Manny Machado is 26. When Robinson Cano was a free agent, he was 31. But the Chicago White Sox should use the Seattle Mariners signing Cano in 2013 as a model for caution when it concerns putting the full-court press on bringing Machado to the Windy City.
Five offseasons ago, Cano was the premier free agent on the open market and understandably so. He was the best second baseman and one of the most talented all-around players in Major League Baseball. In fact, in his walk year (2013), Cano led the New York Yankees in batting average (.314), home runs (27), RBIs (107), on-base percentage (.383), and hits (190). He was also viewed, at that point in time, as the Yankees’ best player. Now, was Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Curtis Granderson combining for just 486 at-bats a vital reason why Cano was such a prominent individual to the Yankees’ well-being in 2013? Sure, but given how he was the only All-Star hitting threat in their lineup, you could say it makes Cano’s production extraordinary; he was a one-man wrecking crew.
At the end of the day, Cano was at the top of his game in 2013; the Yankees and the rest of MLB knew it. He had one of the sweetest swings in the sport, was smooth in the field, a star personality, and the Yankees’ best player. He was Yankees’ royalty and a driving force to their 2009 World Series championship. It was a no-brainer: the Yankees would move heaven and earth to keep Cano, right? Well, fun story here.
The Yankees wanted to keep Cano, and they had the dollar signs to prove it. Offering him a seven-year, $175 million deal, the Yankees made a competent offer to keep the second baseman in the Bronx. The problem? Over 2,500 miles away from New York City was the Mariners who wanted a facelift. They decided to bring a 10-year, $240 million deal to the table. It shocked many, and to watch the Yankees get severely outbid for their own player was captivating in itself. And money talks, whether it’s in the Big Apple or Seattle; Cano took the money and ran. Who can blame him?In pursuing Manny Machado, the @whitesox should remind themselves of the deal the Mariners and Robinson Cano agreed to before dishing out a similar long-term deal.Click To Tweet
So, why didn’t the most successful and one of the most wealthy franchises in sports not match, or retain their own star player? Cano was 31 when he inked this deal. He was in the prime of his career and, in all likelihood, it was going to be his only chance to cash in on a nine-figure contract. At some point, every player begins to regress and/or produce at a lower rate, and when you start creeping into your 30s, teams are going to pause when it comes to dishing out a contract over five years — no matter the player. The Yankees still decided to offer Cano a seven-year deal.
The reality of the situation was that the Yankees didn’t need Cano as much as the Mariners. The Yankees are a lure to any player based on pedigree, New York City, and success that can be boasted about for days; they would’ve been able to replace Cano and didn’t need to give him a contract that would’ve watched him make $24 million a year at age 40. In fact, in that same offseason, the Yankees agreed to hefty deals with Masahiro Tanaka (seven-year, $155 million deal), Jacoby Ellsbury (seven-year, $153 million deal), Brian McCann (five-year, $85 million deal), and Carlos Beltran (three-year, $45 million deal).
In the first four years of his contract, Cano was the player the Mariners signed him to be. He was durable, a contact machine, and a steady force at the middle infield position. Recording batting averages of .314, .287, .298, and .280 while totaling 97 home runs and 361 RBIs and appearing in 150-plus games a season in that time span, Cano was a reliable source of offense. Last season was a complex year for Cano. He was suspended 80 games by MLB for the use of PEDs and traded to the New York Mets in a multi-player deal this offseason which included the Mariners paying $20 million of the remaining money on his deal. Cano was moved in an effort to clear payroll and get younger just halfway through his contract.
The Mariners never made the playoffs with Cano in place. Today, they’re paying him to play for the Mets. Cano hit .303 while totaling 10 home runs and 50 RBIs in just 80 games last season, but he’s 36, and there are questions as to whether his best days are behind him — though his play hasn’t yet suggested such a notion. Regardless of modern-day production, no one looks back on the Mariners signing Cano and says it was a worthwhile contract; the Mariners gave him no choice but to sign with them because they had the best offer on the table. And how’d it turn out?
That brings us to the Machado parallel.
Today, Machado is one of the best players in MLB and co-headlines a deep free agent class alongside outfielder Bryce Harper. He’s easily the best infielder on the open market and his production backs that up. In each of the last four seasons, Machado has totaled 33-plus home runs and 86-plus RBIs while appearing in 156 or more games. He’s also a career .282 hitter. In the field, Machado has executed some highlight reel putouts. He has a cannon for an arm, is adept at fielding groundballs off his backhand, and capable of playing both third base and shortstop.
Right now, there appears to be at least two teams that are heavily invested in Machado’s free agency: the Philadelphia Phillies and White Sox. Many felt the Yankees would be the frontrunner to sign Machado, but after signing second baseman DJ LeMahieu and, in actuality, never truly needing a middle infielder, it appears they won’t be the 26-year-old’s next home. Meanwhile, the Phillies have a boatload of money they can spend, but according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, Machado supposedly doesn’t want to play in Philadelphia. That leaves the White Sox.
The White Sox are fresh off a 62-win season and haven’t made the postseason since 2008. Even if the White Sox signed Machado, they’re probably not going to the playoffs in 2019. Sure, they have some intriguing young players such as Yoan Moncada, Tim Anderson, and Daniel Palka, as well as the power-hitting Jose Abreu. They also have steadily improving right-hander Reynaldo Lopez and, if he can rehab from Tommy John surgery, Michael Kopech projects to have a bright future on the hill. But, all in all, this is a young ballclub that, barring a significant amount of prolific additions, is multiple years away from competing for the playoffs.
With that said, it appears as if the White Sox may be the most likely landing spot for Machado. They were mentioned as a potential trade suitor last offseason, and it appears that interest has rekindled itself this winter. ESPNs Jeff Passan reported Sunday night that the White Sox have offered the infielder an eight-year deal. If that’s the case, it shows the White Sox are serious about signing Machado, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that their offer could increase.
The White Sox don’t give Machado the best chance to win. Yes, the American League Central was the worst division in MLB in 2018 (it finished with a combined record of 353-457), but the White Sox have a flawed roster. If Machado signs with them it will be because they offered the best contract, or they were his only option. Meanwhile, if Machado decides he wants to become the face of the White Sox, he could pitch them on increasing their offer based on how he would, in theory, put them back on the map. If that transpires, the White Sox should resist.
Machado is a superb player and talent, but no one team should feel compelled to go to extremes to sign him. Whether it be the six and a half years he spent with the Baltimore Orioles, or his time with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2018, Machado hasn’t run out groundballs often, has been categorized, by some, as lazy, and the lack of hustle can be repulsive. In fact, the same notion surrounds Cano. Whether it be with the Yankees or Mariners, the second baseman has, at times, been ridiculed for dogging groundballs.
Giving Machado a significant long-term deal is a smaller risk than it was with Cano given that he’s 26 and Cano was 31. A decade from now, Machado may still be a great player, but there’s no reason for a team who is years away from posing a threat to embark on a forced marriage. Now, that doesn’t mean the White Sox shouldn’t want Machado. Heck, if he took the offer that’s supposedly on the table, it would be an incredible transaction for the White Sox organization.
Machado is a franchise caliber player, as was Cano when he hit free agency. But the White Sox shouldn’t go to extremes to convince a player to sign with them like the Mariners did with Cano; it can have long-term repercussions.