Published On: Fri, Aug 19th, 2016

3 reasons why Manny Machado will be MLB's next $300M man

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In the second installment of this three-part series, we look at three reasons why Manny Machado – the decorated Baltimore Orioles third baseman with three All-Star berths and two Gold Glove Awards already – will be the next player to land a $300-million contract. (Check out Part 1 – Bryce Harper – here).

He might be the best shortstop in baseball

That’s a contentious notion, given that he’s played more than 90 percent of his games with the Orioles at third base, but it’s even stranger that Machado has actually spent the bulk of his career in an infield corner when he’s so obviously a shortstop. Need proof? Click here. Or here. Or here.

Though the Orioles weren’t willing to displace J.J. Hardy to allow Machado his birthright, whichever team signs him will most likely move him to shortstop, and, more germanely, will pay him like a shortstop. After all, while he hasn’t spent much time there at the big-league level, among the 24 players with at least 50 games at shortstop and 2,000 plate appearances since Machado’s rookie season, none have accrued more WAR than – yep, you guessed it – Machado.

WAR leaders, 2012-16, 50+ GP at SS + 2,000 PAs

Player WAR OPS G GS at SS
Manny Machado 23.1 .811 565 49
Ben Zobrist 20.4 .795 696 81
Andrelton Simmons 19.4 .665 584 572
Brandon Crawford 17.3 .720 705 650
Troy Tulowitzki 16.5 .874 484 465
Brian Dozier 16.1 .751 659 81

Obviously, that’s a crude query, as it includes players who haven’t played shortstop in years and weeds out the bevy of talented young shortstops that have debuted within the past couple seasons. How, then, does Machado compare against those kids, you ask? Favorably, it turns out.

WAR leaders, 2015-16, 400+ innings at SS

Name WAR G OPS wRC+ UZR/150 (SS)
Manny Machado 12.2 276 .880 135 4.3
Francisco Lindor 9.6 216 .826 123 19.6
Brandon Crawford 9.2 260 .780 113 17.2
Xander Bogaerts 8.2 271 .794 113 0.2
Carlos Correa 7.6 215 .850 130 -6.8
Corey Seager 7.3 142 .909 145 12
Addison Russell 5.7 254 .716 93 13.3

He may not be as good a hitter as Corey Seager, and his talents afield aren’t quite as impressive as Francisco Lindor‘s, but with his offensive profile and ably (if briefly) demonstrated defensive chops up the middle, it’s not totally crazy to call Machado the game’s best shortstop.

Going rate for superstars

When Bryce Harper hits the open market following the 2018 campaign, the $300-million contract offers are going to fly in faster than Scott Boras can leverage them. On that fateful day when Harper signs on the dotted line and pulls on his brand-new New York Yankees cap, though, any one of his unsuccessful suitors can scratch out his name on their nine-figure check and replace it with Machado’s for a virtually identical return on investment. For the entirety of their careers, after all, Harper and Machado have pretty much been the exact same player.

2012-16, Harper vs. Machado

Bryce Harper 22.7 142 .384 .226 29
Manny Machado 21.9 119 .336 .190 73

Harper’s been a much better hitter while Machado’s defensive contributions have greatly exceeded those of the reigning NL MVP, but in terms of overall value, the difference is negligible. As such, regardless of who signs first to “set the market,” both players – separated by only one year in age – are poised to command deals that rival Giancarlo Stanton‘s 13-year, $325-million extension with the Miami Marlins.

No hometown discount

In recent years, the Orioles have worked hard to keep their best players from leaving whilst in their primes. In May 2012, a couple months before he earned his second of five career All-Star appearances, a 26-year-old Adam Jones landed a six-year, $85.5-million extension in his second season of arbitration eligibility. Two years later, Hardy – who earned three Gold Gloves and averaged 22 homers per season from 2011 through 2014 – received a three-year extension. This past winter, the Orioles forked over $161 million to keep Chris Davis from signing elsewhere after the 30-year-old recorded his second campaign with at least 47 homers in a three-year span.

If the Orioles hope to do the same with Machado, who has two more seasons of arbitration eligibility remaining, the Stanton deal might actually be an underpay; when Stanton signed his contract at age 24, he’d accrued less WAR than Machado has through his age-23 season. So, put bluntly, whether Machado stays in Baltimore or hits the open market, he’s getting paid.

Machado (through age 23) vs. Stanton (through age 24)

Manny Machado 21.9 565 119 94 73
Giancarlo Stanton 21.1 634 144 154 35

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