Over the past week, we have seen two of the biggest third basemen in Major League Baseball sign brand new mega deals, as Manny Machado will head to San Diego and Nolan Arenado will remain in Colorado. There has been a considerable amount of back and forth between fans debating which deal will turn out to be the better value for the respective clubs, so without further ado, let’s break it down.
The Padres gave Manny Machado a 10-year contract worth $300 million, that would take him through his age-35 season. He also has a player opt-out clause that he could exercise in advance of his age-31 season in 2024. At this point, he will have already made $180 million and would be leaving $120 million over five years on the table. His contract also comes with a six-team no-trade protection. The overall breakdown for the contract is as follows:
- 2019: $10 million base salary, $2 million signing bonus, $12 million total
- 2020-2023: $30 million base salary, $2 million annual signing bonus, $32 million annually
- Opt-Out (five years, $120 million remaining)
- 2024-2018: $30 million base salary, $2 million annual signing bonus, $32 million annually
As for Arenado, the contract was an 8-year contract worth $260 million, keeping him in Colorado through his age-35 season. He also has the opportunity to opt-out in advance of his age-31 season in 2022, at which point he will have already banked $96 million, leaving $196 million over five years. He was able to secure full no-trade protections in his deal. Here is the breakdown of his contract:
- 2019: $26 million
- 2020 and 2021: $35 million annually
- Opt-Out (five years, $196 million remaining)
- 2022-2024: $35 million annually
- 2025: $32 million
- 2026: $27 million
- 2027: Free Agent
Looking at the overall breakdowns, while Machado was able to secure the higher overall peak value and years, it should be taken into account that he is two years younger than Arenado, who actually received a higher average annual salary. Furthermore, Arenado has full no-trade protection, while Machado can only block trades from six teams. From a dollars and cents standpoint, it seems more likely that Machado will exercise his opt-out, as I would consider it to be a pretty safe assumption to consider $120 million over five years attainable to a 31-year-old Machado, even with the assumption that he would have draft pick compensation attached to him.
This is, of course, assuming the next Collective Bargaining Agreement is able to hash out some of the problems with the market as it lies. As for Arenado, $196 million over five years would be difficult to find on the open market as a 31-year-old third baseman, and with the promise of an attached compensation pick, I would imagine he opts into the contract.As time passes, Nolan Arenado's big-money contract will hold up better than that of Manny Machado, his NL West counterpart. @OrsattiJoe has more.Click To Tweet
One thing that you will notice is that these sentiments seem to be shared by the respective organizations. Machado’s deal is slightly back loaded, while Arenado’s average annual salary drops after his age-33 season, which in most cases is considered to be the onset of physical decline.
Here are Manny Machado’s career statistics:
926 games, 4074 plate appearances, .282/.335/.487 (.822 OPS), 175 home runs, 211 doubles, 12 triples, 50 stolen bases, 33.8 Baseball-Reference WAR, 25.7 Offensive WAR, 11.3 Defensive WAR, 2.92 Range Factor/9 (12.74% above league average in that time frame).
And here are Arenado’s:
876 games, 3695 plate appearances, .291/.346/.539 (.886 OPS), 186 home runs, 222 doubles, 25 triples, 13 stolen bases, 33.1 bWAR, 21.6 oWAR, 13.3 dWAR, 3.06 RF/9 (21.91% above league average in that time frame).
From a statistical standpoint, Arenado has performed slightly better than Machado over a similar period of time, and the average annual salary reflects that. Now, many people would argue that Arenado’s statistics are inflated by the fact that he has played half of his games at Coors Field, which is a notoriously hitter friendly park. While that may be true, the same argument could be made for Machado, as Camden Yards is also considered to be among the most hitter friendly parks in the league, as it actually ranked first in home runs allowed between 2013-2017, according to a study by WeAreFanatics.com, Coors actually ranked fifth, coming in 118 home runs behind Camden Yards.
Overall, here are each’s home and away splits over their careers:
Home: 456 games, 1965 plate appearances, .295/.353/.534 (.887 OPS), 99 doubles, five triples, 106 home runs
Away: 470 games, 2109 plate appearances, .271/.319/.442 (.761 OPS), 112 doubles, seven triples, 69 home runs
Home: 438 games, 1853 plate appearances, .320/.374/.609 (.984 OPS), 124 doubles, 19 triples, 108 home runs
Away: 438 games, 1842 plate appearances, .263/.318/.469 (.787 OPS), 98 doubles, six triples, 78 home runs
Now, consider the circumstances surrounding the pair of signings. Arenado will remain in the ballpark in which he has played half of his major-league games while posting an OPS of .984, while Machado will move to one of the most pitcher friendly parks in the league, in Petco Park.
Arenado has grown accustomed to his environment, and seeing as how he has been revered as one of the leaders of the Rockies clubhouse over the past five years, should face considerably less pressure than he would have entering a new city with a contract of that magnitude. Machado, on the other hand, faces assimilating into a new environment with a pitcher friendly park and fans who know him as the guy who the front office just gave $300 million to, as opposed to a home-grown star.
Finally, take a look at each team’s projected line-ups with 2018 OPS in parentheses, according to rosterresource.com:
RF Charlie Blackmon (L) (.860)
1B Daniel Murphy (L) (.790)
3B Nolan Arenado (R) (.935)
LF David Dahl (L) (.859)
SS Trevor Story (R) (.914)
CF Ian Desmond (R) (.729)
2B Garrett Hampson (R) (.796)
C Chris Iannetta (R) (.730)
Distribution: Right (62.5%), Left (37.5%)
Average OPS: 826.625
2B Ian Kinsler (R) (.681)
3B Manny Machado (R) (.905)
1B Eric Hosmer (L) (.720)
LF Wil Myers (R) (.763)
RF Hunter Renfroe (R) (.805)
CF Franchy Cordero (L) (.746)
SS Luis Urias (R) (.618)
C Austin Hedges (R) (.711)
Distribution: Right (75%), Left (25%)
Average OPS: 743.625
Looking at it from the perspective of line-up protection, Machado, who is essentially stepping out into the unknown, will have considerably less protection in his new line-up than Arenado, who is already comfortable in his environment, is expected to have. Now consider Machado’s mentality: If he struggles, and his confidence goes down, he’s less likely to put in the extra work to correct it, meaning poor performance in 2019 seems likely to conjure up negative press and “bust” labels, and we’ve seen how Machado handles situations of that nature. It is certainly plausible that a poor 2019 could turn him off to an extent, hurting his production.
While one could argue that the assessment of San Diego’s line-up is unfair based on their status as a “re-building team,” but of the eight guys, four of them are below six years of service and two of them are actually above the mean.
Furthermore, prospects are never a sure thing, therefore, while Francisco Mejia and Fernando Tatis could improve the line-up significantly, it’s unfair to consider that to be fact, and should also be noted that they won’t be in the line-up until mid-to-late 2019, and as many young players do, would take some time to adjust to the majors. Assuming the pair do work out and meet expectations, it wouldn’t be fair to consider them to be catalysts until Opening Day 2020 at the earliest.
I believe that the Nolan Arenado extension will prove to be the more prudent of the two hot corner contracts based on environment and contract breakdown. The fact that Arenado’s deal is front-loaded and contains an opt-out that is no guarantee to be triggered, even with strong performance, as well as his level of familiarity with the environment of Coors, give this deal the edge over Manny’s. This is not to say that the Machado deal is guaranteed to be a disaster, but I would consider the probability of the Arenado deal producing a favorable result than the Machado deal.