This offseason has been boring. Very Boring.
All the talk has been about Machado and Harper. Where are they going to go and for how long? These two have single-handedly brought the baseball world to a stop.
When the offseason first started, everyone thought that Machado and Harper were both looking for 10-year deals worth over $350 mil, and that belief has yet to change.
My message to major league teams is don’t give in.
Yes, Machado and Harper are both generational talents and are as young as they come, as far as free agents go. But, when you look at the recent history of long term deals in baseball, teams that are bidding on the two superstars may want to proceed with caution.
For instance, look no further than Matt Kemp. Kemp was a superstar a bonafide superstar following the 2011 season. He was fresh off of an MVP runner up season where he came up one home run short of a 40/40 season. He was in prime position to be the face of the Dodgers for years to come, and the team was quick to sign him to an 8 year, $160 million extension.
At the time it seemed like a no brainer; Kemp was only 26 (Like Harper and Machado) and had improved every year since arriving in the big leagues.
Well, then things went downhill. Kemp missed significant in 2012 and 2013, where he only played 73 games, before finally bouncing back in 2014 with a solid season where he hit .287 with an .852 OPS and 25 home runs. You’d think he was back on track and the Dodgers were going to start seeing their investment pa-NOPE. Kemp was traded to the Padres after the 2014 season.
After a subpar 2015 campaign, Kemp was traded again at the 2016 deadline to the Braves in a year where he ended up hitting 35 home runs and driving in 108. Kemp would have another ‘meh’ season in Atlanta before being traded back to the Dodgers following the 2017 season. Kemp had a quietly good 2018 season, hitting .290 with an .818 OPS and 21 home runs. You would think that being back with the team he started with and getting back to his old ways would be enough for Kemp to stick around for the last year of his cont-NOPE AGAIN.
Kemp was traded AGAIN to the Reds following the 2018 season. Let’s recap: a once MVP caliber player was traded 4 times in 5 years, not because of his playing ability, but because of the money that was owed to him. Kemp wasn’t bad after signing his mega-deal, but the $20 mil per season looming over his head made him a prime suspect to be shopped wherever he went. And the crazy thing is that $20 Million in baseball money today is nothing. That’s chump change. If Machado and Harper are going to get the $35 million per year that they’re asking for, that’s going to be a huge burden on whatever team they go to.
Let’s look at another example.
Prince Fielder was tremendous during his first 7 years in Milwaukee. He hit 50 home runs in only his second full season (230 overall), had a .929 OPS, and built a reputation as an iron man after playing in at least 157 games in every season. So when he hit the open market, the Tigers saw him as the missing piece to their championship puzzle. Fielder was only 27, and the Tigers saw fit to give him a 9 year, $216 million deal. It was a lot of money, but based on his previous production, it seemed like a good deal. And for the first year of the deal, Fielder looked solid, with a .313 average (a career high) and a .940 OPS to go along with 30 bombs. Then year two happened and things didn’t look as good. Fielder had the worst season of his career in 2013 and the Tigers had seen enough and traded him to the Rangers for Ian Kinsler. From there, Fielder would only have one healthy season, where he hit 23 home runs with an .841 OPS. He retired in 2016 after a series of neck surgeries with 4 years still left on his contract.
I know that Harper and Machado both have had clean bills of health so far, but so did Prince. In fact, Prince was THE pinnacle of being healthy in baseball. It’s impossible to predict what can happen to someone physically over the course of a 5 + year contract. I could continue to list names of guys who received massive paydays and why it didn’t work out, but that’s an assload of typing so I’ll just rattle off a few of the famous ones: Johan Santana, Mike Hampton, Evan Longoria, Barry Zito, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford (hey two Red Sox in a row, HAHA), Alex Rodriguez (the second one), Albert Pujols, Vernon Wells, Ryan Howard, BJ Upton, and Jayson Werth. Those are just off the top of my head.
If I were a GM of the Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, or Padres, I would say 5 years and that’s it. Load it with club options at the end with all of the money up front, but don’t lock yourself into an 8-year deal and end up having to pay $30 million each year in the last years of the deal.
Yes, Machado and Harper are great, but if you pay them $30 million a year then they will always underperform in the eyes of the fans.
Hold your ground and be smart. They’ll give in eventually and sign for the short time. If baseball history has taught us anything, it’s that all players break down. Don’t be remembered as the teams that dished out 12 years just because you wanted a big name.
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