Manny Machado is greatest third baseman in Padres history

Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

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Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Manny Machado has hit a few milestones recently that should earn him the title of best third baseman in Padres history.

When Manny Machado signed with the Padres ahead of the 2019 season, expectations were understandably sky-high.

After a lackluster first season in San Diego, it’s safe to say he has lived up to the hype. Between 2020 and 2022, he turned in two top-three MVP finishes.

Overall, he has a .845 OPS and 133 OPS+ over his Padres career, which are All-Star numbers.

Not only has he maintained his status as one of the best third basemen in the game, but he’s also become the heartbeat of this current Padres era. He’s basically known as the unofficial captain of the squad.

Now it’s time to call him something else – the greatest third baseman in San Diego Padres history.

When seeing that, most fans will immediately think of Ken Caminiti as his stiffest competition for that title. After all, Caminiti did something Machado still has not done a Padres uniform- win an MVP award. Caminiti remains the only MVP winner for the Padres.

Caminiti batted .326 with 40 homers, 130 RBI, and a 1.028 OPS in 1996.

Indeed, Caminiti put together one of the greatest single seasons in Padres history.

Be that as it may, Machado has now surpassed Caminiti in many significant categories in franchise history. And he has put together more solid seasons over an extended period than Caminiti.

Caminiti didn’t have another season where he received any MVP votes in a Padres uniform. Machado has three separate such seasons, with the aforementioned two top-three finishes.

Just before the All-Star break, Machado launched his 122nd home run in a Padres uniform. That passed Caminiti for eighth on the franchise list. He now has 125 and has his sights set on passing Ryan Klesko for seventh. Klesko finished his Padres career with 133.

In fact, Machado now just needs 11 more homers to be fifth in franchise history, with Tony Gwynn currently occupying that spot with 135.

Machado should become the Padres’ all-time home run king in short order, barring disaster. He is 38 homers away. Forecasting that over his career averages, that puts him at reaching that milestone late next season.

It’s not just about homers. Caminiti was a great defensive third-baseman. However, Machado is superior when it comes to  dWAR (2.0) compared to Caminiti (-2.6).

Machado has not yet won a Gold Glove in a Padres uniform, but that is mostly due to Nolan Arenado being in the same league and being more of a media darling.

Machado currently sits at 19.5 career WAR, which is fifth among Padres hitters. He is closing in on Gene Tenace (19.8). Machado could reach as high as third with a solid second half.

That would put him as the best position player in Padres history, not named Tony Gwynn or Dave Winfield.

It’s also not unreasonable to think he will catch Winfield (32.0) someday. Machado’s new 11-year extension ensures he will have ample time to knock down several franchise records.

But this is about third base, where Machado no longer has an equal in San Diego history.

If there is any other Padres third basemen who deserve to be in the conversation, it’s Phil Nevin and Chase Headley. Nevin is currently third in Padres’ history in homers. However, he wasn’t nearly the defender at third Machado is. Plus, he was not exclusively a third baseman in San Diego, playing 368 games at first, catcher, or in the outfield, almost half of his games as a Padre.

Machado has already logged more games at third than Nevin in San Diego, with worlds-better defensive ratings.

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As far as WAR is concerned, Nevin accumulated 17.8 WAR, which Machado has surpassed easily.

Headley has the longevity going for him, and that’s about it. He ranks sixth in franchise history in games played.

Fans remember his insane 2012 season, which turned out to be an anomaly. He hit .286 with 31 homers, an NL-leading 115 RBI, and a 145 OPS+. That earned him a top-five in NL MVP voting.

Had Headley been able to come even close to having a few more seasons of that caliber, this conversation is much more compelling.

However, Machado has 1.3 more WAR despite playing over 300 games less than Headley. Machado is a better overall hitter and defender.

Machado hit his 300th career homer on Saturday in Philadelphia. That makes him just the 18th full-time third baseman in MLB history to reach that mark.

He is one of just five third basemen to reach 300 homers, collect at least six All-Star nods, with at least 10.0 dWAR.

He is the best all-around third baseman the Padres have ever had. Enjoy him while he is still in his prime.

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