St. Louis Cardinals: Manny Machado, elite or really good

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 11: Manny Machado
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 11: Manny Machado /

Recently, the St. Louis Cardinals were one of the leading teams interested in trading for Baltimore Orioles’ third baseman Manny Machado. Is he actually the elite player most people make him out to be?

Manny Machado is overrated. There, I said it. Most of you are probably saying to yourself, “This guy is an idiot.” I’m glad the St. Louis Cardinals didn’t overpay for him. Hear me out.

First, let me point out I think Machado is a good (maybe very good) player. However, he is not an elite player in my opinion. I do not think he will be worth the $400 million contract he is supposedly going to sign next year in free agency. Here’s why:

Last season, he hit .259/.310/.471 which equals a .782 OPS. That was 82nd in all of baseball! Whit Merrifield, Cesar Hernandez (who’s that?), and Jed Lowrie all had a higher OPS last season. All four Cardinals infielders had a better OPS.

His career triple slash is .279/.329/.476 which equals a .805 OPS. According to FanGraphs, that ranks 60th in baseball since he entered the league in 2012.

Out of his five full seasons (2013-2017), he has only had an OPS over .800 twice. In 2015 and 2016, he had an OPS of .861 and .876, respectively. Those are both big years. I’ll give you Machado lovers that.

Just among third basemen, his career OPS ranks 12th from 2012-2017. He’s had two huge years, but his overall offensive body of work doesn’t scream elite player to me. Is this worth $300-400 million?

I will concede some points before you all start arguing with me:

First, he has played unbelievable defense at third base. He ranks 2nd behind Nolan Arenado in defensive runs saved at third base from 2012-2017. This is where most of his values lies – his defensive ability. This is why he has 24.7 fWAR from 2013-2017 (2013 was his first full season), which ranks 7th in baseball during that span.

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However, 35 of his 81 career defensive runs saved came in one season. First of all, 35 DRS in one season is incredible.

But, his DRS totals have decreased the past three seasons – 14, to 13, to six. Those are still good numbers but definitely not the elite totals from early in his career.

Second, he hits for power. During the last three seasons, he has home runs totals of 35, 37, and 33. Those 105 home runs rank 8th in baseball in those three seasons.

I would argue that he has bulked up a bit to increase his power, which has accounted for the average of 35 home runs the past three years. But, that has cost him some defensive range which would account for the declining defense.

Machado has had three seasons with 6+ fWAR – 2013, 2015, and 2016. In 2013, it was largely because of his 35 DRS. He only had a .746 OPS and a 102 OPS+ (100 is average. Therefore, 102 means he was 2% better than average). In 2015 and 2016 he had monster offensive seasons coupled with pretty good defense. But, last year he was only worth 2.8 fWAR. Matt Carpenter was worth 2.9.

Machado also wants to play shortstop. Anyone that knows anything about baseball knows that shortstop and third base are much different. Shortstops have way more balls hit at them for one. I cannot definitively say that he will be worse defensively at shortstop. But, I cannot imagine his defensive value will increase.

I’ve read and heard many fans argue Marcell Ozuna was worth the trade to the Cardinals because of the season he had last year. I, as a Cardinals fan, hope that he continues to have years like he did in 2017 and not like his career numbers. The same logic can be used to argue against Manny Machado. He is not worth the giant trade package because of the year he had in 2017.

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Maybe Machado will have another monster year in 2018 and sign the huge contract. If he has another 6+ WAR year, one could argue he is worth the money. Maybe he’ll have another so-so year, sign a huge contract, and be overpaid. Who knows. But, his body of work up to this point doesn’t impress me as much as most people. It’s definitely not worth $400 million. Thanks for reading.