Manny Machado averaged 36 homers and 96 RBIs over the past four seasons. Add in a .845 OPS and two top-five finishes in the MVP voting, and every expert agrees he’s among baseball’s elite players.
He would also be a mistake for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Machado, of course, is a free agent who, along with fellow 26-year-old slugger Bryce Harper, is competing to see who lands the largest contract in MLB history. They’ll likely both celebrate Christmas with deals north of 10 years and $300 million.
All the talk has the Phils aggressively pursuing both. Either would change the face of this franchise.
In the case of Harper, put me down as all in. But in the case of Machado, you’d be altering that face by placing a giant pimple right in the middle of its nose.
Sorry, folks, but a guy who declares himself “Not Johnny Hustle,” isn’t the guy you make your centerpiece. In this town, we demand our heroes be gritty and rumpled, perhaps with a broken nose and a little-dried blood under their fingernails.
Our all-time heroes include the likes of Chase Utley, Brian Dawkins, Steve Carlton, Bobby Clarke, and Tommy McDonald – all superstars with zealous work ethics. Where do you fit into that pantheon an insouciant laggard who declares that busting it “is not my cup of tea?”
I’ve heard fans compare Machado to Jimmy Rollins, who occasionally loafed. But there are two essential differences: First, Rollins’s lapses came on obvious groundouts in the middle of the season. Machado, meanwhile, made a point of idling in the World Series, most notably on a liner off the left-field wall that he turned into a single.
Second, Rollins thrived among an outstanding group of men who knew how to play and conduct themselves as professionals. Machado would be imported into a clubhouse already fraught with fragile chemistry and become its de facto leader. The superstars with the biggest contracts always set the tone, so kids like Rhys Hoskins and Scott Kingery would take their lead from Manny.
Remember back in 2006 when the Phils cleaned house of Bobby Abreu, Mike Lieberthal and David Bell because management decided those talented players were a poor influence on the up-and-comers? Let’s just agree that Machado’s personality is a lot closer to those guys than it is to Utley’s. You’re aiming to build a team ethos here, not a fantasy squad.
Phils owner John Middleton, aching to spend his billions, would be wiser to push his wallet toward Harper, who isn’t without his own warts. Harper can be arrogant and abrasive – although that’s mostly a concern for media. He can mope when he slumps, which once provoked noted heel, Jonathan Papelbon, to place him in a Stone Cold Steve Austin chokehold.
And Harper is inconsistent – his batting average fluctuated from .330 to .243 to .319 to .249 over the past four seasons. But he always draws walks (130 in 2018) and hits for power (averaging 32 homers since 2015).
Look, history shows those earth-shattering megadeals usually backfire on the franchise (see: Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard). The winners are often GMs smart enough to turn over a rock and find a castoff like Mike Mikolas or Max Muncy primed to turn around his career. The Phils once accomplished that with Jayson Werth.
But ownership and the fans here want something dramatic this off-season. I don’t know if Machado would be dramatically good. But I do believe he would create years of drama.