Padres extending Manny Machado could be fatal blow to NL contender

Feb 24, 2023; Peoria, Arizona, USA; San Diego Padres third baseman Manny Machado (13) talks to an
Feb 24, 2023; Peoria, Arizona, USA; San Diego Padres third baseman Manny Machado (13) talks to an / Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

The San Diego Padres sent a statement to MLB over the weekend when they signed Manny Machado to an 11-year, $350 million contract.

While Machado and the Padres failed to ink an agreement before the player's self-imposed deadline, the front office simply wasn't going to allow Machado to reach free agency after he revealed his intentions to opt out after 2023.

Not many teams could have even afforded Machado -- especially if he turned in another MVP-caliber campaign in '23 -- but clubs like the Mets, Dodgers, Giants and Cubs absolutely would've been keen to sign the star third baseman.

It stands to reason that the Mets would've been San Diego's foremost competition for Machado's signature. Steve Cohen has spent money at an historic rate since he became team owner, and he's likely still annoyed after New York's 10-year, $315 million agreement with Carlos Correa fell by the wayside.

As things stand, the Mets have a gaping hole at third base, and it could prove to be their biggest pitfall in 2023 when all is said and done.

Padres might've royally screwed the Mets by extending Manny Machado

In theory, the Mets third base outlook went from Carlos Correa, to Manny Machado, and back to a platoon of Brett Baty and Eduardo Escobar.

Though Baty is the No. 17- ranked prospect in baseball, per, he took his lumps in his first big league action flling in for the injured Escobar last season. In 11 games, Baty hit .184/.244/.342 with two homers and five RBI. He conceded the role back to Escobar, who hit a lowly .213 before winning Player of the Month for September.

A team with World Series aspirations should have consistent production from its third basemen. The Padres have Machado, the Braves have Austin Riley, and the Dodgers had Justin Turner during their run of trips to the Fall Classic. The Astros have had Alex Bregman, who's somehow become underrated, manning the hot corner.

The Mets have ample talent at other positions, but losing out on Correa and now Machado paints a grim picture of what could've been. A big bat is exactly what's holding New York back from being the World Series favorite, and the Padres delivered a death knell to those hopes by extending Machado.

Cohen and company could pivot to Shohei Ohtani next offseason, but the free agent class is slim pickings in terms of sluggers aside from the Angels two-way sensation. With Machado off the board, 2024 has suddenly become Ohtani or bust for the Mets, and multiple teams will contend for Ohtani's services.

Getting Machado signed benefits the Padres beyond belief and extends their wide-open championship window. That's most important. At the same time, though, it has to feel pretty good for fans that the move could live to screw one of the NL's other contenders.

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