With the possible exception of the two New York teams, the San Diego Padres might be the most disappointing baseball team of the year. The biggest reason might be the ailing elbow of Manny Machado, the highest-paid player on the team.
The slugging third baseman, suffering from inflammation usually called “tennis elbow,” could even be shut down the minute the Padres are mathematically eliminated from contention.
That could be soon, since San Diego started play Sunday with a 67-76 record, 20 games behind the front-running Los Angeles Dodgers, eight games from the third and final National League wild-card spot, and five-and-a-half games behind the third-place San Francisco Giants in the NL West.
The highest-paid team in the division, the Padres have a payroll of $280,490,527, trailing only the Mets and Yankees, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts.
Machado makes a massive chunk of that, with an annual average stipend of $31,818,182 that is part of his 11-year, $350 million extension, signed in February to replace the last six seasons of his previous contract.
That deal, which contains a full no-trade clause, also includes a $45 million signing bonus, with $10 million payable on Dec. 1 and $5 million each on the same date from 2027-33.
His contract even has periodic raises built in: the MVP Sports client, who donates 1 per cent of his annual salary to charity, will earn $21 million per year in 2026 and $35 million from 2027-33.
The Padres have four other players earning at least $20 million annually in Xander Bogaerts, Fernando Tatís, Jr., Juan Soto, and Joe Musgrove but did not receive much return on their investment.
The team had hoped for much more from Machado, who was runner-up for NL Most Valuable Player honors last season. But he suffered a small hand fracture early in the year and has been plagued by elbow pain since returning.
Machado has spent recent days as a designated hitter, depriving the Padres of his solid defense at third base, and could be sent home early, according to San Diego Union-Tribute beat writer Kevin Acee.
Surgery is even on the table, although adequate rest is often sufficient to resolve tennis elbow pain.
A six-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove recipient, Machado has 319 career home runs, 10 of them in post-season play. The 6-3, 218-pound right-handed hitter has a .251 batting average, far below his .279 lifetime mark, and will wind up playing fewer games this year for the third straight season.
Once the first-round amateur draft pick of the Baltimore Orioles, Machado has never won an MVP award but gave eventual winner Paul Goldschmidt a run for his money in 2022 after hitting .298 with 32 homers and 102 runs batted in. He had two previous 100-RBI seasons.
Even if he doesn’t opt for surgery to fix his ailing elbow, Machado would get an early start on his rehab by leaving the team early and making sure he’s in prime condition for spring training and the 2024 season.
San Diego surprised the baseball world last winter with a wild spending spree in the free-agent market, hoping the addition of Bogaerts and the return of the injured Tatís, Jr. would result in the team’s first pennant since 1998 – or even its first world championship.