MLB Free Agency Preview
Since the Boston Red Sox were crowned 2018 World Series, the baseball world has become dormant. Now that we are into mid-November, the free agency period has begun where teams try to improve themselves to hopefully replicate what the Red Sox accomplished this past season.
The two headliners of this free agent class are Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper and Los Angeles Dodgers' Manny Machado. Both are have been all-stars several times and Harper was the MVP in 2015. There are many other notable players available this offseason, but these two players will be talked about until the day they put pen to paper.
Harper, only 26 years old, was drafted with the first overall pick back in the 2010 MLB Draft. Since entering the league, he has won the 2012 National League Rookie of the Year award along with becoming a six-time National League All-Star.
Prior to the start of the 2018 season, reports were floating around that Harper and his agent Scott Boras were looking for a contract worth 300 million dollars. The idea of a 300 million dollar contract is somewhat laughable in baseball because only one contract has surpassed that value.
Giancarlo Stanton signed a 13-year, 325 million dollar contract with the Miami Marlins starting from 2014 and running through the year 2027. Stanton, now of the New York Yankees, signed this contract at the age of 24, certainly factoring into Harper’s contract negotiations. If a team were to offer a similar contract, it would be committed to keeping Harper around until the age of 39 which is far past a ballplayer’s prime.
Of the two “big fish in the pond”, signing Harper to such a deal seems more likely than Machado as he is the more complete baseball player. Teams have been rumored to consider moving Harper from his natural position in the outfield and bringing him in to play first base instead. This possible switch brings a certain level of flexibility to an organization if injuries were to occur. With all that considered, signing such a contract is still highly unlikely for a player even at the talent level Harper possesses.
Machado is the other headliner of the 2018 free agent class and will seek a team that will pay him superstar money and immediately give him the opportunity to win a World Series ring. Drafted two spots behind Harper in 2010 at third overall by the Baltimore Orioles, Machado was considered to be the face of the franchise. Much to the dismay of Machado, the team was not performing at a high level while competing in the prestigious American League East division, only making the postseason twice in his six years.
Machado grew restless with the organization and demanded that he be moved back to his original position of shortstop during last season. After the Dodgers’ everyday shortstop Corey Seager’s injury was confirmed to be season-ending, Machado was traded to the Dodgers, which seemed like a match made in heaven.
The Dodgers, which lost the 2017 World Series to the Houston Astros were a team in championship contention every year, something that Machado desperately wanted to be a part of regularly. The news broke of the trade during the MLB All-Star game held in Harper’s home ballpark in Washington, D.C. Soon, the phrase of “MannyWood” was back in the news as the Dodgers looked to become the favorites to win the National League pennant.
MVP Sports Group, which represents Machado has not been as open about what their client is looking for as Boras has done with Harper. The current favorites to sign Machado are the Philadelphia Phillies, the New York Yankees and the Dodgers.
The Phillies are still looking for a player to fill Jimmy Rollins’ shoes as their star shortstop. The Yankees are trying to build a team reminiscent of the “Monstars” from Space Jam, already having Aaron Judge, Stanton and Gary Sanchez under contract. Finally, the Dodgers could re-sign him, but Seager is anticipated to return to this upcoming season meaning that Machado would have to move back to play third base instead.
Machado also has been under criticism for being a “dirty player” by others in the sports world. During games with the Milwaukee Brewers, he was caught making a dangerous slide into second base to break up the possible double-play ball using his cleat as a weapon and stepping on the ankle of the first baseman as he ran out a ground ball.
Both, either intentional or purely an accident, put him under a microscope for teams looking to sign him once the final out of the baseball season was recorded. Machado’s character as a baseball player was brought into question and these will be looked at closely when a team approaches him with a contract offer.
Other notable players included in this year’s free agency frenzy are closer Craig Kimbrel of the Boston Red Sox, closer Andrew Miller of the Cleveland Indians, 2018 World Series MVP Steven Pearce, former American League MVP Josh Donaldson and future Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre.
Kimbrel and Miller can serve as the anchor’s of any team’s bullpen while Donaldson and Beltre can still produce on offense and defense.
Baseball may not be considered to be “in season”, but these upcoming weeks are critical in a team’s plan to achieve every team’s goal: win the World Series.
Ryan Simpson is a senior majoring in statistics and minoring in sociology. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.