Surprising Contract Projections Have Manny Machado Getting Quite a Bit More Than Bryce Harper

With a number of significant free agents looming after this season, considering their movements in a very real way is coming – sooner than you might think. As the MLBits noted last night, midseason trade rumormongering will soon begin, which will necessarily implicate the free agent class thanks both to the specter of draft pick compensation, and also the possibility that teams will try to acquire one of the big-timers now and then lock him down before he actually reaches the market.

With that in mind, I don’t really think it’s too early at all to start thinking about the range of actual contract prices for this impressive class of free agents, especially against the backdrop of what happened last offseason and the way contracts got a whole lot more creative. If nothing else, it’s interesting.

When it comes to discussing the possible contracts for guys like Bryce Harper or Manny Machado or Clayton Kershaw, we have a tendency to just kind of think of a big number – bigger than previous numbers, and usually round – and go with that in our conversation. While there’s SOME art to that (guys do try to beat previous contracts of relevance), it’s mostly just something you do at the bar.

To that end, I really enjoyed Dan Szymborski’s early look projected contracts for some of the biggest free agent stars using objective criteria, specifically his ZiPS system. Notably, though, he looked back at the last couple years of contracts to determine how much teams wound up *actually* paying out for projected WAR in order to come up with a WAR/$ value to use for these projections. It’s a subtle difference, but a smart and important one: instead of using the dollar value provided by players as a multiplier in these WAR calculations, Szymborski appears to recognize that things have gone a little wonky, and therefore relies on what teams have actually been spending (combined with what ZiPS projects the players to do in the coming years).

In so doing, his projected contracts wind up being really surprising. I won’t give you all the nitty gritty, as you should read the article for that. But I do want to discuss a particular surprise.

For one thing, Manny Machado (eight years and $300 million) winds up with the largest projected contract, rather than Bryce Harper (eight years and $258 million), thanks largely to Machado playing shortstop and his consistent and durable performance. For all the ballyhoo of Harper’s insane 2015 season (9.3 WAR), he has never otherwise reached even 5.0 WAR. Machado’s done that three times.

(Note, if projected as a third baseman, Machado’s deal drops to eight years and $264 million, still higher than Harper.)

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

For these two guys, I think an enormous contract is guaranteed at this point, regardless of what happens this season (short of a loss of limb). But I also think the final figures could diverge wildly based on how they perform.

For example, if Harper has another Ruthian season like he did a few years ago? I honestly believe $400 million will be within reach of the 26-year-old. And if Machado transitions well to shortstop, while also having the kind of offensive season his batted ball rates suggested he should have had last year? Heck, he might push $400 million, too. I’d still give the contract edge to Harper in that scenario, though, since I suspect two franchise-altering seasons in the last four years would top three excellent seasons in the last four.

And what if Harper gets hurt again, or Machado’s offensive results are down again? It wouldn’t crush their contracts, but it would make projecting which guy gets more as we sit here today virtually impossible. Interesting, but impossible.

Circling back to that Harper projection … um … SIGN ME UP TODAY. That’s a little over $32 million annually for Harper’s age 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, and 33 seasons. That’s the kind of deal, in my view, that is simply too good to pass up, regardless of the roster fit, luxury tax implications, and what it may force you to do with other outfielders. Consider this: if he keeps performing and his arbitration figures keep trending as aggressively as this year’s record figure, Kris Bryant will push $30 million in his final arbitration year in 2020 when he’s 29.

For that reason, I strongly doubt that’s where Harper winds up. Yes, I get that it would still be a huge deal and I get that he’s had injuries that have limited his season-by-season production. But the bat is so very real (and not just because he can crush homers even after the bat shatters), and he’ll be in his prime. There’s absurd potential value there.

I tend to think that Harper will not only get an enormous guarantee (exceeding $300 million, again, absent a catastrophic scenario later this year), but he’ll get a cascade of opt-outs that make his contract truly unique. Well, unique save perhaps for whatever deal Machado gets.

What do you think about those two? Imagine each has the best possible year he can have in 2018. Whom would you want if the terms were equal? Whom do you think would actually get the biggest contract?

written by

Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

more cubs news

Enhanced Box Score: Cubs 4, Rays 3 – June 12, 2024

The Cubs don't "win" games anymore. They survive them. So it was tonight, with Hector Neris called upon to close out the game again, after last night's fiasco. His pitches generally fell into two categories, either noncompetitive balls or absolute...

Cody Bellinger Gives the Cubs the Lead with a Three-Run Home Run!

THAT is the kind of big swing the Cubs needed with runners on base. Take any kind of batted ball luck out of the equation by just sending the ball to the seats. Cody Bellinger gives the Cubs the lead:...

Seiya Suzuki Sends One Out to Center

Need the guys who are here to supply power to, you know, supply power. So it was good to see Seiya Suzuki get into one. This fourth inning blast tied the game up (for now): https://twitter.com/WatchMarquee/status/1801037668530167867 https://twitter.com/Taylor_McGregor/status/1801037333396853052

Pre-Gamin’: Cubs at Rays (5:50 CT) – Lineups, Broadcast Info, Game Thread

CUBS LINEUP — If you aren't going to beat the Cardinals and Reds and Rays, who are you going to beat, exactly? At least Craig Counsell is significantly shaking up the lineup tonight. This is one hell of a different...

