Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are two players who see themselves as generational talents, both of which seeking to top the ginormous contract (13 yr, $325 million) bestowed upon Giancarlo Stanton by the Miami Marlins. That seems extremely improbable now based on the state of current market. Both Harper and Machado are 26-years-old and were selected in the top 3 of the draft 8 years ago (2010).
Harper was hyped extremely early and landed on the front of a Sports Illustrated cover at age 16 — labeled the “Chosen One.” When attending a showcase at Tropicana Field (Tampa Bay Rays’ home stadium), Harper hit a 502 foot blast. The following year, the prodigy was selected 1st overall by the Washington Nationals. His aspirations were as high as could be: his goals included to be the great baseball player ever and to make the Hall of Fame.
Machado received a lot of attention in his own right. Some scouts gave the then 17-year-old the nickname “A-Rod light.” He was a leader on the U18 USA team and contributed greatly in the Pan-Am Junior Championships in Venezuela, paving his team’s path to a gold medal. Machado was deemed a fantastic defender at short and was seen as a fundamentally sound hitter who would hit .300 at the big league level, providing slightly above average power as well. The Orioles made him the 3rd overall pick of the draft.
Fast forward 8 years. Harper and Machado are free agents and hope to sign record-breaking deals. In this investigation, there are two main questions I am attempting to answer:
a. Who is the better player?
b. What salaries should they receive depending on the length of their contracts?
In order to determine who is the better ball player, I will examine where they stand in 4 out of the 5 tools of baseball: hitting (AVG and OBP), power (HR and SLG), fielding (UZR/150 and DRS), and speed (SB and BsR), as well as their durability. The arm tool is to be excluded for a number of reasons. For instance, Bryce Harper has recorded some of the hardest throws in the short history of Statcast. Back in 2017, the radar clocked one of his throws to home plate at 99.7 MPH. Interestingly enough, he was -5.5 outfield arm runs below average in 2018, per Fangraphs. Also, there is no arm strength metric for infielders (which includes Manny Machado). I think it is fair to say that there is not a direction correlation between arm runs above/below average and pure arm strength. Additionally, I feel that in the big scope of things, the arm tool is relatively insignificant. For instance, rookie 3B Miguel Andujar of the New York Yankees has a very strong arm, yet he recorded a -25 DRS (defensive runs saved). Fangraphs’ prospect experts Kiley McDaniel and Eric Longenhagen graded his arm a 70 (really good) on the 20-80 Scouting Scale. Nonetheless, Andujar’s advanced fielding metrics exemplify his defensive deficiencies. In other words, having a cannon of an arm does not necessarily translate to adequate fielding performance. That is exactly why I will be analyzing statistics that encompass defense as a whole.
It is also important for me to note that for this investigation, I will be excluding the numbers from Machado and Harper’s 2012 season (when they were rookies). Although Bryce Harper registered nearly 600 PA that year, Machado barely eclipsed 200, which is far too small of a sample size. At that point, it makes more sense to leave that season out of the picture. Through omitting their statistics from 2012, the metric I generated will better gauge whether or not Machado and Harper were able to make adjustments after their first season in the MLB. The formula I used on the vast majority of statistics in this investigation is as follows:
(statistic in 2018 season * 0.3) + (same statistic in 2017 season * 0.25) + (same statistic in 2016 season * 0.175) + (same statistic in 2015 season *0.125) + (same statistic in 2014 season * 0.085) + (same statistic in 2013 season * 0.065) = metric for that particular statistic (AVG, HR, UZR/150, etc.)
As you can see, the formula incorporates their stats from the last 6 seasons (2013-18), with the most recent seasons weighted more heavily. What a player was able to do this past season is indisputably more predictive of future performance than what he was able to produce 6 years prior. We now begin by analayzing their hit tools: AVG and OBP.
