The Pittsburgh Pirates run their organization like a business, maybe more so than any other sports franchise. So let’s look at a Machado signing from a business perspective first.
Machado would probably cost about 30 million a season for roughly 4-6 years. The FO has stated many times the dangers of signing such contracts, and are extremely adverse to allocating that much of their payroll to one player. That being said, signing Machado would put the current payroll at about 100 million. This is not an overly high payroll even for the Pirates, as they’ve been at or near 100 million only a few short years ago. This would also still place them last in their division by roughly 10-15 million.
The key to a Pirates/Machado signing would be trade clauses. The Pirates would have to insist on having full trade rights. This would allow them the ability to cut bait on this contract if they got cold feet a few years in. Manny’s age and skill set make him very unlikely to have a steep drop in production and performance over the next few years, thus reducing the risk of his contract becoming unmovable.
Now what would the financial benefits to a Machado signing be? For starters it would boost fan interest and attendance. This obviously has a direct affect on revenue, but it also affects marketing. This would all but ensure the Pirates get the best possible TV contract and stadium licensing. This is the key. TV contracts are the most important revenue stream to a baseball team, and are what separate usually separate good/avarage/bad teams. Many people, myself included, think the Archer and Kela trades were made with this in mind. A Machado signing would almost definitely pay itself off from the TV deal many times over.
Now to the on-field side of this. Signing Machado would be a gamble, but one that I believe gives the Pirates the best chance to win. Short is the single most important position on the field, because of the defensive responsibilities. Teams will field SS that have little to zero bat, simply because of their glove. Finding a SS who can hit, while still fielding at an even avarage rate, is like hitting the lottery.
Machado is at least an avarage/above average defender at SS. I know some will argue that he’s bad, but I think the MM we saw in LA is a more accurate representation. He has the arm, range, and athletic build, and was good there before moving to 3B. I really think the situation in Baltimore affected him negatively.
While some may question Manny’s defense, no one questions his bat. Offensively he is about as complete a player as your likely to find. It’s very likely that if Machado signs with an NL club, he and Goldy will battle for the MVP on a yearly basis.
So how would Manny fit into the Pirates lineup, well in a word, perfectly! He would instantly make Polanco, Bell, Marte and others better. Because people would have to respect Machado’s bat so much, everyone around him in the lineup would instantly see better pitches. Just like Cutch in his prime, Machado would raise the production of the hitters around him simply by his presence.
Now the Pirates would still need several things to break their way to truly contend, but I think this is their best chance. The Pirates have a very good, very young pitching staff. It’s not unreasonable to think that they could blossom into one of the best rotations in the NL. The BP could also be phenomenal, and still relatively cheep for the next few years. The lineups best players are probably nearing the end of their Pittsburgh careers, but Marte, Polanco, and Cervelli could be kept for at least this year and some for next. The team really needs Kang to return to form, and if he does he will be gone in a year, but Hayes is close.
In in my opinion, signing Machado makes all the sense in the world, and is maybe the best and only hope of the Pirates contending anytime soon!