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What the Padres signing of Manny Machado means for the Rockies

It may not change much in the short term, but it will in the long term

The long winter of our free agency-related discontent is coming to a close. On Tuesday, multiple outlets reported that the San Diego Padres had agreed to terms on a deal with shortstop/third baseman Manny Machado for 10 years and $300 million, with an opt out after five years. There are some semantics to be taken care of, but it seems pretty clear that the Padres have broken the free agency dam and the Rockies will have to deal with Machado in blue and white brown and yellow for at least the next half decade.

Padres fans are, understandably, excited about adding a superstar to their roster, but how does it change the landscape of the NL West and the Rockies hopes to contend for the next several years? Here are three quick takeaways from the signing for the Rockies.

The Padres are better in 2019—but only just.

Before the Padres signed Machado, PECOTA had them pegged as a 77-win team. PECOTA projects Machado for 3.6 WARP, 33rd among position players in baseball. Using back-of-the-napkin math, that would pull the Padres up to about a .500 team, making them an outside contender for a Wild Card spot.

But the math isn’t so easy. A healthy Machado will get around 600 plate appearances, which will come at the expense (according to PECOTA) of Ty France, Ian Kinsler, Greg Garcia, Travis Jankowski, Jose Pirela, Estaban Quiroz, and Jason Vosler. Before the signing that group was projected to combine for 2.0 WARP; now they are projected for...2.0 WARP. So while PECOTA gives the Padres offense credit for adding Machado (they went from a .239/.305/.401 team to a .243/.309/.410 one), the system only gives them one additional win, projecting them for 78-wins with Machado.

Part of this is likely because Machado isn’t a pitcher. Right now the projected rotation for the Padres consists of Joey Lucchesi, Robbie Erlin, Bryan Mitchell, Eric Lauer, and Luis Perdomo. And while Kirby Yates, Craig Stammen, and Matt Strahm are coming off good years in the bullpen, it’s not exactly a staff that would strike fear into the hearts of many. The team will score more runs with Machado, but they will still allow a lot, making it hard to believe in the 2019 Padres as contenders without some serious steps forward from top prospects Francisco Mejia, Luis Urias, and Fernando Tatis, Jr.

PECOTA projects the Rockies for 84-wins, so they are still the second best team in the division by three games (the Diamondbacks are projected for 81 wins). However, Machado on the Padres makes them much more competitive, so the 11-8 record they had over San Diego in 2018 might come down a bit this season. But it’s hard to see them toppling the Rockies or the Dodgers for the top two spots in the division.

The Padres will be dangerous in 2020 and beyond—probably.

At the risk of putting something on the internet only to be drudged up after I’ve been proven wrong, I’m not sure this addition will be what turns the Padres into contenders. For one thing, in 2020 they will have more money committed to Wil Myers, Eric Hosmer, and Machado than their entire 2017 roster. While you could make an argument that this limits the Padres in payroll flexibility, the more pressing concern is their lineup. MLB teams (outside of Boston) are notorious for succumbing to the sunk cost fallacy, meaning big money typically leads to big playing time simply because of the big money. Last year, Myers (signed through 2022) led the offense with a 1.6 fWAR in 83 games. Hosmer (through 2025) posted a whopping -0.1 fWAR in 157 games. Maybe AJ Preller will be smart enough to eat the contracts and trade or cut them if the team finds themselves with a roster squeeze, but it’s more likely that Myers, at least, will receive more playing time (pending injuries) than two of Franchy Cordero, Manuel Margot, Franmil Reyes, or Hunter Renfroe.

That being said, there’s enough of a volcano of hot talent lava that you still have to like their chances. The biggest weakness of the team, pitching, might become a strength soon. In addition to Tatis Jr (no. 2), Urias (no. 23), and Mejia (no. 26), they also have Mackenzie Gore (no. 13), Chris Paddack (no. 35), Adrian Morejan (no. 46), Michael Baez (no. 57), Logan Allen (no. 76), Luis Patino (no. 83), and Ryan Weathers (no. 92) occupying MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 list. All seven of those guys are pitchers set to arrive in the majors by 2021, with Morejan, Baez, and Allen set to contribute as soon as 2019 (which would surely change their outcome this year).

With that many highly rated prospects in one system, the Padres don’t need even half of them to hit their ceiling to be very competitive going forward. Adding a known quantity like Machdo, who projects to be very good for at least the next four years, can stabilize the Padres roster and make them awfully tricky for the Rockies and Dodgers for the next few years. Of course, how long the Rockies are competing with them in that window depends on one crucial factor.

Nolan Arenado’s price has a new benchmark

The Rockies have been in conversations with Arenado over a long-term extension for a while now. While there have been plenty of encouraging signs, there hasn’t been much in a way of details. At this point, one of the sticking points appears to be an eighth year for the extension.

Now that Machado has signed a 10-year deal worth a record $30 million average annual value (AAV), the Rockies need to stop hesitating. Machado has accumulated 30.2 fWAR in seven seasons; Nolan, 25.3 fWAR in six. If you’re a believer in Baseball Prospectus’ DRC+, Nolan has been worth more than Machado over their careers (34.1 BWARP for Nolan, 30.7 for Machado). Put simply, Nolan is at least as valuable of a player as Machado, if not more. There’s no way Nolan(‘s agent) can look at this contract and believe he deserves any less.

It’s possible Arenado would be willing to give a sort of “hometown discount,” but low-balling him will only land the Rockies in trouble. If the they are serious about securing Nolan’s services beyond 2019, they now know where the bar is. They’ll need to meet or exceed Machado’s AAV and probably hand over that eighth year, which would take him through his age 36 season (the same age Machado will become a free agent) if they want Nolan to sign on the dotted line.

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Machado’s signing with the Padres certainly changes their competitive outlook in 2019 and beyond, but the question is how much. His contract is another data point that will affect what it takes for the Rockies to keep Nolan Arenado in purple pinstripes for the better part of the next decade.

What would you offer Arenado in light of this contract? Are you worried about the Padres in 2019?