In Major League Baseball the idea is simple, win championships. In order to do that, a team must assemble a collection of the best available talent. The gathering of that talent happens in a number of ways. Whether by trade, draft, or free agency. Except, that last one no one seems to be a method teams are interested in choosing. Because if on January 30th, are Bryce Harper and Manny Machado still available that means free agency is no longer an option. Right? As Harper & Machado remained unsigned they have been a reoccurring topic on The Laracuente Ledger Podcast. So for more thoughts on both players check out The Laracuente Ledger Podcast of Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spotify, and Anchor.
They Are Still Available!?
If this were a decade ago, two players of this franchise-changing caliber would have been sought after. They would have been pursued the minute the midnight bell rung, five days after the World Series was over. But what has transpired during the last decade has changed the course of history forever. Long gone are the days when a player could “magically” get better from age 33 and older. We have come to understand that those kinds of players don’t often exist without a dramatic chemically altered change
Now when it comes to players like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, those stigmatisms don’t apply because they are 26-years-old. The last highly sought after 26-year-old free agent was all the way back in 2000-2001, with Alex Rodriguez. And all those years ago, Alex would walk away with the biggest contract in sports history (at the time.) A 10-year deal worth $252 Million, an unheard of an unprecedented number by every measurable standard. Yet, here we are with the game of baseball more the superseding the monetary values the game had back in 2000-01 and yet these two talented players are still free agents.
What Are GM’s Looking At?
When it comes to the two biggest names on the market, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, one must ponder a myriad of ideas. Could it be the players themselves? What if it could be their representation? Are the players flawed? Is it about the money? Are the years too many to commit to? Is there a better way to allocate the funds? Could it be better to add a few players to split up the production, rather than rely on one player? The answer to all of these questions is yes. But the answer throughout time to all of these questions has been yes and yet we still saw long term deals go to players much older than Harper and Machado.
The game is smarter now than it was ten years ago. But along with the advancement of the knowledge of valuing assets in the game, we have seen a corresponding reliance on the numbers. If you know me you know, I love the statistics of the game of baseball. I can look at Fangraphs, BaseballReference, and MLB.com all day long. But more goes into the game than just the numbers. So when teams are evaluating players of this caliber, it goes beyond Harper’s 140 wRC+ (FanGraphs) or Machado’s 121 OPS+ (BaseballReference.) Players are now measured as much by on the field metrics and well as off the field antics.
How Will This End?
Ultimately, this game of financial chicken will end when one side relinquishes and gives into the other. The games being had are on many levels. Games between Scott Boras and Dan Lozano of who gets their client the biggest contract. Games between the New York Yankees, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Chicago White Sox, and the rest of the potential suitors as to who signs these players. And the game between Bryce Harper and Manny Machado of who is the better player.
All these games will end when the first entity decides to balk. Whoever doles out the biggest dollar amount wins. And as this seemingly never-ending saga continues into February we are undoubtedly moving closer towards something no baseball fan wants to see, and that is a strike. When will the Bryce Harper and Manny Machado Saga End? That I don’t know. But what I do know is that something must be done. Because baseball recovered after the 1994-95 strike only because one of the National Pastime’s greatest feats was being approached by one of the game’s best gentlemen, Cal Ripken Jr. We no longer have the Ironman passing the Iron Horse to save the game once again. So this saga needs to come to a happy conclusion and fast. Or after 2021, we may not have a place to showcase talented players like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.