The San Diego Padres may not be done with their business in Major League Baseball’s free agent market — even after inking former Los Angeles Dodgers and Baltimore Orioles slugger Manny Machado to a reported 10-year, $300 million contract, “the biggest free-agent contract in American sports history,” as ESPN called the deal. In fact, according to one veteran baseball “insider” journalist, the Padres may still be in the hunt to sign the current offseason’s other marquee free agent, former Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper.
“Padres are pulling off one surprise (once Manny’s finalized) but here’s another shocker,” wrote MLB Network “insider” Jon Heyman on his Twitter feed. “They aren’t ruling out Bryce Harper, too. 110M payroll (with MM) is still lower than most.”
Before signing Machado on Tuesday — assuming the signing is properly finalized, which remains pending — the Padres carried a payroll of just over $75.4 million, according to Spotrac figures. Adding in Machado, whose contract averages a whopping $30 million per year, San Diego’s payroll inches over the $100 million mark — but would still rank only 20th out of 30 Major League Baseball teams, per Spotrac.
A payroll of approximately $105 million would also leave the Padres with $101 million to spend before they bumped up against baseball’s “Competitive Balance Tax,” according to the MLB website, a threshold more popularly known as the “luxury tax.”
By contract, MLB’s top payroll team, the 2018 World Series champion Boston Red Sox, weighs in at a hefty $221,042,500, according to Spotrac. That puts the Red Sox well above the 2019 $206 million luxury tax cutoff, meaning that the Red Sox pay a 20 percent surcharge on the $15 million by which they exceed the luxury tax cap, or an extra $3 million, approximately.
The Philadelphia Phillies were reportedly a contender for Machado as well, and are also rumored to be a top contestant in the Harper game, but as Philadelphia Inquirer baseball analyst David Murphy wrote on Tuesday, “Turns out, there was only a certain amount stupid that the Phillies were willing to go. At least, that was the case when it came to Manny Machado.”
According to Murphy, the massive contract afforded to Machado by the team with the third-worst record in Major League Baseball last season, per Baseball Reference, may not be an indicator of Harper’s eventual price tag. Given his age, 26, and his relatively injury-free history, Machado may have signed for less than he was worth on the open market, Murphy said.
“From a standpoint of age, Machado may have posed less risk than any free agent since (Alex) Rodriguez. But as a player, he offers a lot more certainty than Harper does at the same age,” Murphy wrote. “In that sense, it would not surprise me in the least if he ended up costing himself money with his flippant response about his effort this past postseason.”
During the 2018 postseason, Machado failed to run out several grand balls, and later told reporters, “I’m not the type of player that’s going to be ‘Johnny Hustle,’ and run down the line and slide to first base. That’s just not my personality, that’s not my cup of tea,” according to USA Today. Machado’s casual attitude nay have cost him millions in free agent dollars, Murphy suggested.