Manny Machado, 26, and his new team the San Diego Padres have recently inked one of the biggest free agent contracts – worth $300 million over a 10 year period – in not only Major League Baseball history but also American sports history as well. So exactly who is Machado and why is he worth such a large contract?
Machado is able to play at third base or shortstop, although he holds a preference for the latter, and was picked up by the Baltimore Orioles in the 2010 draft and went on to be named as their ‘best prospect’ following his first season.
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Continuing is development in the Orioles programme, Machado made his MLB debut in 2012 and in just his second game he started setting records; he became the first player in the modern game to hit two home runs and a triple in his first two games and also became the youngest player – overtaking the record set by Manny Ramirez in 1993 – to hit multiple homers in either of their first two games.
The Dominican-American athlete, born in Hialeah, Florida, was on the road to the top and 2013 just reaffirmed that progress as his first All-Star call came along with his first Golden and Platinum Gloves; hardly a surprise when you realise he surpassed all other American League third baseman in fielding percentage, double plays turned, assists and game range factor. Towards the end of the season he then suffered a serious knee ligament injury that required surgery and caused him to miss the start of the next campaign.
Despite being a somewhat shorter season for Machado due to injuries and suspension – following an incident where he deliberately threw his bat on field – he still managed to register his first grand slam. This came just one month after his return from injury, against Houston Astros and the pitching of Scott Feldman, notched a career high five hit and registered the first walk off of his fledgling career.
Another return from injury and another response from Machado followed throughout the next season, as he picked up his second Golden Glove for his defensive performances, was named an All-Star again and proved there was more to his game than purely defense as he ranked tenth in the list for home runs. If a couple of knee injuries had started to cause doubts about his fitness levels then appearing in every game of the regular season – the only player to do so – went some way to rectifying that.
2016 saw Machado named All-Star for a second year running, and third in total, he narrowly missed out on the American League MVP award but did scoop the award for the Orioles, perhaps in part to the three grand slams he bagged and the fact he smashed his way to 100 career homers – the fastest to achieve that feat in Oriole history. He also posted a career high 16 game hitting streak.
The following season saw Machado represent the Dominican Republic in all six of their games in the World Baseball Classics, as well as posting another strong year for Baltimore, which saw him into another All-Star team, but, for the first time in his career, in an uncharacteristically poor side. The under-par performances of the Orioles put teams on red alert for Machado and the summer saw him head to Los Angeles to pull on Dodgers colours.
Machado arrived in LA with four All-Star games, two Golden Gloves and a boat load of self-confidence to his name. Nonetheless, it’s widely regarded that Dodgers fans didn’t see the best of Machado and following a one season stint he became a free agent – and what a free agent.
The 2019 pre-season was all about free agents, Machado and Bryce Harper – a right fielder who emerged from the same 2010 draft as Machado. Now the latter is done, signing up in sunny San Diego on as astounding deal; but Harper didn’t want to get left behind and surpassed him in the last day of February, signing a 13-year record breaking contract with the Phillies for $330 million.
One thing is for sure, at $300 million the spotlight will shine brightly on Machado and he’ll be under pressure to reproduce his best baseball, on both sides of the ball, to justify the outlay but it’s highly likely the Padres crowd will have something special to cheer about in the decade ahead.