If Dodgers cannot get Shohei Ohtani, they could chase Manny Machado

Manny Machado’s locker within the San Diego Padres’ spring coaching clubhouse is prime actual property: on the predominant entrance, subsequent to the three-foot tall speaker pumping the music into the room. Friday morning, hours earlier than their Cactus League opener, it was tuned to laidback oldies.

Teammates greeted Machado as they walked by his house. Ha-Seong Kim gave him a hug. Xander Boegarts prolonged a hand. Machado switched between English and Spanish, relying on the teammate. He was full of life. He was vibing.

The 2023 Padres are maybe probably the most proficient — and undoubtedly the costliest — workforce in franchise historical past. The roster brims with stars acquired through commerce and free company over the previous 4 years. Thick World Series expectations hover for the small-market entity punching above its weight.

In the center of the galaxy is Machado, the uber-talented third baseman who has developed into the membership’s unquestioned chief — a job he acknowledged he’s needed to develop into since arriving after a rent-a-player stint with the Dodgers.

“It’s about being yourself,” he stated. “I think being free, just opening up a little bit.”

Machado, 30, wasn’t that individual in his 4 months with the Dodgers in 2018. Los Angeles acquired him on the commerce deadline from the Baltimore Orioles to play shortstop for the injured Corey Seager. He helped them attain the World Series for the second straight yr.

But Machado was removed from a fan favourite. He was lambasted for his effort and fueled the criticism when he informed Sports Illustrated he wasn’t “Johnny Hustle.” He prompted a benches-clearing kerfuffle when he kicked Jesús Aguilar’s foot at first base within the NLCS. His closing act — dropping to his knee after whiffing on a pitch within the grime to finish the World Series — appeared becoming.

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Returning to the Dodgers that offseason was by no means an possibility; Seager was below membership management for one more three years and Justin Turner was entrenched at third base. But what about subsequent offseason?

Machado final week confirmed he plans to choose out of his 10-year, $300-million contract after the season. He may very well be one of many prime free brokers, headlining the category with Shohei Ohtani, Julio Urías, Blake Snell and Aaron Nola.

The Dodgers, in the meantime, can have cash to spend. They are slated to have greater than $66 million come off the books. Ohtani will undoubtedly be their prime goal. If they strike out with him, Machado may very well be one of the best hitter left available on the market.

The group is “split” on entertaining a reunion with Machado, in line with an individual with data of the workforce’s pondering who shouldn’t be licensed to talk publicly on the matter. Machado is alleged to be open to a return to Los Angeles however that’s anticipated; eliminating one of many league’s richest groups from the bidding isn’t good enterprise.

The Dodgers don’t have an apparent want for him. Max Muncy, who has a participant possibility for 2024, is the Dodgers’ beginning third baseman this season. Miguel Vargas, who will play second base in 2023, performed third base greater than some other place within the minor leagues. The Dodgers might use both participant on the place.

San Diego Padres third baseman Manny Machado factors throughout a recreation in opposition to the San Francisco Giants in October.

(Gregory Bull / Associated Press)

But Machado resides in one other stratosphere. He’s a six-time All-Star. He owns two Gold Gloves. He completed second within the NL MVP race final season — arguably his finest offensive marketing campaign — after batting .298 with 32 residence runs and an .898 on-base-plus-slugging share.

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He’s been thought of one of many sport’s finest defenders since changing into a daily a decade in the past. He hasn’t missed greater than 12 video games in a season since 2014. He positioned fifth on MLB Network’s participant rankings record this week.

“Sometimes it looks like he’s not trying because he’s so good at it,” Padres reliever Craig Stammen stated. “But if you talk to him and watch how he thinks about the game, you understand how locked in he is every day.”

Still in his prime, Machado is poised to turn out to be one of many few gamers to ever safe two profitable long-term contracts. Padres proprietor Peter Seidler hopes it’s in San Diego once more.

“I really hesitate to talk about hypothetical situations, whether it’s with a free-agent player or one of our own,” Seidler stated this week. “I will say: Manny is my top priority.”

Machado’s presence in San Diego embodies the group’s trajectory. He signed with the Padres in 2019 when their uniforms had been nonetheless a nondescript blue and white, and San Diego was finest identified for being the Dodgers’ punching bag. The deal was the most important ever for a free agent when he signed nevertheless it has fallen to the Eleventh-biggest. He was 26, rich, and never prepared to guide.

“I’ve learned a lot along the way,” Machado stated. “People make mistakes. I think the beauty from it is you learn from it and you grow.”

Machado highlighted Stammen and former Padre Eric Hosmer as position fashions in his maturation. Stammen, the Padres’ longest-tenured participant, stated Machado didn’t notice his standing throughout the membership when he arrived.

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“When you’re a young player in the major leagues, you come up looking up to other guys and you don’t quite know when everyone starts looking at you,” Stammen, 38, stated. “When he signed the big contract here, all eyes were on him. Now, he’s definitely become the leader in this clubhouse and the guy we look to. He takes care of us. And he’s a great teammate.”

San Diego Padres third baseman Manny Machado smiles before Game 1 of the NLCS in October.

San Diego Padres third baseman Manny Machado smiles earlier than Game 1 of the NLCS in October.

(Gregory Bull / Associated Press)

With Machado, the Padres have gone from afterthought to toppling the Dodgers to achieve the NLCS in October. Last summer time, they traded for Juan Soto and Josh Hader. This winter, they added Boegarts, Matt Carpenter, Nelson Cruz, Seth Lugo and Michael Wacha. Their payroll is pushing $275 million. With it, they’re thought of co-favorites with the Dodgers to win their first NL West title since 2006 and have generated a lot pleasure that they capped season-ticket gross sales.

“I saw the vision from the beginning,” Machado stated, “and it’s coming true.”

Whether Machado is round to see it by past 2023 is unclear. The variety of groups excited about him is perhaps restricted till Ohtani comes to a decision, however the Padres will face competitors for his providers regardless. Both New York golf equipment are potential touchdown spots. Other groups ought to floor with robust curiosity. The Dodgers might find yourself being certainly one of them in the event that they miss on Ohtani. They’ll have the cash.