Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. Who would you rather have? It’s a question that MLB GMs have already started dreaming about for after the 2018 season.
Seismic changes could happen across the MLB landscape in the winter of 2018 as two 26-year-old superstars could hit the open market, and a number of teams look to have payroll flexibility to accommodate a $400 million contract. Who’s your pick? Hard-hitting Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper of last Winter Meetings’ reported $400 million contract demands or perennial AL MVP candidate Manny Machado? It’s a question ESPN senior baseball writer Buster Olney posed to several baseball evaluators and among the first seven comments revealed, the results were overwhelmingly in favor (6-1) of the Orioles’ third baseman.
No one mentioned attitude in stating their preference and while a few mentioned Harper’s bat as being more advanced, most cited Machado’s defense and all-around game as a reason for preferring the Orioles third baseman and a belief that his skill set will be a better fit over the course of what is sure to be long-term contracts signed by both.
The exodus of baseball talent away from Chesapeake Bay after the 2018 season is not guaranteed, as two full baseball seasons still need to be played and either player could choose to re-sign with the MLB team that drafted him. That said, it is a rare enough occurrence when one superstar entering his prime hits free agency, let alone two.
Are teams already preparing for the possibility of making a bid? Without question, the New York Yankees will be in the mix for Harper. They spent last season acquiring high-end prospects who are close to MLB-ready in Gleyber Torres (from the Aroldis Chapman trade) and Clint Frazier (from the Andrew Miller trade), and will have shed the heavy contracts of Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira to have the payroll flexibility to acquire a $40 million dollar a season player (as much as any team does).
Olney mentions that the Philadelphia Phillies have the most payroll flexibility at the moment and would be a logical suitor to try and acquire a franchise player like Machado. Depending on which position Machado wants to play going forward, J.P. Crawford or Maikel Franco might want to start shagging batting practice in left field to accommodate a potential Machado move.
Is there a team out there that could make a play to sign both superstars? Given the astronomical numbers that have already been thrown around Harper’s impending free agency two seasons from now, it is difficult to see one team creating enough payroll room to sign both.
If the Yankees have a quiet offseason between the 2017 and 2018 seasons though, they would be the only logical spot to try and make a run at adding both Harper and Machado. In the meantime, the GMs of the high payroll clubs will be planning for an offseason that will change the fortunes of more than one franchise.