As he continues to play a key role on a big stage for the Dodgers, star infielder Manny Machado is of course also making last impressions in advance of his entry onto the free-agent market. His controversial run through the NLCS has certainly sparked quite a lot of attention. In particular, Machado was fined for dragging his foot and striking the leg of Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar and had some eyebrow-raising comments on his effort level. It is perhaps debatable whether or not those developments — and whatever else may emerge in the postseason — will impact his earning power. After all, Machado has a long record of productivity on the field despite his quirks.
Here are some notes on these interesting developments:
- Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic got the comments from Machado that sparked so much controversy, and they really are something to behold. (Subscription link.) “Obviously I’m not going to change, I’m not the type of player that’s going to be ’Johnny Hustle,’ and run down the line and slide to first base,” said Machado. “… That’s just not my personality, that’s not my cup of tea, that’s not who I am.” He does perhaps deserve bonus points for his honesty, along with his acknowledgement that he “should … have given it a little more effort.” And Machado does say that it’s “just my mentality when I’m in the game” — presumably, the same ingrained approach that often produces moments of brilliance and generally excellent results. Still, that line of thinking will certainly be a tough sell for some fans.
- The outcome of Machado’s free agency will depend in no small part upon the extent to which he’s able to generate strong interest from multiple organizations. Media pressure is perhaps overstated as a causative factor, but at a minimum it can reflect general fan sentiment. It is worth noting, then, that Machado’s recent hijinks have sparked some questioning in some markets. Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch argues the Cardinals should “steer clear of the Machado suspense and nonsense.” Meanwhile, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia says that these public developments dovetail with other concerns from some in the Phillies organization, in addition to posing problems given the Philly fanbase’s predilection for lunchpail-toting athletes.
- Of course, the Phillies baseball ops department includes several key people who have prior experience with Machado in Baltimore — the only place he had played until the July swap that sent him to Los Angeles. Orioles coach Bobby Dickerson discussed his interesting relationship with Machado with Dan Connelly of The Athletic (subscription link). You’ll obviously want to read the whole piece for all his thoughts, but Dickerson interestingly echoes Machado’s own self-awareness of his suboptimal traits. The coach says that Machado is “a good guy” with “a good heart,” at core, even if “Swaggy Machado” is often the impression given to opponents and the general public.
- The Yankees have long been tabbed as a possible pursuer of Machado. To an extent, speculation waned with the rise of several talented infielders, but the recent Tommy John surgery performed on shortstop Didi Gregorius seemingly increases the merit of a fit. Indeed, per Jon Heyman of Fancred, there is real interest on behalf of the Yanks — though the precise extent of that may not quite be clear. As Heyman emphasizes, and has reported previously, there’s a sense also in some quarters that Machado would like to land in New York.