If the Philadelphia Phillies want to sign Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado after the 2018 season, it may come at a historic price.
One scout, who spoke to John Perrotto of FanRag Sports at the World Baseball Classic, thinks Machado will be the first player to ever sign a $400 million contract:
“He just made himself baseball’s first $400-million man,” said the scout, who works for a National League team, after Machado went 5-for-14 with a double and a home run as the Dominican Republic won all three of its games.
“It’s going to be Machado [that gets over $400 million],” he said. “He just does more things than [Bryce] Harper. For me, he’s the better all-around player, probably second in all of baseball to Mike Trout.”
It feels a bit hyperbolic to suggest that anyone's performance in the World Baseball Classic will change how much money they make in free-agency, but his point is well taken. In two years, when the Orioles are expected to lose Machado (and a slew of other players) in free-agency, Machado may get a record contract.
Unlike what the scout says, I think there's a fairly decent chance that both Harper and Machado will approach $400 million deals, especially if Harper proves that the 2015 National League MVP version of him is the type of production that he's capable of annually.
Both Harper and Machado will be 26 when they become free-agents, which almost never happens for players of their talent levels. So teams may be willing to give deals in the range of 10-year/$400 million to the two, knowing that both will likely opt-out of their contracts halfway through in an attempt to land another 10-year deal. Along those lines, onlinegambling.lv set the odds at just 1/8 that Harper will play the entire length of his contract.
At the MLB Winter Meetings, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak didn't balk at the idea of the team eventually giving a $300-$400 million contract, instead suggesting that he thinks the organization will give him the financial backing to do what is necessary to allow the team to return to contention.
Klentak and Phillies president Andy MacPhail both have connections to Machado. Klentak was the Orioles director of baseball operations in 2010 when the team selected Machado with the No. 3 overall pick in the MLB Draft. Klentak accepted a position as the Los Angeles Angels assistant general manager after the 2011 season, when MacPhail, then the president of the Orioles, elected to take a hiatus from the game. Machado didn't make his Major League debut until August of 2012, so it's unclear how much of a relationship he had with either of the two.
The Phillies would have to maneuver some of their current roster to make Machado work, but when you get the chance to sign a player that already has three six win seasons in their prime, you should be willing to do that. The team's current third baseman, Maikel Franco, could move to first base or be traded for another position of need if the team signed Machado. The team could also consider moving Machado to shortstop, his natural position, but it's unclear if he would want to do that or what that would mean for the future of top prospect J.P. Crawford.