Pitchers and catchers are beginning to report to Spring Training, and there are plenty of very good baseball players that remain unsigned. Among the players still looking for a team are Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. These aren’t just good players; they’re superstars that are *26 years old*. These kind of opportunities don’t come around much in free agency. These guys are younger than Kris Bryant and Aaron Judge.
Harper has already put together a 10-WAR season (as a 22-year-old in 2015), something only Mike Trout and Mookie Betts have also done among active position players according to Baseball Reference. Only 26 other position players in baseball history have had 10+ WAR seasons. Even in a “down” 2018 season, Harper had a .393 OBP (9th in MLB) and .889 OPS (16th in MLB). His offensive game — drawing walks at a crazy rate and cranking dingers — is suited well for long-term success.
Machado has already accumulated over 30-WAR in his career, and is coming off his best offensive season- 37 homers, .905 OPS, 141 wRC+. While he may no longer be quite the defender of his early days (like when he was credited with 35 defensive runs saved in 2013), he’s still a passable shortstop, and should at least remain a good third baseman for the long haul. His talents on both sides of the game set him up well long-term success.
And yet, for some reason, these players appear to have a very limited market.
There’s no great excuse for *any* organization to not be trying in at least some capacity to sign Harper or Machado. You’ll hear claims of organizations not being able to afford the player, or the organization doesn’t want to go above the luxury tax threshold, or the organization doesn’t have a clear fit for the player, or the organization is already good enough as is, or the organization is rebuilding and not yet ready to make a splash.
All of these excuses shouldn’t be good enough to you as a fan. These ownerships have money, and are choosing to not spend what’s necessary to make a substantial upgrade.
Every team could easily “fit” in Harper or Machado (both capable of 3+ positions), and if you have a logjam, guess what? You can make trades from that depth to address your other needs and improve your team even more.
You’re a rebuilding team that isn’t “ready to win?” How long are you planning to rebuild? These players are 26 years old. If the organization’s intention is to rebuild/be cheap for more than a couple years, that’s an unacceptable problem. And how do you accelerate a rebuild, and build fan interest back up? By acquiring stars like this.
100 or so free agents left unsigned. System is broken. They blame “rebuilding” but that’s BS. You’re telling me you couldn’t sign Bryce or Manny for 10 years and go from there? Seems like a good place to start a rebuild to me. 26-36 is a great performance window too.
— Justin Verlander (@JustinVerlander) February 11, 2019
Harper and Machado fit every single organization in baseball. They can speed up the rebuild of bad teams. They can turn mediocre teams into playoff contenders. They can turn good teams into great teams. They can turn great teams into juggernauts.
Let’s go through why every team should at least be making an effort on Harper or Machado…
Arizona Diamondbacks: They traded their face of the franchise in Paul Goldschmidt, and also lost A.J. Pollock in free agency to the Dodgers. They’re rebuilding now, but again, Harper or Machado can help that and fit any timeline. The FanGraphs projections currently have this as a 79-win team, so this could even be a winning team *now* with Harper or Machado, while also providing a needed jolt into the (lack of) enthusiasm surrounding this franchise.
Atlanta Braves: After surprisingly winning 90 games last year, the Braves have been a team on the rise and added Josh Donaldson to boost a lineup already featuring Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuña, and Ozzie Albies. But it feels like they should still be doing more, and while they’re likely a playoff contender as is, it’s easy to see a scenario where they finish fourth behind the Nationals, Phillies (especially if they sign Harper or Machado), and Mets in the NL East. Signing one of these players could be the difference between third or fourth place and a playoff spot. And it would make for an incredibly entertaining lineup.
Baltimore Orioles: This team is an absolute train wreck projected for 59 wins in the current Baseball Prospectus PECOTA projections. They desperately need talent, and are truly a Triple-A team compared to the Yankees and Red Sox. Of course, it’s unlikely Machado would want to return there (unless the offer was nutty), and the destination is unlikely to interest Harper (and it would be pretty cruel to go to the team under 40 miles away from the Nats).
Boston Red Sox: The defending champs certainly don’t “need” one of these players, but acquiring one would make a great team even better, and help their chances to hold off the Yankees in the AL East. The Red Sox could sign Machado to play third base and trade 22-year-old Rafael Devers to upgrade other areas. That’s another 100+ win team on paper.
