When MLB.com compiled their Top-10 free agents, their first pick was Manny Machado and not Bryce Harper. Sure, Harper is the second player listed, and he might end up with the larger contract in terms of dollars. When it comes to mega contracts, it is a caveat emptor. It was Machado who hit a ball deep in the shortstop hole yesterday in a key NLCS game and Machado did not bother running to first base. He was out by several steps on a ball he might have beat out if he had busted it out of the box. Members of the national press like Joel Sherman, Jon Heyman and others took notice of Machado’s lack of effort.
And those teams might be asking: if that is the effort now, what might it be $300M guaranteed from now? https://t.co/UbHPuZd6Kk
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) October 13, 2018
While Machado has a reputation of backswinging on catcher’s noggins as we saw once again in Game #1 of the NLCS on catcher Erik Kratz, he did it to Derek Norris causing a concussion and possibly changing his career. He has done it to other catchers too. Machado also had an incident of flinging a bat at an Oakland A’s player and then there was the takeout slide on Dustin Pedroia in a game which started some plunkings. Pedroia hasn’t been the same since.
Whether or not any of Machado’s issues of questionable behavior will factor into his free agency, many general managers will care much more about his game changing abilities. That is also what teams will look at with Harper also. These two players have amazing baseball skills, and teams will have to pay about 15% of the tax “cap” amount to get these players. Machado cannot receive a Qualified Offer while Bryce Harper certainly will have the Q.O. to consider.
MLB’s Top-10 List is:
- Manny Machado SS/3B Interested teams: Yankees, Phillies, Padres, Dodgers
- Bryce Harper OF Interested teams: Nationals, Giants, Cubs, Cardinals, Phillies
- Patrick Corbin LHP Interested teams: Astros, Nationals, Yankees, Dodgers
- Michael Brantley OF Interested teams: Indians, Yankees, Mariners, Giants
- Craig Kimbrel CL Interested teams: Red Sox, Cubs, Indians, Braves, Phillies
- Dallas Keuchel LHP Interested teams: Astros, Nationals, Yankees, Dodgers
- Nelson Cruz DH/OF Interested teams: Mariners, A’s, Rangers
- Adam Ottavino REL Interested teams: Indians, Dodgers, Red Sox, A’s, Nationals
- Yasmani Grandal C Interested teams: Mariners, Dodgers, Nationals, Red Sox
- Wilson Ramos C Interested teams: Rays, A’s, Nationals, Mariners
What’s interesting is the MLB.com article also predicts suitors for these players and the Washington Nationals appear on the list for several players and are named for Harper, Corbin, Keuchel, Ottavino, Grandal and Ramos.
Nationals’ general manager Mike Rizzo has already said his priorities are getting back to what he built this team on with great starting pitching and team athleticism. Rizzo has named starting pitching and a frontline catcher as his top priorities along with retaining Harper.
“Of course [Bryce Harper] is in our plans,” Rizzo said. “He’s a guy we would love to have. He’s a part of our family. He’s a big part of this roster performance-wise. Like I’ve always said with these type of deals, you’re not betting on the baseball player; you’re betting on the person. He’s a person we’d like to have with us.”
Rizzo’s response was in part to Harper questioning if he is in the Nationals’ plans.
“…It’s going to be an exciting future for the Nationals, and we’ll see if I’m in those plans.” — Bryce Harper
It takes two to tango and for all the potential suitors there will only be one team that can acquire each player, and signing free agents into new systems is always a gamble as the Red Sox can tell you about their signing of Pablo Sandoval. There is always the risk of getting hung up in negotiation like the Orioles supposedly did and bid against themselves to re-sign Chris Davis two years ago. The majority of long-term deals do not work out, but Mike Rizzo will point to Max Scherzer and Jayson Werth as successes of long-term deals for the Nationals while others will debate that Werth wasn’t worth it. But with those deals, the Nats also signed Ryan Zimmerman to a long-term deal that Zimmerman recently admitted that he was overpaid given his output. Those are the risks yet teams keep signing the deals because they hope to have the success story to brag about when they are sizing up their World Series rings.