Machado and Harper hold out on signing a new contract deal
February 7, 2019
Two of baseball’s biggest superstars—Bryce Harper and Manny Machado—are still unclaimed by a single major league team just days away from spring training. This is despite interest from the Phillies, Padres and White Sox.
Following the Super Bowl on Sunday evening, Harper appeared to answer one of baseball’s biggest mysteries—where he will play next—with an obscure message on Twitter that put fans in a frenzy. He tweeted the word, “Loading…” which some viewed as Harper hinting the close proximity of his final decision announcement.
However, the tweet could also be a reference to MLB The Show 19, a video game scheduled for release on March 26. Harper was selected as the cover athlete for the video game—a great honor for any ballplayer. Yet, since Harper is still a free agent, the trailer and the final version of the game have not yet been released to the public, fueling the speculation further. MLB The Show 19 simulated 30 different seasons, each with Harper on a different team, and has been releasing those simulations via Twitter. Harper has been following along on Twitter himself, but has not released any major clues as to what uniform he will sport in the upcoming season.
To understand why these players are so desirable in the MLB market, it is important to know the value they bring to the diamond. The goal of baseball is to win games, and a player’s Wins Above Replacement (WAR) quantifies each player’s value in terms of a specific number of wins. According to MLB advanced stats, the WAR measures a player’s value in all facets of the game by deciphering how many more wins they add to a team’s record compared to a typical replacement player at his same position. A replacement player could be a potential Minor League player or a readily available fill-in free agent. A player with a WAR of 0 for a season is essentially replaceable, and a player with a WAR approaching eight should always be an MVP candidate.
According to FanGraphs, Harper and Machado both have roughly 30 total Wins Above Replacement in their careers, providing a good approximation to how they compare to other players. They are both very talented ball players with strong statistic records to back them up. Being drafted first and third overall in the 2010 draft created promising futures for the young players. Both reached the Major Leagues as teenagers only two years after the draft.
Harper lived up to the hype, winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 2012 and breaking the record for youngest position player ever to be selected to an All-Star game at just 19 years old that same year. His 9.3 WAR in 2015 allowed him to win National League Most Valuable Player, once again being the youngest MLB baseball player ever to do so.
Machado earned a spot on the 2013 American League All-Star team, and won the Golden Glove award that same year.
In the 2018 season, Harper (Washington Nationals) recorded .249/.393/.496 batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage with 34 home runs. His on-base plus slugging percentage of .889 also adds to his offensive value. This was considered a “down year” for Harper by his standards, but he is still a top-tier talent in the game.
Machado (Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers) had a similar looking year, recording .297/.376/.538 with 37 home runs and a high .905 OBPS. Both players were elected to the 2018 All-Star Game, with Machado named the starting shortstop.
Statistics aside, the deciding factors for both players include salary and the longevity of the contract that is to be signed. Harper turned down a deal at the end of the regular season from the Washington Nationals of approximately $300 million over 10 years, according to The Washington Post. His agent, Scott Boras, continues to push for a $400 million contract for his client. Machado is looking for a similar price tag.
If Harper or Machado signs a deal of this magnitude, it would make either athlete the highestpaid player in Major League Baseball history. This would surpass outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, who currently holds that title after inking a 13-year, $325 million contract with the Marlins, according to MLB.com.
As time until the spring training report date dwindles down, the stress behind the undecided contracts for each player magnifies. Even though it is late into the offseason, many teams are still interested in signing Harper or Machado. Currently, the Phillies are considered the strongest contenders for landing either player.
“I have confidence we’ve put our best foot forward with these guys,” Phillies General Manager Matt Klentak said in an interview with NBC Sports on Jan. 30. “Our job as management is to be patient and understand the ebbs and flows of the free agency and be ready to strike whenever that time is.”
Lately, the Padres have been expressing high interest in Harper over Machado, despite the obvious need at 3B for this ballclub. General Manager A.J. Preller met with Harper on Jan. 31 in Las Vegas to discuss their interest in the outfielder.
“Padres ownership is said to view Bryce Harper as a business/marketing opportunity,” tweeted Jon Heyman of MLB Network Insider. Not only is Harper a standout on the field, but he would also be utilized as a marketing opportunity for the club.
The White Sox are also in the running for either top-tier player.
“They are in pursuit of both, although never mentioning either one by name,” said Chicago White Sox reporter Scott Merkin late December. “They certainly have the payroll flexibility to do so, by design, with this offseason as a target.”
The Chicago White Sox had the third worst record in the league in 2018, losing 100 games. Obtaining Harper and Machado, who are considered to be “franchise-changing players” could turn things around for the Sox in 2019. With approximately one week until the 2019 spring training season begins, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado could be moments away from picking their new homes—redefining this year’s competition in Major League Baseball.
Contact Lacey Yahnke at email@example.com or call (408) 554-4852.