7:02 AM ET
ESPN MLB insider
Author of “The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports”
Earlier this spring, as San Diego Padres players were starting to dream about just how transformative the 2019 season could be for a franchise in eternal hibernation, Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer set up a dinner with Ron Fowler. Machado is the Padres’ newly minted $300 million third baseman, Hosmer their $144 million first baseman and Fowler the owner who greenlit their signings. Machado and Hosmer had a proposal.
As counterintuitive as it was for the Padres, the definition of a small-market team, to guarantee almost half a billion dollars to two free agents, what Machado and Hosmer were asking was nearly as gauche: Open the season with 20-year-old Fernando Tatis Jr. as the team’s starting shortstop. Each had said the same publicly, though it’s easy to posture while understanding the truth: to promote a player of Tatis’ immense talent — and forgo the opportunity to manipulate his service time, thus ensuring one more year of control before he reaches free agency — is seen as organizational malpractice.
Machado and Hosmer did