Chicago Cubs: It’s been assumed for a few years that the Cubs would go hard after Harper, and they should be doing just that. Instead, they’re refusing to spend money this offseason, with their “big” moves being re-signing Cole Hamels, and signing free agents Daniel Descalso and Brad Brach. This is while the Cardinals added Paul Goldschmidt, the Brewers added Yasmani Grandal and are coming off 96 wins and a division title, and the Reds may be the most improved team in the league. Theo Epstein surely wants to do more to improve this team, but ownership seems unwilling to let that happen at the moment. Adding Harper or Machado would make the Cubs clear favorites in the NL Central and put them up there with any team in the NL. But right now, the Cardinals look arguably as the Cubs on paper, and maybe the Brewers repeat their magic again. The Cubs need to be doing more, but aren’t.
Chicago White Sox: By all accounts, the White Sox are indeed trying on these players, so they should be applauded for that. Even with Harper or Machado, the White Sox are likely still at least another year away from contention. But this is one of the best farm systems in baseball and with some young talent already in place at the big league level. Maybe the White Sox could “arrive early” after adding one of these players, and at the very least, accelerate their rebuild and increase the fan interest.
Cincinnati Reds: The Reds should also be applauded for being very active and trying to get better while much of the league refuses to. Cincinnati now has an outside shot at the playoffs on paper, and one more sizable upgrade would put them firmly in the Wild Card mix (and potentially even the NL Central mix in what appears to be a very winnable division).
Cleveland Indians: The Indians are lucky enough to play in the AL Central and may basically have the division locked up by the All-Star break. They also haven’t won a World Series since 1948, and have won the division three consecutive years before disappointing playoff exits. The playoffs are largely a crapshoot, but your chances are absolutely enhanced by having the best rosters. We’ve seen that in recent years. The 2016 Cubs, 2017 Astros, and 2018 Red Sox were arguably the best rosters in those years, or at least were right up there. This is the Indians’ window, and adding Harper or Machado to a roster with Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Trevor Bauer would be a nice boost for their chances to beat the Astros, Red Sox, and Yankees in October.
Colorado Rockies: We all deserve to see Harper or Machado hitting at Coors Field for the next 10 years. The Rockies are a fringe contender on paper, and adding one of these players would immediately make them a Wild Card favorite (while keeping them in the NL West title mix).
Detroit Tigers: If you’re not a Tigers fan, can you name five players on this team? Here’s a good Twitter thread on why Detroit should sign Harper *and* Machado:
1. Have room even if they want to stay under luxury tax
2. Positional need.
3. Only Cabrera deal beyond 2020.
4. Huge marketing potential.
5. Young enough to help in 2020-2020 window when prospects will mature.
6. Chance to get this talent w/o trading prospects is rare.
— Neil Weinberg (@NeilWeinberg44) January 7, 2019
Houston Astros: Like the Red Sox, the Astros don’t at all “need” another star, but it would make their team even more ridiculous. And with at least two other juggernauts in the AL, you want to be as talented as you can be come October.
Kansas City Royals: The Royals’ ownership is pulling the, “Hey fans: you got your World Series in 2015, so be happy with it!” move with their roster construction since. This team is awful, and their farm system is still ranking in the bottom half of the league. Signing 26-year-old superstars could go a long way to energizing the fan base and turning around the franchise.
Los Angeles Angels: The Angels continue to waste having one of the greatest baseball players ever. They’ve experienced the bad long term contracts (Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols) that may scare them away from another huge deal (at least one that doesn’t involve re-signing Trout), but there’s far less risk in Harper or Machado. A team with Trout, Ohtani, and Harper/Machado would arguably be the most entertaining squad in the majors and a more realistic Wild Card contender.
Los Angeles Dodgers: After coming up just short in the World Series in consecutive seasons, you’d think the Dodgers would be a bit more aggressive than they’ve been this offseason. Machado isn’t as necessary with Corey Seager healthy this time around, but Harper makes plenty of sense. It also wouldn’t seem to be wise to bank on the likes of Max Muncy performing like stars again.
Miami Marlins: After being a full-on clown show and trading away players such as Christian Yelich, Giancarlo Stanton, J.T. Realmuto, Marcell Ozuna, and Dee Gordon, Derek Jeter now claims he has “no patience” and wants to win now.
— Matt Marrone (@thebigm) February 11, 2019
Lol, sure. Make a serious offer to Harper or Machado and prove it.
