An open letter from a Detroit Tigers fan to general manager Al Avila about high-profile free agent infielder Manny Machado.
Dear Mr. Avila,
I hope this letter finds you well. Are you getting ready for the hot stove? Hopefully you’ve taken a cue from former analyst Rod Allen in talking up some of your players. Make sure to emphasize how “sharp” Jordan Zimmerman looked at times last season, and how “consistent” Alex Wilson is at throwing strikes. Maybe even dangle Nick Castellanos in front of the Astros.
Offseason trades will be big for the Tiger rebuild, but free agency is key. Sign the right guys, and dangle them at the deadline like they’re the missing piece for a contender. Hopefully at least a couple prospects turn into something to speed up the rebuild. Sign the wrong guys, and you will easily add two or more years to an already long rebuild. Are you getting ready for free agency?
Free agency rumors are already ramping up, and it’s mostly around two players: Bryce Harper, and Manny Machado. Harper to the Tigers is like the equivalent of Pete Kozma hitting forty dingers next year, not going to happen. He’s expensive, you’re already set in the outfield, and spacious right field in Comerica is going to sap him of some of his power. Just ask fellow free agent signee Prince Fielder (more on him later).
That leaves Manny Machado. The Tigers have a gaping hole at shortstop. If you look at the current 40 man roster, Kozma is most likely the starter. That’s terrifying, even for a rebuilding team. You look at Machado’s age. Yes, he is only 26, has playoff experience, and can play an above-average third base and shortstop. A 26 year old is definitely someone you can build around, but it has to be the right 26 year old. Manny Machado is not that guy.
The right free agent signing for the Tigers has to be affordable enough to be traded at the deadline, because even with a top free agent, the Tigers are going to be really, really bad in 2019. Machado will be expensive, and it WILL cost an arm and a leg to get him. The highest paid shortstop is currently Troy Tulowitzki, who didn’t play a game in 2018, but will make 20 million dollars (!!) in 2019. Yikes. The scary thing is, with the Yankees, Cubs, and Phillies interested in Machado, you can expect a big bidding war to win Machado’s services. Expect his yearly salary to easily top 20 million. What’s the difference between these three teams, and the Detroit Tigers? They’re in win-now mode, and are only a couple pieces away from being a favorite to win it all in October. In addition, Machado will most likely be looking for a long term deal, probably with a fancy no-trade clause that prohibits the Tigers from trading him to certain teams in the MLB. Machado is coveted enough, has virtually zero injury history, and is young enough to get that kind of deal in the market.
An ideal Tiger free agent signing has to have a presence in the clubhouse. The Tigers are going to let the kids play in 2019, and any veteran presence in the clubhouse needs to be a positive influence for them. Castellanos, even with his defensive shortcomings, is by all accounts a great leader. Manny Machado is not. He’s selfish. He has stated multiple times that he will not move to third base in free agency, even though he has won two gold gloves there. In addition, who can forget his lack of hustle in the World Series? Young guys will look up to Machado wherever he goes. Imagine Christin Stewart jogging after a routine fly ball in left field, or Jacoby Jones in his home run trot after a hard hit double that doesn’t quite clear the wall. That’s the risk you take on when you sign a guy like Manny Machado.
Finally, an ideal free agent must be able to adapt to playing at Comerica Park. Remember Prince Fielder? He was one of the best power hitters in the game when Dave Dombrowski signed him. Two years before we signed him, he hit 46 home runs for the Brewers. He hit 55 home runs TOTAL in his two seasons with the Tigers. Machado will also have very little protection hitting around him in the lineup. Besides Castellanos, and what’s left of Miguel Cabrera, there are no other proven threats in the Tiger batting order. Machado’s power numbers may look shiny on paper, but I can personally guarantee you that Machado will not hit 35 home runs during any season in a Tiger uniform. He may not even hit 30!
Al, you did a good job last season with signing cheap free agents that filled holes while the kids received some much-needed seasoning in the minors. We even snagged a top ten prospect for Leonys Martin. Leonys Martin! The guy is a career .248 hitter, and is injury prone. Make more of those types of signings, please. Let the win-now teams battle it out for Machado. He is simply not a good fit here. There’s another team that put way too much money on their core players, are stuck in mediocrity, with very little light at the end of the tunnel. They play their home games a couple blocks from you. Yes, the Detroit Pistons. Ever since they signed Andre Drummond, who was younger than Machado at the time, to a five-year, 127 million dollar deal in 2016, the Pistons have not ranked higher than 19th in overall attendance. Do not become the baseball version of them. I’ll end my rank with a pop reference. In the wise words of Ariana Grande, just say “thank you, next” to Manny Machado if he, for whatever reason, expresses interest in signing with the Tigers.
A concerned lifelong Tiger fan.