The two undisputed best players of free agency have still yet to sign anywhere.
As we near the end of 2018, many of baseball’s free agents have found their homes for next year and beyond. Coveted players like Josh Donaldson, Michael Brantley, and Andrew McCutchen have all signed major deals to join new ball clubs. With deals thus far totaling over $685 million, many would say that this has been a winter of extreme spending. And yet, we are still waiting for the splash of this off season’s biggest fish: Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.
This offseason has been hyped up for nearly half a decade because superstars like Matt Harvey, Bryce Harper, and Manny Machado are finally hitting the open market. But with Harvey’s serious injury history, Harper’s attitude questions, and Machado’s dirty play, that hype has crumbled into disappointment. Even with his poor play over the last 3 seasons, Harvey came off the board with a surprisingly underwhelming 1-year $11 million deal with the LA Angels. Now all eyes turn to Harper and Machado. What’s keeping the pair from landing their mega deals and will those deals even be so mega?
The former 2015 NL MVP and 6x All-Star has been the most highly anticipated free agent since Babe Ruth (at least it feels that way.) But it’s not as if Harper’s hype is undeserved. In just 7 seasons, the former #1 pick has put up a monsterous slash line of .279/.388/.512 to match 184 career Home Runs and 27.4 total Wins Above Replacement. Going by the numbers, Harper’s request for a 10-year $400 million contract may be deserved. But now that teams are more reluctant to sign players to long-term deals, GMs are no doubt considering all of Harper’s baggage. His hustle has been questioned at times, his offensive consistency has been on the decline, and his negative attitude has caused major clubhouse rifts. It got so bad that he was physically choked by teammate Jonathan Papelbon back in 2015.
Despite his issues, Bryce Harper is still one of baseball’s best and most popular players. And while his demands are stratospheric, he should still be able to command a pretty penny this winter with the help of agent Scott Boras.
My Prediction: With the allure of taking over Chicago, Harper signs with the White Sox for 5 years, $187.5 million with a player option after 2021.
The other superstar of the free agent class is the versatile infielder Manny Machado. The 4x All-Star and 2x Gold Glove recipient is coming off of his best season in the majors, slashing .297/.367/.538 between his time with the Orioles and the Dodgers. Machado is also an incredibly durable player, having played in all 162 games of the season for the second time in his career. Given his iron durability, offensive prowess, and defensive excellence at both shortstop and third base, the 26-year-old would seem like a lock for a gargantuan contract this winter. But, like everyone else, Machado comes with his downsides.
Despite his offensive production, Machado’s hustle has been severely questioned by front office executives around the league. Similarly, many players and fans alike have labeled the Floridian a dirty player. During the playoffs this year, he came under fire for spiking two different first basemen.
No matter a player’s skill, general managers actively steer clear of adding “dirty” and “cheap” guys to their clubhouse for a multitude of reasons. However, regardless of his reputation, Machado is still a high impact player that’ll add positive performances at the plate and in the field.
My Prediction: In an effort to dethrone the Red Sox in the AL East, the New York Yankees sign Machado to a ridiculous 10-year $380 million contract.
This offseason has been lukewarm to say the least, but hopefully the dominoes start to fall with Harper and Machado to get this winter fired up.
Purveyor of truth. Breaker of chains. Foolish fan of the Mets, Jets, and Knicks.