Back in the olden days, when people used to do things like ring doorbells and read magazines, there was a magazine company that was known for ringing people’s doorbells and giving them a million bucks. I’m not really sure of the particulars, not because I forget them, but because nobody was ever really sure of them. Back then, a million dollars was a lot of money, and there weren’t a lot of ways for an honest working man to acquire such a sum. We didn’t have YouTube or reality TV or InstaSnap. You won a game show, you’d be lucky to walk away with $2,600 and a trip to Myrtle Beach during off-peak season. You ever been to Myrtle Beach during off-peak season? It’s like Allentown-by-the-Sea.
These days, they’ll give you a million dollars if your dog breaks wind in the right key, provided there’s video proof. The olden days? We had the lottery, and we had Publishers Clearing House.
What was Publishers Clearing House? Glad you asked. If you find out, be sure to let the rest of us know. All anybody ever understood was that they had a television camera and balloons and a van that looked like it was designed by the guy who finished last in his class at the FBI’s undercover academy. Each year, they would film these commercials where they would pull up in front of somebody’s house and file out of the van and giddily scramble up onto the unsuspecting prize winner’s porch … which, in those days, were not considered to be grounds for a lethal response on the part of the homeowner.
So, you’d be watching 60 Minutes or the evening news or some other forum where old people tended to congregate and you’d see this television commercial where one guy is holding balloons and another guy is holding a TV camera and a third guy is holding a big, fake cardboard check that said 1 MILLION DOLLARS, as if the first thing out of the mouth of someone who has just won a million dollars might be, “Hey, thanks, but did you guys happen to bring any balloons?”
But that’s neither here nor there. For our purposes, the relevant gentleman is Guy No. 3, the one holding the big fake cardboard check that says 1 MILLION DOLLARS. Except, instead of it saying 1 MILLION DOLLARS, pretend that it says 400 MILLION DOLLARS. And pretend that the guy holding it is either John Middleton or Matt Klentak (with the other one holding the balloons). I think you see where this is going. If not, I’ll give you a hint: They aren’t standing outside Pedro Florimon’s house.
No, the question we are about to answer is the question that was teased in the headline, and if that question was a door, it would be a door that is opened by one Manuel Arturo Machado, and then it would be immediately slammed shut. Perhaps that’s a jarring image — pun fully intended — but it’s one that needs to be visualized by anybody who thinks that acquiring the Orioles’ once-in-a-generation infielder and locking him up for the long haul is a simple matter of a team choosing to meet some hypothetical asking price.
Take a close look at the last 15 years of trade and free-agent markets and apply a little bit of critical reasoning and you should arrive at the conclusion that the only thing a trade for Machado would get the Phillies is two-to-three months of best-in-the-game offensive production at shortstop. That, and maybe a personalized Thank You note should he decide to sign elsewhere next offseason.
Unless Machado fell head over heels for his teammates, or his organization, or the city of Philadelphia, he would enter free agency the same way he would have had he remained with the Orioles. In theory, any or all of the three scenarios are possible. I love this city as much as the next person. But let’s be honest with ourselves. Two months might be enough time for Machado to fall in love with it, but it’s also enough time for him to spend 31 minutes in a 30-minute loading zone and end up in an epic argument with a PPA attendant after which the only option to alleviate his sense of total powerlessness is to forsake the city of Philadelphia and deprive it of HOF-level offensive production at a premium position for however long the Phillies would have paid him to provide it. I’m not sure exactly how the probabilities of the two scenarios compare, but I am sure of the depths of the human soul that the PPA has the unique bureaucratic power to unlock.
But what were we talking about?
Right, Machado. Forget about a window to negotiate a contract extension as a contingency for any trade. Short of equity in the team, there is virtually nothing the Phillies could offer Machado that would prompt agent Dan Lozano to advise that there will be no better offer out there on the open market. This is self-evident. If the Phillies are willing to offer X now, they will be willing to offer X later, and, thus, accepting X now requires forfeiting the possibility of another team offering X+1 without any corresponding diminishment in risk. This is why midseason extensions for rent-a-players do not happen. Yu Darvish didn’t sign one. David Price didn’t sign one, Aroldis Chapman signed back up with the team that traded him. And those guys were pitchers.
This is especially true in Machado’s case. Not since Alex Rodriguez in 2001 has a player with HOF-level production at a middle-infield position reached free agency in his mid-20s. Rodriguez signed a 10-year contract worth an average annual salary that was 21 percent of the luxury-tax threshold that went into effect in 2003. That would be the equivalent of $43.1 million per year now. Nobody should be surprised if Machado’s asking price starts with a 5 this offseason. It’s not just a matter of the skill he supplies, but the demand he’ll enjoy: Every team in the majors has been preparing its payroll for next offseason, and, given his defensive versatility, every team in the league has an open spot in the lineup for him.
It’s virtually impossible to project what kind of contract the market will bear. Which makes it virtually impossible to re-sign him midseason. But, hey, maybe he likes balloons.