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Manny Machado is off the board, what does that mean for the New York Mets?

Soon after Manny Machado made public that he was going to opt out of his contract at the end of this season to become a free agent, the San Diego Padres made him an offer that ensured he would never get to that point. Machado reportedly agreed to an 11-year, $350 million extension that ensures he'll remain with the Padres for the foreseeable future, if not for the rest of his MLB career.

When Machado talked about opting out, speculation was that the Mets would be one of the teams that would go hard after him. It made sense not only because of the presence of Steve Cohen's checkbook, not only because of the potential hole to fill at third base, but because Machado had played for Mets manager Buck Showalter in Baltimore and had nothing but glowing platitudes for Buck when he was hired in New York.

Now that Machado is off the board, what does that mean for the Mets going forward? With Brett Baty emerging as a legit prospect, the Mets aren't in dire straits when it comes to covering third base next season. Baty may not be a defensive whiz yet but he can hit, and there are few doubts he can come in and fill the position, perhaps as soon as this season.

If Baty does prove capable, it would make the loss of a potential Machado signing a mere shrug of the shoulders. If he can't take the baton from incumbent Eduardo Escobar, the Mets have several internal options at third base. They could try Mark Vientos or Ronny Mauricio there or exercise a $9 million club option on Escobar.

But what this really means in the big picture is that Juan Soto is firmly in play for the Mets when he becomes a free agent after 2024. I've always felt this since the Mets have been agreeing to free agent contracts for the most part that end after the 2024 season.

Now with Machado's signing, the questions about whether the Padres can afford Soto, Machado and Fernando Tatis will move front and center. I wouldn't discount that the Padres will try to keep all three. But if Soto seeks $500 million when he's a free agent heading into his age 26 season, that might be too rich for the Padres' blood. We can be reasonably sure that Cohen would barely blink at the prospect of adding a 26-year-old stud outfielder with a limitless ceiling for a half billion dollars.

So, the Padres retained Machado and kept him away from the Mets. But that move appears to open the door for the Mets to swoop in and sign Soto away from the Padres after the 2024 season.

With Baty likely holding down third base for years to come, this is a trade-off that works in the Mets favor.

Photo: Mark Rosenman

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