LOS ANGELES — This is a celebrated World Series overflowing with perennial All-Stars, MVPs, Cy Young winners and future Hall of Famers, but no one is captivating America’s attention like Manny Machado.
We’re mesmerized by his every move. Will he blast a home run or strikeout? Sprint to first base or jog? Make gestures to incite the opposing crowd or show no reaction?
All we know is this: Soon, he will be the richest player in baseball history.
Machado, whose bad boy image has been on full display this postseason, is entering free agency as one of the hottest commodities on the market, along with Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have shown no indication they will try to re-sign Machado, and even if they entertained the notion when they gave up six prospects to acquire him from the Baltimore Orioles at the July 31 trade deadline, it’s vanished now. They have seen the warts and blemishes that have been exposed underneath the infielder's worldly talent.
Machado's sins just this month include kicking Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar in the leg, saying he'll never be “Johnny Hustle’’ during a pregame interview on Fox after refusing to run hard to first base, and making lewd gestures on the field.
There are only a few teams willing to spend at least $300 million for the mercurial star and villain of this postseason. The New York Yankees are the front-runners, while the Philadelphia Phillies also plan to be in the bidding.
When he ultimately signs his deal, it will surpass Dodgers teammate and three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw’s annual average salary of $34 million. It will eclipse Boston Red Sox starter David Price’s $217 million contract. And it will certainly dwarf Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez’s $110 million deal.
“I do know this,’’ says former third baseman Alex Rodriguez, now an analyst for Fox Sports and ESPN, “I’m very, very bullish on long-term stock on Manny Machado. If owners or front offices try to judge his character by the handful of things that he’s done, that’s a huge mistake.
“Whoever signs him will win big. Real big.’’
Gold Glove defense, power hitting
In a USA TODAY survey of 20 Major League Baseball General Managers, executives, and scouts, not a single person believes Machado’s behavior will cause any team to lose interest.
There have been some red flags. The Phillies, who extensively scouted Machado, were wary of his lack of effort down the stretch. Others wondered how his signing would be perceived by their fan base. But most believe giving Machado a support team, to keep his focus on his performance and squelch any tendency to be rebellious when criticized, would qualm any fears.
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