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Free-agent superstar Manny Machado has finally found a new home, surprising more than a few people by signing on with the up-and-coming San Diego Padres.
While one major domino has finally fallen, with San Diego announcing the deal late Thursday, there’s still a lot of talent left on the free-agent market, namely Bryce Harper, Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel, so there are more shakeups to come in these rankings before Opening Day on March 28.
For now, it’s worth breaking down what the Machado signing means for the Padres and the rest of the league, while also taking a look at some other notable recent transactions and the latest on the Harper market.
For reference, this order was last shuffled Feb. 13. As with any offseason power rankings, these take into account how complete a roster is and the direction the franchise is headed.
Here are the updated rankings:
Impact of the Manny Machado Signing
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The Padres officially climb six spots following the Machado signing, up from No. 23 to No. 17.
That jump has as much to do with the shifting mindset of the team as it does any contributions Machado will make from an individual standpoint during his first season with San Diego.
Prior to handing Machado a massive 10-year, $300 million deal, the Padres were best classified as a young team on the rise that appeared to still be a year or two away from contention while they waited on the continued development of a stacked prospect pool.
Making a huge financial investment in one of the best players in baseball pushes that timetable up.
That’s not to suggest having Machado on board makes the Padres immediate contenders.
For one, he can’t pitch. The team still has the uninspiring projected Opening Day rotation of Joey Lucchesi, Robbie Erlin, Bryan Mitchell, Eric Lauer and Luis Perdomo, per Roster Resource.
However, the signing could mean that the team is more inclined to promote prospects like Chris Paddack, Logan Allen and Cal Quantrill early on to bolster the rotation than they otherwise would have been before adding Machado.
The same is true of the impending arrival of top prospect Fernando Tatis Jr., who has a chance to make a huge immediate impact. While the mindset before might have been that there’s no reason to rush him, a chance to make some legitimate noise in 2019 might mean he’s up before the All-Star break.
At any rate, the Padres have leapfrogged the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL West and the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL wild-card picture, and there’s plenty of room for them to continue trending upward as a wave of in-house prospect talent descends on San Diego.
Other Notable Recent Transactions
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While the Machado signing was the only move that had an impact on the rankings, several other teams have added useful pieces since our last update.
The Milwaukee Brewers re-signed slugger Mike Moustakas to a one-year, $10 million deal that includes a mutual option for 2020.
Interestingly, it sounds like the Brewers intend to shift Moustakas to second base, allowing Travis Shaw to remain at the hot corner, where he’s more comfortable, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
That will obviously have an impact on top prospect Keston Hiura, who is one of the best pure hitters in the minors and could be knocking on the door by midseason.
The Detroit Tigers also made an addition to their middle infield, signing Josh Harrison to a one-year, $2 million deal to serve as the primary second baseman. That will allow Niko Goodrum to remain in the super-utility role where he thrived a year ago.
The Tigers have done a nice job collecting low-cost veterans on low-risk, one-year deals, with Harrison joining the previously signed Jordy Mercer, Tyson Ross and Matt Moore.
Outfielder Robbie Grossman was also given a one-year contract by the Oakland Athletics after posting a 109 OPS+ with an excellent .371 on-base percentage while averaging 437 plate appearances over the past three seasons with the Minnesota Twins. He could be a sneaky good addition.
Lefty relievers Jake Diekman (Kansas City Royals) and Aaron Loup (San Diego Padres) were the only other players to agree to MLB deals, though there were a number of talented players who inked minor league contracts.
Two-time All-Star Tyler Clippard has a great chance of winning a spot in the Cleveland Indians bullpen as a non-roster invitee. The 34-year-old appeared in 73 games for the Toronto Blue Jays last season, posting a 3.67 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 11.1 K/9 with seven saves and 15 holds.
Versatile Derek Dietrich doesn’t have a clear path to playing time with the Cincinnati Reds, but he’s an excellent bench piece capable of serving as a backup all over the diamond.
Other notable minor league pacts include Cameron Maybin, Yangervis Solarte and Craig Gentry (San Francisco Giants), John Axford (Toronto Blue Jays), Dan Jennings (Los Angeles Angels), Xavier Cedeno (Chicago Cubs), Drew Storen (Kansas City Royals), Ben Revere (Texas Rangers), Alcides Escobar (Baltimore Orioles) and Adeiny Hechavarria (New York Mets).
One under-the-radar minor league signing to watch is Jay Jackson of the Milwaukee Brewers.
The 31-year-old has spent the last three seasons pitching for the Hiroshima Carp in Japan, where he posted a 2.10 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 9.8 K/9 in 175 appearances. He last appeared in the majors in 2015 with the Padres.
The Latest on Bryce Harper
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The Philadelphia Phillies still look like the most likely landing spot for Harper.
The Washington Nationals reportedly have “no plans” to give Harper a deal comparable to Machado’s 10-year, $300 million agreement, according to Todd Zolecki, Mark Feinsand and Jamal Collier of MLB.com. So they’re out.
The Chicago White Sox “are out of the Bryce Harper sweepstakes” altogether, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
The San Francisco Giants appeared to be gaining some momentum in their pursuit, but an unwillingness to offer up a long-term deal could leave them short as the group from MLB.com wrote: “The Giants have expressed interest in Harper, but many believe they only are willing to offer a lucrative short-term contract. It is difficult to believe Harper would accept a short-term deal, even with a high average annual value.”
There were some rumblings that the San Diego Padres could keep spending and make a run at Harper even after signing Machado, but those were seemingly put to rest when a high-ranking team source flat-out told Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune that they won’t be signing him.
So that brings us back to the Phillies.
They have to be careful not to get in a bidding war with themselves, while also not allowing the dreaded “mystery team” to rear its ugly head. For now, they’re the clear favorites.
Other Remaining Free Agents
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Harper is not the only remaining free agent of note. Here’s a quick position-by-position rundown of the rest of the remaining class:
- C: Martin Maldonado, Matt Wieters
- IF: SS Jose Iglesias, 1B Logan Morrison, 2B/3B Logan Forsythe, 1B Adrian Gonzalez
- OF: Adam Jones, Carlos Gonzalez, Denard Span, Carlos Gomez
- UT: Marwin Gonzalez, Jose Bautista, Brad Miller
- DH: Evan Gattis, Hanley Ramirez
- SP: Dallas Keuchel, Gio Gonzalez, Clay Buchholz, Edwin Jackson, James Shields, Ervin Santana
- RHRP: Craig Kimbrel, Ryan Madson, Adam Warren, Bud Norris
- LHRP: Tony Sipp, Jorge De La Rosa
Which of these guys will sign in the days and weeks leading up to Opening Day, and who will hold out and still be looking for work when teams break camp?
We’ll have our answers soon.