Here are some reasons why the San Diego Padres’ flirtation with Manny Machado could be scary.
Manny Machado is one of the two MLB blue-chip free agents still available. Lately, while there is a lot more focus on Bryce Harper and his connection to, and recent meetings with, the San Diego Padres. Some people continue to talk about how Machado would be a better fit because he could play third base – although he’s talked extensively about preferring shortstop.
Manny Machado scares me, and I’ll show you why.
First, let’s look at his career batting line (I prefer the triple slash line). In just shy of 4,100 career plate appearances, Machado has compiled a .282/.335/.487 line. That is a fantastic line for a shortstop, but it’s not quite as stellar for a third baseman.
Is he a product of playing in a small ballpark? Maybe. His hitting line while playing in Camden Yards (2,808 plate appearances at Camden) far exceeds his career line (.296/.352/.536). For his major league career, he only hit .271/.319/.442 on the road.
Before we jump to a place where we are dismissing that road line, his improvements as he’s matured tell us he won’t hit that weakly as a 26-year-old and beyond. Last season, after being traded to the Dodgers, he hit .273/.338/.487 (combined home & road as a Dodger in 296 plate appearances).
Since I brought up his improvements, let me be fair. Here are his triple-slash lines for each of his seven seasons:
2012 (age 19) .262/.294/.444
2013 (20) .283/.314/.432
2104 (21) .278/.324/.431
2015 (22) .286/.359/.502
2016 (23) .294/.343/.533
2017 (24) .259/.310/.471
2018 (25) .297/.367/.538
Obviously, he improved dramatically from 2015 on (his line over his last four years is .284/.345/.511) but even then, what will he hit away from Camden Yards?
Last year for the Padres’, Christian Villanueva hit .236/.299/.450. Obviously that batting average isn’t ideal, but do you realize if we are just looking at on base & slugging numbers, Villanueva trailed Machado’s career road numbers by only 20 points (which is actually quite a bit). Is that the guy the Padres want to give a seven or eight-plus-year contract? A deal that will average or maybe even exceed $30 million per season? Ok, “That’s not fair,” you say. “He hit better than that his last four years,” you argue. How about his .273/.338/.487 with the Dodgers? His .825 OPS would rank 16th among third basemen last year. Again, worth $30 million a year?
He is somewhat likely to hit better than his career .822 OPS rate, but I don’t expect him to even approach his cumulative .905 OPS rate he hit in 2018. Especially if Petco is his home park. I will acknowledge that Petco is less harmful vs. right-handed hitters than lefties.
Machado reminds me of another third baseman; a sublime defender, Adrian Beltre. Now before you get excited about that comparison, realize this: Beltre was a study in unfulfilled promise when he played for the Dodgers early in his career. Then, heading into his free agency year, he posted a 1.017 OPS (nearly 200 points higher than his previous best). On the heels of that season, he signed a big deal with Seattle and promptly went back to posting OPS rates in between .683 & .802 for five years. It wasn’t exactly a Hall of Fame trajectory. Then in his 31-year-old season, he played for Boston and finally righted the ship. The next year he signed with Texas and became the guy we all know and love.
But what about those lean years in Dodger Stadium and Safeco, big home parks? Is there anything we’ve seen statistically that tells us we won’t see an Adrian Beltre-esque fall into mediocrity with the Padres?
As I said, Machado scares me.