Spreading the wealth around
For a brief moment, Dodger fans got their hopes up that the Dodgers were going to hook the last big fish in the baseball pond but just like game five of the 2017 World Series they were unable to land the big fish but it wasn’t for lack of trying.
Byrce Harper is a Phillie and that is probably a good thing for baseball. Unlike the NBA where the best players in the league try to team up together to win World Championships because they can’t do it on their own, the best players in baseball usually head for the most money, not the best chance to win a World Championship. This keeps the talent spread around.
Manny Machado went to San Diego where he hopes the Padres top farm system can grow with him into making the team a powerhouse but there is no certainty that Fernando Tatis Junior and Luis Urias will become great players just because they are great prospects. The Padres are on the right track and adding Machado will certainly help them become relevant, but being relevant isn’t the same thing as being in the running for a World Championship.
Bryce Harper chooses Philly because they offered the most money via the longest contract. Based on the contracts that were offered, I would have chosen the Dodgers not because I’m a Dodger fan but because I thought it was a great offer.
In Bryce Harper talks, I am told #Dodgers were willing to offer a four-year deal worth approximately $45 million per season. That would have allowed Harper to shatter the all-time AAV record and become a free agent at age 30. @MLB @MLBNetwork
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) February 28, 2019
Harper turned down the Dodgers offer and instead picked the very safe and boring 13 years/330. Not sure such a number could ever be called boring but Harper did have a chance to be the highest paid player on a per year basis even if was for only four years. He might compete for a World Championship but it is very iffy. He won’t have Scherzer and Strasburg pitching for him. He won’t have Anthony Rendon and Turner helping him in the lineup. He’ll have Aaron Nola and staff. He’ll have a good young hitter in Rhys Hoskins, an old hitter in McCutchen, plus the newly acquired Jean Segura and Realmuto. The Phillies will have a nice team, but they will be battling everyone in the East except for the Marlins. It is very possible with the emergence of Acuna in Atlanta, and Soto and Robles in Washington that he won’t even be the best outfielder in the East.
One final note on Harper. Right after he signed with the Phillies, the noted web site FiveThirtyEight published this article called Bryce Harper may already be past his prime. Many words have been written about Harper but this did strike me as something to look at.
FiveThirtyEight examined all players in MLB history who have had one season of 8 or more WAR — but only one — before turning 26, and then we studied the trajectory of those players’ careers. There are 32 such players in MLB history, including three other than Harper who are still active: Aaron Judge, Matt Chapman (who hasn’t played his age 26 season) and Evan Longoria. Of the 28 players who are no longer active, 17 never produced another 8-plus WAR season after their age 25 season.
Looking at the top ten free agent signings based on the average annual value we can see this trend of spreading the wealth around.
Patrick Corbin left the Diamondbacks for the Nationals
Josh Donaldson left the Blue Jays for the Braves
Grandal left the Dodgers for the Brewers
Eovaldi stayed with the Red Sox
JA Happ stayed with the Yankees
McCutchen left the Giants for the Phillies – the only player in the top ten to team up with another player in the top ten, but this is a player on the downside of his career.
Brantley left the Indians for Houston
Charlie Morton left Houston for the Rays
Nolan Arenado signed an extension earlier in the week and will stay a Rockie until he breaks down. This reminds me of the Tulo extension when Tulo was clearly one of the best players in baseball. The Rockies were relevant in 2018 but history has shown that pitchers just don’t maintain any sense of productivity in Colorado. Nolan might have some high points and a possible MVP or two in his future but it will still probably be a rocky ride for the length of his contract if he hopes to be playing in the fall classic.
I consider all this good news. It could have been problematic if Harper/Machado had decided to team up together in Phillie or San Diego but they went their separate ways. Baseball would have worried if Harper had signed on in Los Angeles to team up with Buehler/Urias/Kershaw/Seager/Bellinger/Turner.
As far as the Dodgers go, we are back to five outfielders vying for three spots whenever Dave Roberts makes out the lineup. It might have been six but Andrew Toles is out of the equation due to personal issues. The good news is that whoever Roberts chooses to play those three outfield spots will be a player with the ability to impact the game in a positive fashion. It would have been nice to pencil in Harper, but it is still nice to have Bellinger, Pederson, Pollock, Verdugo, and Hernandez or Taylor to fill those three spots.