz. -- In the days since revealed his plan to opt out of his current contract, the Padres’ star third baseman has reiterated that his sights are set squarely on 2023.

Same goes for the Padres. Tuesday marked the team's first official full-squad workout, and owner Peter Seidler and general manager A.J. Preller met with reporters at the Peoria Sports Complex. Both Seidler and Preller divulged little in the way of potential negotiations that could keep Machado in San Diego beyond this season. But Seidler made this much clear:

"I really hesitate to talk about hypothetical situations, whether it's with a free-agent player or one of our own. I will say: Manny is my top priority."

A quick summary of where things stand between the Padres and Machado:

1. After the 2023 season, Machado can opt out of the remaining five years, $150 million on the 10-year contract he signed in 2019.

2. During the offseason, Machado informed the Padres he intends to do so, unless the two sides could come to an agreement on an extension or a restructuring of that contract.

3. It remains unclear whether Machado would be open to negotiating in-season, with recent reports, including one from the San Diego Union-Tribune, noting that Machado had set a deadline for a deal to get done before the start of camp.

The Padres seem open to in-season talks.

"Manny is always a priority for me and for the organization," Preller said. "Manny is a phenomenal player. He's a huge part of what we do here. We're just going to respect him in this process. We have a good relationship with his representatives and agents. Again, we'll always be open and clear in our communication. If he has interest in talking more, we'll continue to do that."

Speaking Monday, Machado expressed his commitment to the current season, saying, “Business is business, there’s no hard feelings.

“I told my agent, I told the organization, I'm about going out there and playing baseball, doing what I can control, which is going out there and being the best player I can possibly be. I'm going to try and get this team to another Championship [Series] and even further."

When Machado signed his initial 10-year deal with the Padres in February 2019, it was briefly the richest free-agent contract in North American professional sports history. He has posted a slash line of .280/.352/.504 and hit 108 home runs while accumulating 17.6 bWAR in his four seasons with San Diego. Machado has tallied a pair of top-three NL MVP finishes, including a second-place finish during a remarkable 2022 campaign in which he helped lift the Padres to their first NLCS berth since 1998.

"Obviously, four years ago, right around this time, that was a huge day for the city of San Diego and for the organization," Preller said. "Manny has lived up to everything, when we signed him, that we could've hoped for."

The Padres will put forth a franchise-record payroll in 2023, having already committed long-term dollars to Machado, , , and .

In addition to Machado’s potential free agency, another generational superstar, , is slated to become a free agent after the 2024 campaign, ahead of his age-26 season. Preller noted a balancing act.

"It's something we talk about all the time -- a short- and long-term plan," Preller said. "It's not unlimited resources. It's not an unlimited budget. You've got to make decisions and choices.

"The nice part for us is you're talking about two of the best in the game and how we keep both, hopefully, or how one affects the other. ... Those are conversations that will be part of the next 12 months and the next couple years with Juan."

Indeed, there's much to be sorted out over the next 12-24 months. But the Padres insist they're rooted in the next eight.

They added Bogaerts, Preller said, not as a potential long-term replacement for Machado at third base, but rather "for him to play with Manny." The arrival of Bogaerts comes alongside the return of Tatis, giving San Diego perhaps the most star-studded lineup in baseball.

Machado is at the center of it all, the de facto captain in San Diego, on board for the franchise's turnaround from also-ran to World Series contender. It’s only natural that Machado's long-term contract status would become a central storyline -- at least until he signs an extension or until he hits free agency.

"Ultimately, he's got the right to potentially opt out at the end of this year," Preller said. "We're prepared for it. We've always been looking at it as a possibility. The good part for everybody is he's played at such a high level that it makes it a realistic question."