In the weeks since the White Sox made a reported seven-year offer to Machado, several followup reports have pegged the offer’s value as closer to $200MM than to $300MM. Now, ESPN’s Buster Olney reports (via Twitter) that the exact value of Chicago’s offer to Machado is $175MM over seven years — a $25MM annual value.
Postseason comments and villainy aside, it’s surprising that Machado’s market has been so limited to this juncture — particularly when the apparent top bid for his services as a 26-year-old isn’t all that much greater than the $144MM for which Eric Hosmer signed a year ago when at the age of 28. Frankly, the reported size of the offer makes it all the more stunning that the Yankees, on the heels of a 100-win season, are seemingly content to entrust the shortstop position to a Troy Tulowitzki reclamation project and the hope that Didi Gregorius can seamlessly bounce back from Tommy John surgery.
Looking around the league, it’s jarring yet that teams who could fairly easily accommodate Machado haven’t made an effort to top that offer. The total value of Chicago’s offer to Machado checks in south of the Twins’ $184MM commitment to Joe Mauer, who retired earlier this winter. Minnesota doesn’t have a single dollar on the books beyond the 2019 campaign. The Brewers promised Ryan Braun a $21MM annual salary through his age-36 season nearly eight years ago, and Braun’s deal is off the books after the 2020 season. (Of course, if there’s one team that Machado have alienated more than any last October, it’s likely the Brewers.) The Angels and Mets are both at least $40MM south of the luxury tax threshold. Other clubs like the Cardinals, Cubs and Dodgers could potentially move some internal pieces around to fit Machado, and the Phillies are of course a clear fit that could handily top that sum. Even a team like the Padres, still emerging from a rebuild and more earnestly eyeing contention in 2020, could reasonably top an offer of that magnitude. (San Diego did, after all, sign a far lesser player in Hosmer a year ago.)
As Olney notes, the White Sox’ approach looks to be a mirror image of how the Red Sox pursued J.D. Martinez last winter. Boston made Martinez a $100MM offer early in the winter and waited him out, knowing that he lacked other suitors. That, of course, led Boston to a $110MM deal with Martinez that, while nine figures in value, proved to be one of the offseason’s best values. It’s more understandable, though, that Martinez would have a limited market given the fact that most clubs viewed him as a pure designated hitter who could only handle sporadic outfield work.
Machado’s “Johnny Hustle” comments and his deliberate kick of Jesus Aguilar at first base during the NLCS undoubtedly soured his image in the eyes of some owners (quite likely the aforementioned Brewers), but it’s nevertheless eye-popping that interest has been this tepid. While it’s true that many, if not most free-agent deals of seven-plus years in length end up as albatrosses in their latter years, Machado is four to five years younger than most free agents who signed those contracts and can reasonably be expected to provide more value as a result — particularly in the first half of a contract, which should be comprised entirely of prime-aged seasons.
Generally speaking, team-side aversion to those mega-contracts has clearly risen in recent years, though some clubs have moved toward shorter contracts at higher annual values in an effort to pay a higher premium for up-front value while mitigating some long-term downside. That, however, isn’t even the case in Chicago’s pursuit of Machado. The $25MM annual value of the proposal is hardly insignificant, but it’s also far from the top-of-the-scale annual rate one might expect for a player of Machado’s caliber and age.
Olney wonders whether the Yankees may ultimately circle back in if Machado’s market fails to progress — be it in the form of an increased offer from the Pale Hose or the emergence of another suitor. Given that the currently proposed deal would only run through Machado’s age-32 season, it’s hard to imagine that some team wouldn’t be willing to top it. Then again, few would’ve believed at the onset of free agency that Machado’s top offer in mid-January would be sitting at its current level.