The San Diego Padres on Tuesday with free-agent infielder Manny Machado. The 26-year-old slugger who's capable of manning shortstop was one of the most coveted free agents ever, and there's no doubt he improves the Padres' fortunes.
As you can see, he's not expected to move the 2019 needle as much as you might think. This is mostly because it's generally overstated how much difference any single player can make in a sport like baseball. While I'll take the over on that 1.9 wins added -- Machado improves what was a dismal infield situation in San Diego -- the general point that the Padres remain playoff longshots in the here and now passes the smell test.
Now that we've seen the Padres' outlook for 2019, let's take a look at the remainder of the NL West for the season to come. These SportsLine projections ran prior to the reported Machado signing, but as you've surmised from the above numbers they haven't changed much:
|Team||Projected wins||Win division||Make playoffs|
Even with Machado, SportsLine still expects the Padres to finish in last place. Even if you disagree with the extent and the specifics, Machado doesn't make them competitive on paper with the likes of the Dodgers. The Dodgers, after all, have won six straight NL West crowns, have claimed back-to-back pennants, and last season played like a 102-win team at the level of runs scored and runs allowed. SportsLine is bullish on the Dodgers for good reasons.
The Machado signing, though, isn't about 2019. Machado is just 26 years of age -- uncommonly young for a free agent -- and that youth in tandem with his established value means he fits the Padres' near-, mid-, and long-term goals. Speaking of those mid- and long-term goals, the Padres will soon surround Machado (and Eric Hosmer, provided he finds his way back to usefulness) with perhaps the best collection of young talent in all of baseball.
Shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. is in the discussion for top prospect in the game today, and he's slated to open the season at Triple-A. He'll arrive soon thereafter. Luis Urias is a consensus top-25 guy, and he's likely the Padres' long-term answer at second base. Francisco Mejia, obtained via trade with the Indians last season, is generally regarded as the top catching prospect in the game right now, and then there's a borderline indecent collection of high-ceiling arms fronted by Mackenzie Gore. Then there's the fact that the Padres will pick No. 6 in the June draft. Then there's the strong possibility that they wind up with another high pick in 2020. Throw in ownership's increasing willingness to spend and GM A.J. Preller's willingness to act aggressively, and everything's coming together for the Padres.
To be sure, the Dodgers' crop of young talent is not to be dismissed, and they of course have vast coffers. The Padres, though, figure to topple them from their perch, possibly as soon as 2020. Machado will be a vital part of that when it happens. The possibility that the Rockies will let Nolan Arenado walk after 2019 would seem to improve San Diego's future outlook.
Basically, if you're dismayed by the modest outlook of the Machado-era Padres in 2019, don't be. The baseball future in San Diego is uncommonly bright, and the Machado signing is merely the most conspicuous part of that future.