The most anticipated free-agent class in some time is here – and Manny Machado and Bryce Harper have big hopes. Both came into the league at 19, and are already very well established players with the ability to dramatically impact teams. Baseball players dominate the list of largest sports contracts, in part because baseball players have much more predictable health and longevity than other sports, and also because there is no salary cap. According to Wikipedia, the current largest contract overall is actually boxer Canelo Alvarez, but after that baseball takes all but 8 spots down to #44 on the list which is the first time we see the NFL (American Football) pop up on the list with QB Andrew Luck’s contract.
Recently, in what can only be described as a convenient slip, it came out that the Nationals had made a large offer to Harper and agent Scott Boras and it had been declined. Convenient because now the Nationals can maintain face with their fans in that they did make a good effort to keep him, and also because now his suitors know that the offer of 10 years and $300M wasn’t good enough. That would be the largest average year contract in baseball history, eclipsing the second deal A-Rod signed (10 years, $275M) and Giancarlo Stanton’s current MLB leader which is 13 years at $325M.
It seems rare that a player hurts their free agency prospects while playing in the World Series (contrasted by Nathan Eovaldi who likely earned a raise that won’t be justified over 162 games) – but Machado might have done just that with his lack of hustle and a few other boneheaded plays like stepping on first baseman’s feet in frustration.
It would appear at this point that the Machado favorite would be the Yankees, while the Phillies are likely the Bryce Harper favorites but with this amount of money, who knows? The Dodgers could make a play, though fans in LA weren’t exactly enamored after acquiring this Manny for the second half and playoffs. The Giants have now money but need to find themselves, and it’s unlikely they would commit to the timeframe both men seek knowing that they won’t be competitive again likely at least for a few seasons.
The Atlanta Braves, currently the NL East reigning champions for those who care, don’t seem to have the capital or propensity for long-term contracts like those sought by Machado and Harper, but they could make a play. Manny Machado would be great for the Braves at SS or 3B, and certainly could be some much-needed protection for Freddie Freeman to go along with NL ROY Ronald Acuna Jr and 2B Ozzie Albies.
The Angels already have the world’s best player in Mike Trout. At one time the debate raged over who was best between Trout, Machado, and Harper, but with yet another season that could likely have ended with an MVP Award if he just played on a better team, it is unlikely. Not to mention the last super contract Angels owner Arte Moreno signed was Albert Pujols (10 years, $240M, tied for 6th on the list) mercilessly still has three years left on it. Of course, signing Machado/Harper at 26 is much different than signing up a 32-year-old Albert Pujols.
Machado and Harper are looking for $400M deals – plain and simple. It is no doubt that both players can change franchises, but also interesting that both face serious character questions. Harper is known as combative, fiery, and several times early in his career was benched or disciplined for not running out ground balls. Machado, of course, had those high profile instances in the playoffs this year- but those are somewhat par for the course. Not to mention his spiking of Dustin Pedroia a couple years back of which the second baseman still has not really recovered from.
Four Hundred Million Dollars? Ten years? Who will bite? These two contracts could significantly impact the future of MLB free agency, and as much as one or both might be franchise-changers, it is also likely that one will drag a franchise down for years to come if the production doesn’t match the price tag.