PEORIA, Ariz. -- After realizing the San Diego Padres were making no progress in the trade market for a third baseman, general manager A.J. Preller pivoted to the free-agent market. Waiting for him there was one of the premier talents in the game, and the pursuit for Manny Machado began.
"I think there was one morning at the winter meetings where I woke up and I called (assistant GM) Josh Stein at about five in the morning and said 'Let's just sign Machado. Let's go do this,' Preller recalled on Friday after the Padres officially welcomed Machado. "It was probably more of a pipe dream at that point in time but as we went through the winter, and he was still there in January, I started looking at our ability to do something from a payroll standpoint."
The interest was mutual as Machado began doing his homework on the Padres in mid-January and liked what he saw. The result was a record setting deal for a free agent: 10 years, $300 million.
"I liked the game plan, from ownership to front office to the coaching staff to the players," Machado said. "The whole 'shabam' was so perfect."
Machado spoke in a roomful of reporters and Padres personnel at the team's spring stadium in Arizona. He expressed a desire to win over the need to play shortstop. It was a topic the team faced head-on with their new star.
"That was definitely a big part of our conversation, face to face," Preller stated. "The biggest thing he kept coming back to was wanting to win. He said, 'If your best club is someone else at shortstop....I'm open to playing third base.'"
Padres ownership signed off on the huge investment, though the timing may not have been perfect as the team's top-ranked farm system isn't necessarily major league ready. They pounced anyway.
"In a perfect world he would be available next year, but he's not, so you have to do what you think is best for your team, long term," Executive Chairman Ron Fowler said. "We've run the numbers, we know what to expect. We have some conservative projections from our business people, so it's going to be bracketed numbers for a few years in terms of revenues or profitability. We think it's worth it. He's a generational talent."
Though the Chicago White Sox pursuit of Machado included a larger potential total package -- up to $350 million -- Machado chose the Padres, receiving more guaranteed money and turning down the opportunity to play with his brother-in-law, Yonder Alonso.
"Would be a dream come true to play with family," Machado said. "Things happen. Very blessed to be in this position. Very blessed to have an opportunity at both (teams)...I'm proud to be a Padre. At the end of the day this is where I wanted to be, and I'm very happy to be here."
Are the Padres done making moves? Though it seems unlikely they would add another big name this spring -- perhaps outfielder Bryce Harper -- Preller did not dismiss it out of hand.
"We're always open-minded," he said. "Adding Manny was a huge part... We'll continue to look at it. We feel like we have a lot of answers from within."
Fowler added: "There is nothing more important in our professional lives than bringing a championship to the city of San Diego....We're a lot happier than the White Sox right now."