Bryce Harper’s 2018 AVG: .249
Manny Machado’s 2018 AVG: .297
Bryce Harper’s AVG metric (calculated through formula outlined above): .279
Manny Machado’s AVG metric (calculated through formula outlined above): .283
Bryce Harper’s 2018 OBP: .393
Manny Machado’s 2018 OBP: .367
Bryce Harper’s OBP metric: .397
Manny Machado’s OBP metric: .340
Score (only metrics for each stat count towards this score, not 2018 statistic): Bryce Harper 1 v. Manny Machado 1
We are now ready to take a closer look at a couple of their power tools: HR and SLG.
Bryce Harper’s 2018 HRs: 34
Manny Machado’s 2018 HRs: 37
Bryce Harper’s HR metric: 29
Manny Machado‘s HR metric: 32
Bryce Harper’s 2018 SLG: 0.496
Manny Machado‘s 2018 SLG: 0.538
Bryce Harper‘s SLG metric: 0.523
Manny Machado’s SLG metric: 0.500
Power tool score: Bryce Harper 1 v. Manny Machado 1
Overall score: Bryce Harper 2 v. Manny Machado 2
Bryce Harper’s 2018 UZR/150 (in all outfield positions combined): -16.7
Manny Machado’s 2018 UZR/150 as a SS: -6.9
Manny Machado’s 2018 UZR/150 as a 3B: 14.9
Bryce Harper‘s UZR/150 metric: -2.9
Manny Machado’s UZR/150 metric as a SS (does not account for the 53 innings he played there in 2015): -4.8
Manny Machado‘s UZR/150 metric as a 3B (does not account for the 143 innings he played there in 2018 with the Dodgers): 7.54
Bryce Harper’s 2018 DRS: -26
Manny Machado’s 2018 DRS as a SS: -13
Manny Machado’s 2018 DRS as a 3B: 3
Bryce Harper‘s DRS metric: -5.94
Manny Machado’s DRS metric as a SS: -9
Manny Machado‘s DRS metric as a 3B: 11.25
Fielding tool score (if Machado plays 3B for his new team): Bryce Harper 0 v. Manny Machado 2
Fielding tool score (if Machado plays SS for his new team): Bryce Harper 2 v. Manny Machado 0
Overall score (if Machado plays SS for his new team): Bryce Harper 4 v. Manny Machado 2
Overall score (if Machado plays 3B for his new team): Bryce Harper 2 v. Manny Machado 4
The fourth and final tool we will judge is speed: SB and BsR.
Bryce Harper’s 2018 SBs: 13
Manny Machado’s 2018 SBs: 14
Bryce Harper‘s 2018 SB metric: 10
Manny Machado’s 2018 SB metric: 9
Bryce Harper’s 2018 BsR: 0.4
Manny Machado’s 2018 BsR: 1.2
Bryce Harper‘s BsR metric: 0.97
Manny Machado’s BsR metric: -1.0
Run tool score: Bryce Harper 2 v. Manny Machado 0
Overall score (if Machado plays SS for his new team): Bryce Harper 6 v. Manny Machado 2
Overall score (if Machado plays 3B for his new team): Bryce Harper 4 v. Manny Machado 4
Harper and Machado will only be worth hefty contracts if they can stay on the field with regularity; as a result, we will take a closer look at how durable they have been over the past 6 years.
Bryce Harper’s 2018 G (games): 159
Manny Machado’s 2018 G: 162
Bryce Harper’s G metric: 136
Manny Machado‘s G metric: 152
Overall final score (if Machado plays SS for his new team): Bryce Harper 6 v. Manny Machado 3
Overall final score (if Machado plays 3B for his new team): Bryce Harper 4 v. Manny Machado 5
It is rather difficult to conclude who is the better player between Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, considering Machado provides so much defensive value as a 3B, but he hurts his team as a SS; however, we can definitively say a few things about the two respective superstars:
- Hits for a higher AVG
- Hits more HRs
- Prevents more runs as a 3B
- Higher UZR/150 as a 3B
- More durable
- Gets on base more frequently
- More total bases/AB
- Concedes fewer runs (if Machado plays SS)
- Higher UZR (if Machado plays SS)
- Steals slightly more bases
- Better baserunner (although Harper has a problem with hustling as well)
Now I will reveal what contracts the numbers believe Harper and Machado should receive. Fangraphs’ Neil Weinberg estimated in 2016 that “teams are paying about $8 million per every WAR they add to their roster. For example, a 2 WAR player signed for three years would theoretically provide his team with 6 WAR, so a team might want to pay him anything up to $48 million. If the team pays less than $8 million for each expected WAR, we call this a ‘good deal’ and if they pay more, we say they ‘overpaid.'” For my contract predictions, I will base the annual salaries on $8 million/1 WAR.