The Cubs Have Signed Jorge Lopez – Yes, That Jorge Lopez

Even as he was being punted quickly from the New York Mets organization following the glove-throwing incident, it wasn't clear that pitcher Jorge Lopez was done pitching this year. After all, the 31-year-old reliever had a long big league track...

Chicago Cubs 1st Round Mock Draft: Exploring Potential Picks

The Chicago Cubs are set to make their first-round selection in the 2024 MLB Draft with the 14th overall selection. Oct 1, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts (R) smiles next to Chicago Cubs President of Baseball...

Owen Caissie Just Hit a Monster 10th Inning Home Run (And Then Other Stuff Happened)

If the big league Cubs aren't going to supply us with many thrilling moments, at least the prospects can step up. This afternoon, the Iowa Cubs had played the Columbus Clippers to a 1-1 tie in regulation. In the top...

MLBits: Aaron Judge’s Hot Streak, Paul Skenes Standing O, Cubs Need a Spark, More

MLB Notes — Aaron Judge was incredible in May, hitting .361/.479/.918 with 14 home runs in 97 at-bats for the Yankees. He helped New York post a 21-5 record in May, taking them to the top of the American League...

My Reaction on Some of Jed Hoyer’s Comments Today — Offense, Potential for Trades, Internal Improvements, More

This morning, Jed Hoyer joined Mully and Haugh on 670 The Score to talk about his team and where things are headed. The conversation (which you can catch in full at the bottom of this post) was mostly a collection...

Something Has to Change, and I Have Some Suggestions

Last night, the Chicago Cubs lost the way they always lose this season: No timely hitting (1-7 w/ RISP) + a bullpen meltdown (3.0 IP, 4H, 5ER, 3BB, 4K). Only the Chicago White Sox have more blown saves than the...

Latest News

Storm vs Wings: Best Bets, Player Props & Computer Picks – June 13

The Dallas Wings (3-7) will look to Arike Ogunbowale (second in WNBA, 26.4 points per game) going up against Jewell Loyd (fifth in league, 20.3) and the Seattle Storm (8-4) on Thursday, June 13, 2024 at College Park Center. The...

Dream vs Fever: Best Bets, Player Props & Computer Picks – June 13

The Indiana Fever (3-10) take on the Atlanta Dream (5-5) on Thursday, June 13, 2024 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. It begins at 7:00 PM ET.If you are looking to gain an edge on Thursday's game, dig into the best bets available...

Tigers vs. Nationals: Injury Report, Updates & Probable Starters – June 13

The Detroit Tigers (32-35) will host the Washington Nationals (32-35), Thursday at 1:10 PM ET, with the Nationals on a five-game winning run.Hoping to find out who's in and who's out for the Tigers and the Nationals? Keep scrolling to...

Orioles vs. Braves: Injury Report, Updates & Probable Starters – June 13

On Thursday, the Atlanta Braves (35-30) are visiting the Baltimore Orioles (45-22), at 1:05 PM ET. The Orioles have taken six in a row.Want to see who's in and who's out for the Orioles and the Braves? Keep scrolling for...

Cubs vs. Rays: Injury Report, Updates & Probable Starters – June 13

The Tampa Bay Rays (32-36) and Chicago Cubs (33-35) will meet on Thursday at Tropicana Field, starting at 6:50 PM ET.Looking to see who's playing for the Cubs and the Rays? Keep scrolling to get complete injury reports for both...

Twins vs. Athletics: Injury Report, Updates & Probable Starters – June 13

At Target Field on Thursday, the Oakland Athletics (26-44) begin a four-game series versus the Minnesota Twins (36-32), at 7:40 PM ET.Curious about who's available to play for the Twins and the Athletics? Keep reading to get full injury reports...

Mets vs. Marlins: Injury Report, Updates & Probable Starters – June 13

The New York Mets (29-37) and Miami Marlins (23-44) will clash on Thursday at Citi Field, starting at 7:10 PM ET.Hoping to find out who's available to play for the Mets and the Marlins? Keep reading to see full injury...

Phillies vs. Red Sox: Injury Report, Updates & Probable Starters – June 13

On Thursday, the Boston Red Sox (34-34) are hosting the Philadelphia Phillies (46-21), at 7:10 PM ET, in the final game of a three-game series.Curious about who's available to play for the Phillies and the Red Sox? Keep reading for...

Seattle Storm vs. Dallas Wings: Start Time, Streaming Live, TV Channel, How to Watch

The Dallas Wings (3-7) will look to Arike Ogunbowale (second in WNBA, 26.4 points per game) when they attempt to knock off Jewell Loyd (fifth in league, 20.3) and the Seattle Storm (8-4) on Thursday, June 13, 2024 at College...

Atlanta Dream vs. Indiana Fever: Start Time, Streaming Live, TV Channel, How to Watch

The Atlanta Dream (5-5) take on the Indiana Fever (3-10) on Thursday, June 13, 2024 at 7:00 PM ET. The matchup airs on ESPN3, WTHR-13, and Peachtree TV.Watch the WNBA all season long on Fubo!How to Watch Dream vs. FeverGame...

more cubs news