On Tuesday afternoon, according to multiple sources, Manny Machado and the San Diego Padres reportedly agreed to a 10-year, $300 million contract to bring the superstar to southern California.
The deal comes after an entire calendar year of speculation. Machado and fellow superstar Bryce Harper were the two main targets this summer offseason, as they were two of the highest profile free agents to ever hit the market. The main teams reportedly looking at the duo were the Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies and San Diego Padres.
Harper is yet to sign, much to the chagrin of baseball fans everywhere. However, as a superstar and generational talent in his own right who spent the first seven years of his career on slightly-above-average Washington National teams, Harper has earned his right to assess his options in free agency much like Machado did.
At the end of the day, this is a career for these men, even though it seems like a dream for ordinary people. Harper and Machado, both 26, are in the prime of their careers and set to cash in on the biggest deals of their lives. Machado’s deal—and likely Harper’s—will take him to age 36, provided there is no team or player incited opt-out clause. Although players of the duo’s caliber can still make a large amount of money at that point in their careers, it will not even come close to matching the contract offers at stake now.
What needs to be understood amongst sports fans around the world is that these players have earned the right to assess their options in free agency. Nearly every league has some sort of free agency period built into its Collective Bargaining Agreement. If the league and players did not want this, it would simply not be a thing.
The trials of Harper and Machado receiving media and fan-oriented scrutiny is not limited to them alone, however. The same has happened in other sports as well, including with LeBron James in basketball and John Tavares in hockey.
In the summer of 2010, James took to ESPN in a special televised event entitled “The Decision” to announce where he was signing. James ultimately chose to go to the Miami Heat and leave behind the team that drafted him, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
John Tavares did not make his announcement on live television, but last summer he decided to leave the New York Islanders and join his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs, signing a seven-year, $77 million contract.
Although there are more factors playing in to each story, James and Tavares equally earned their rights to become free agents. Each player poured his soul into an organization for a number of years before assessing what was best for him moving forward. The ethicality of the process can be put into question, but the notion to test free agency cannot.
For Harper, the biggest free agent left on the market, he can look to the past of his athlete counterparts to understand that delving into the world of free agency is a perfectly okay choice.
These players have lives on the line and families to take care of, and fans seem to just throw that aside on the basis of thinking that the players are selfish. In fact, it is the opposite, and those in the likes of Harper have entirely earned this right to explore the world ahead of them and make an informed, self-satisfying decision.
Kevin Kopf can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @KMKTNF.