Expert MLB Handicapping: Does Machado Make Padres a Contender?
The Padres are, theoretically at least, in the midst of a long rebuild. It has certainly been long - they haven't made the playoffs since 2006 and haven't even had a winning season since 2011. They have been taking the slow route, gradually building a farm system that ranks as the best in baseball right now. But this spring they started playing a whole new game, splashing out basically all the money in the world to land Manny Machado for what should be the rest of his career. It's a bold move, and it has brought more attention to the Padres than they have had in a very long time. Not that that's hard - honestly, think about the last time you had more than a passing thought about the team.
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Machado has changed the perception of this team. And now bettors need to adjust how they are going to deal with this team. And that's not going to be easy. For so long it has been all but impossible to underestimate this team. Now overestimating them would be too easy to do. Here are four things that will be important to keep in mind as this season gets rolling and we learn to deal with the new Padres reality.
1. Machado doesn't walk on water. Machado is a very good player. He will be a contender for NL MVP for the next several years. He's worth the money - at least as much as anyone is. But he's only one guy. And baseball is a sport, as much as any, that needs far more than just one guy. San Diego is working on a process, and it's going to take time. There seems to be a trend when a team signs a guy who is better than their fans are used to. The expectations start out ridiculously high. But when the transformation isn't instant and dramatic, those same people become frustrated, even hostile. Machado makes this team better, but they won only 66 games last year. Good teams don't win 66 games, so there is a lot of work to do - more than just adding one superstar. Machado was signed to help this team now and to be at the center of a contender in a few years. Don't make the mistake of rushing those expectations.
2. Kids take time. There is a whole lot of talent coming up with this team. Fernando Tatis Jr. is the top prospect in the National League, and the hopes are that he and Machado will be a pair on the left side of the infield for the next decade. He's a special talent. But he also has never played above AA. He'll see the majors this year, but not right away. The team has an embarrassment of pitching talent as well, along with more. But pitchers take a long time to be truly ready, and other players only come along when they are ready. Having a great farm system is a very good thing. But the worst thing you can do is rush it. Patience is going to be very important. The team knows this, and that's part of the reason why they locked Machado up for 10 years, not two. Bettors need to remember it, too.
3. The rotation is a work in progress. Joey Lucchesi threw in 26 games last year as a rookie, going 8-9 with a 4.08 ERA. Not great - though acceptable enough for a young guy on a lousy team. The issue is that, at this point, Lucchesi tops the depth chart in this rotation. And if you don't know much about the rest of the likely opening-week starters, you are far from alone. Three years from now this is going to be a good rotation - potentially a really good one if the young guys keep coming along. But it will take time to get there, and there could be some rough times this year.
4. Expectations are still modest. I've seen a fair bit of talk about this team potentially making some noise in the NL West race, or at least the wild card race. It's important to remember, though, that oddsmakers aren't seeing it that way. The season win total at BetOnline is set at just 78.5 wins. That is well above the 66 wins of last year, but still below .500. The Machado move puts this team on the right trajectory, but they are still at the beginning of the curve. They are still very much an outsider team - a long shot - despite this addition. They are at +2200 to win the National League. That only puts them ahead of teams that are very likely to be awful - San Francisco, Cincinnati, Arizona, Pittsburgh and Miami.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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