Milwaukee Brewers: The Brewers shocked the baseball world with 96 wins and a trip to the NLCS in 2018, after most projection systems had them winning under 85 games. The thing is, the computers may not have been far off about what this team was in reality (or what it would’ve been usually), but the Brewers had a ton go right and probably maxed out their talent. This does happen on occasion. They made a great move to sign Yasmani Grandal this offseason, but they still appear to be at least a little bit behind the Cubs and Cardinals on paper. Signing one of these players would change that and not force Milwaukee to depend on a lot of great fortune this time around to get into the 90+ win territory.
Minnesota Twins: The Twins have been one of the most forgettable teams in recent years. While they went to the 2017 AL Wild Card Game, they haven’t won over 85 games in the last eight seasons. Longtime star Joe Mauer retired this offseason, and the Twins could use a new face of the franchise (at least on the position player side; Jose Berrios should contend for a Cy Young soon). They also just need a lot more talent and to finally get above being mediocre.
New York Mets: While many evaluators thought the Mets may look to enter a rebuilding stage, the organization has made moves that demonstrate the hope to contend immediately. They appear to be in the neighborhood of a mid-80s team on paper, but adding Harper or Machado would make their roster as dangerous as any team in the NL East.
New York Yankees: The Yankees have emerged as the betting favorite for Manny Machado, and they don’t even really “need” him.
Updated odds for which team Manny Machado will be on for Game 1 of the 2019 MLB season (BetOnline):
White Sox +500 pic.twitter.com/uasMKIIw5g
— OddsShark (@OddsShark) February 11, 2019
— SNY (@SNYtv) February 11, 2019
If you’re a fan of another team, you can hate the Yankees for doing everything possible to upgrade their already-awesome team, while also wishing your team took winning as seriously as they do.
Oakland Athletics: This would throw quite the wrench in the whole Moneyball story, right? Imagine the fan base’s ecstatic, shocked reaction if the organization actually signed a free agent to a huge contract.
Philadelphia Phillies: The Phillies have been coming, and this is their time to pounce. They’re well aware of this, with their owner even saying they may spend “stupid” money this offseason. It should be a disappointment if they don’t come away with Harper or Machado this offseason. Everything they’ve been building and setting up for is making such a move (or two). Taking the next step into contention may depend on it.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Pittsburgh probably has the most under-the-radar good pitching staff in baseball, and is just a decent offense away from contending. Harper and Machado are twice as good as any position player on this team.
San Diego Padres: It was good to see the Padres finally emerge in the Harper and Machado rumors, because it makes perfect sense.
The Padres should absolutely be in on Machado and Harper. Their situation is no different than the White Sox, for example. Hell the Padres would be pushing 80+ wins on paper with either of these guys right now. https://t.co/SdJdllcRz1
— Matt Clapp (@TheBlogfines) January 23, 2019
The Padres have a good foundation in place with their young talent and a stacked farm system, and would obviously have even a better outlook with Harper or Machado involved. And there’s unlikely to be a better free agent available in the next few years anyway. San Diego should be very aggressive here.
San Francisco Giants: The Giants are now the betting favorite for Harper, which has drawn a lot of mocking, because San Francisco probably isn’t a playoff team with him and is an older team on the decline.
— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) February 11, 2019
But again, it’s not just about this year or 2020 when it comes to these players, and Harper can still be a star on the next competitive Giants team.
Seattle Mariners: Look at the Mariners’ current roster, and you’ll probably be surprised by just how boring they are.
St. Louis Cardinals: The Cardinals are arguably as good as the Cubs on paper, and adding Harper or Machado would make them the NL Central team to beat.
Tampa Bay Rays: This kind of contract isn’t something they do, and there would seem to be no chance wait all this time for free agency and choose to spend their future playing at Tropicana Field. But hey, the Rays can and should try!
Texas Rangers: Harper and Machado would put up monster, video game numbers in this park that ranked No. 1 for offense in the 2018 Park Factors. Yes, ahead of Coors Field.
Toronto Blue Jays: Imagine Harper or Machado joining Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in this lineup for the next several years.
Washington Nationals: The emergence of (very) young star Juan Soto makes Bryce Harper easier to afford losing, and the Nationals have still had an active offseason that includes signing Patrick Corbin. This is arguably still a top-five roster in baseball that’s as talented as any team in the NL. But how about becoming the clear team to beat in the NL, and improve the odds to win a loaded NL East? How about doing everything possible to set yourself up to *finally* get past the NLDS? Having a talent like Harper under team control and letting him get away before he’s even 27 years old is just so disappointing, especially with his price likely far lower than anyone anticipated months ago.