As the World Series champagne was being passed around in the visiting Boston Red Sox locker room at Chavez Ravine, the baseball world had already begun discussing the 2019 free agent class.
With household names like Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Dallas Keuchel, and Craig Kimbrel all expecting deals of upwards of $200 million, it was expected to be a big offseason.
So far, one of the only big headlines this offseason has been Patrick Corbin to the Washington Nationals to the tune of six years for $140 million. In fact, the aging Andrew McCutchen is the biggest offensive name to sign a long-term contract, agreeing to a deal with the Phillies for three years, $50 million.
Those are two solid players. With names like Machado and Harper still awaiting their multi-year blockbuster contract, we find ourselves just three weeks away from pitchers and catchers set to report, as soon as February 10th.
Unfortunately for Harper and Machado, they share many faults which make some teams hesitant to dole out such exorbitant contracts.
One of the things they share is their playoff production, or lack thereof.
In 23 career playoff games, Machado is hitting a slash line of .213/.268/.382 with four home runs and 24 strikeouts.
Looking more recently at his most important playoff performance in the World Series as a member of the Dodgers, Machado hit for a .182 average and he didn’t collect a single extra base-hit in the Fall Classic while striking out five times in five games.
Harper’s postseason performances share an eerie similarity to Machado’s. Harper has a career postseason average of .211 with five homers and a total of 23 strikeouts. Even worse for Harper, his Washington Nationals never made it past the NLDS in all four of his postseason appearances.
Teams are also looking at the fact that both Machado and Harper have had their fair share of on-field incidents. In other words, sometimes they can be hot-headed superstars.
In 2014, Machado was involved in back-to-back games where he was right in the middle of a benches-clearing brawl between the Orioles and Athletics.
Once again in 2016, Machado was involved in another benches-clearing brawl, this time against the late Kansas City pitcher, Yordano Ventura. He was suspended four more games for this fight. In 2017, Machado made a late slide into Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. Boston fans felt the late slide was intentional and dirty, which also lead to Dustin Pedroia getting spiked in an already injured left leg. Machado apologized and swore it was unintentional but the Red Sox never forgot.
Boston would eventually try and retaliate a couple games later by throwing right at the All-Star third baseman which did not sit well with Machado, who showed his displeasure post-game with an expletive filled rant. And once again a possible dirty spike from Machado reared its ugly head in 2018 during his NLCS appearance with the Dodgers. The victim of this cleating was Brewers’ first baseman Jesus Aguilar.
On the other hand, Harper is no stranger to on-field brawls, whether it against the opponent or even his own teammate. Jonathon Papelbon showed disdain for what he felt was a lack of effort on a groundout by Harper. When he returned to the dugout, Papelbon shouted at Harper and a shoving contest ensued in the Nationals dugout, much to the embarrassment of everyone in Washington’s front office.
Harper had another fight in 2017, this time against a member of the opposing team when he rushed the mound against Giants’ reliever Hunter Strickland. He was suspended for four games following this benches-clearing brawl.
It could also be possible that teams are looking ahead to next year’s free agency pool which is an even deeper pool of talent. With big names like Nolan Arenado, Josh Donaldson, J.D. Martinez, Marcell Ozuna, and Yasiel Puig all available in next year’s free agency, teams are no doubt looking ahead at what could be, rather than going all out on just two superstar names.
It’s quite puzzling as to why the two biggest names in this year’s free agency pool are yet to be signed with less than a month left before pitchers and catchers report. We could very well see Manny Machado and Bryce Harper settle for short-term deals due to teams not wanting to bind up so much money on just one or two guys.
Machado and Harper have to be left wondering if they missed out on the big MLB contract boom that players like Jason Hayward and Zack Greinke cashed in on just a couple of seasons ago. One thing is for sure, these two names will be signed as preparation for the 2019 season looms.
The only question is will Machado and Harper hit the MLB Mega Millions Lottery or will they strikeout on a potential record-setting deal?