Another essential aspect that will be incorporated into my contract predictions is aging curves.
A basic rule of thumb is that once a player gets to 30, you sort of expect them to lose about 0.5 WAR per year of value due to aging. Some players will age better or worse, but that’s an average estimateNeil Weinberg
In 2019, Steamer projects Bryce Harper (4.9 WAR) and Manny Machado (5.1 WAR) to contribute virtually the same value.
Here are WAR approximations (based on Neil Weinberg’s rule of thumb) for Harper and Machado over the next 13 years, along with their monetary value for each season (based on $8 million/ 1 WAR):
2019: (age 26 season): Harper – 4.9 ($39.2 million); Machado – 5.1 ($40.8 million)
2020: Harper – 4.9 ($39.2 million); Machado – 5.1 ($40.8 million)
2021: Harper – 4.9 ($39.2 million); Machado – 5.1 ($40.8 million)
2022: Harper – 4.9 ($39.2 million); Machado – 5.1 ($40.8 million)
2023: (age 30 season): Harper – 4.4 ($35.2 million); Machado – 4.6 ($36.8 million)
2024: Harper – 3.9 ($31.2 million); Machado – 4.1 ($32.8 million)
2025: Harper – 3.4 ($27.2 million); Machado – 3.6 ($28.8 million)
2026: Harper – 2.9 ($23.2 million); Machado – 3.1 ($24.8 million)
2027: (age 34 season): Harper – 2.4 ($19.2 million); Machado – 2.6 ($20.8 million)
2028: Harper – 1.9 ($15.2 million); Machado – 2.1 ($16.8 million)
2029: Harper – 1.4 ($11.2 million); Machado – 1.6 ($12.8 million)
2030: Harper – 0.9 ($7.2 million); Machado – 1.1 ($8.8 million)
2031: (age 38 season): Harper – 0.4 ($3.2 million); Machado – 0.6 ($4.8 million)
2032: Harper – -0.1 ($-1.2 million); Machado – 0.1 ($0.8 million)
2033: Harper – -0.6 ($-5.2 million); Machado – -0.4 ($-3.8 million)
Harper contract possibilities:
- 1 yr, $39.2 million total
- 2 yr, $78.4 million total
- 3 yr, $117.6 million total
- 4 yr, $156.8 million total
- 5 yr, $192 million total
- 6 yr, $223.2 million total
- 7 yr, $250.4 million total
- 8 yr, $273.6 million total
- 9 yr, $292.8 million total
- 10 yr, $308 million total
- 11 yr, $319.2 million total
- 12 yr, $326.4 million total
- 13 yr, $329.6 million total
Machado contract possibilities:
- 1 yr, $40.8 million total
- 2 yr, $81.6 million total
- 3 yr, $122.4 million total
- 4 yr, $163.2 million total
- 5 yr, $200 million total
- 6 yr, $232.8 million total
- 7 yr, $261.6 million total
- 8 yr, $286.4 million total
- 9 yr, $307.2 million total
- 10 yr, $324 million total
- 11 yr, $338.8 million total
- 12 yr, $349.6 million total
- 13 yr, $356.4 million total
In conclusion, I would prefer Machado over Harper because 3B/SS are more premium positions than RF (Harper’s home), and I would offer to pay Machado more money to play 3B.
Now it’s your turn. If you were an MLB general manager…
- Would you sign Harper or Machado?
- If so, how long would you sign him for?
- How much money would you pay for him?
Write your responses in the “comments” section below.
Thanks for reading.