St. Louis Cardinals: How Will the Cardinals Fill Their Third Base Hole?

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John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports /
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St. Louis Cardinals
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

What will it take to get Manny Machado?

Manny Machado is the dream target for the St. Louis Cardinals. He will be only 26 years old at free agency. He’s a bona fide star player. He is a monster upgrade at the team’s biggest position of need, and an annual MVP candidate.

Since debuting in 2012, Machado has played in parts of five seasons, including three full campaigns. Over that time, the former shortstop prospect has solidified his place as the top defensive third baseman in the MLB.

His 70.4 Defensive Runs Above Average since 2013 ranks first among all third baseman. That rating is 16.3 runs better than the next player behind him in that span (Josh Donaldson), despite Machado playing about 900 less innings than Donaldson.

Offensively, Machado has developed into a lineup anchor. Over the last two seasons, Machado owns a .290/.351/.518 line with 72 homers, good for a 132 wRC+. Additionally, he has only a 16.4% strikeout rate, which is excellent for a player with his power.

Machado is likely to get a massive, long-term deal if he hits free agency in the 2018-19 offseason. To project his value, I use his Steamer projection for the upcoming season, and an average aging curve for each year after that. To determine a value in dollars, I use the $/WAR and inflation method described previously.

St. Louis Cardinals
St. Louis Cardinals /

Using the average contract discount rate of 17.7%, I expect his deal to be worth $41.5M per year over ten years. This deal would likely include at least one opt out around Machado’s age-30 season. Over ten years, this contract would be worth more than $400 million. I know that sounds like a crazy amount, but you just don’t see star players hitting free agency at such a young age.

Using the contract discount rate of 28.5%, we get a slightly lower number. Yet, this contract is still worth $36 million annually and $360 million in total.

St. Louis Cardinals
St. Louis Cardinals /

Can the St. Louis Cardinals afford either of these deals?

St. Louis Cardinals
St. Louis Cardinals /

Based on my previous payroll projections, the Cardinals will have plenty of room. I expect them to have between $73M and $80M available, which is enough to make a run at Machado while still filling other team needs.

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