I remember my jaw dropping in 2008 after hearing about the Detroit Tigers’ massive 10-year, $300 million contract with Miguel Cabrera. I was a little kid and Cabby was my hero — I thought he deserved all the money in the world.
In retrospect, I realize just how much money $300 million is. But somehow, it felt like he deserved it. He was a franchise player, the face of the Tigers and an asset to the team.
The MLB has money, and it isn’t afraid to spend a little extra cash if it means keeping a franchise player like Cabrera around. After all, he did become the first Triple Crown winner since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
Last week, third baseman Manny Machado signed a $300 million contract with the San Diego Padres, signing the most valuable free agent contract in the history of the Major Leagues. It just doesn’t make sense.
Don’t get me wrong — I am a Machado fan. Correction: I am a huge Machado fan. As a fielder, Machado is one of the smoothest, most fluid defenders baseball has seen. His web gems consistently fill my Twitter feed, each one more amazing than the last. He’s good, but he is not worth $300 million. His contract makes no sense for so many reasons.
Machado swallows up anything hit to him and has a cannon for an arm, but he lacks the hitting numbers to make me feel comfortable having him as a part of this roster. The Padres haven’t risen above a .500 record since 2011, and for most of the years since then, they have lacked any semblance of half-decent talent.
Second, the farm system for the Padres is currently solid and they should have no problem bringing up new talent or acquiring players from other teams to beef up their roster over the coming years. But I don’t see the appeal of hiring Machado to stand out on the diamond alone for a couple years until that happens.
In stark contrast, outfielder Bryce Harper finally signed with a team. For $330 million over 13 years, Harper will anchor the outfield at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. This deal makes so much more sense than Machado going to the Padres.
First, the price seems comparable to the added value to Phillies will receive. At nearly $25 million per year, Harper’s contract is on par with players like Giancarlo Stanton with the Marlins in 2016.
Second, Harper is in good company. This past season, the Phillies looked like they had a shot to move past their multi-year slump; that didn’t happen, however. The Phillies continued to be the depressing, slightly-below-average team they have been for a while now.
Philadelphia’s strength is in pitching. The team’s starting rotation is solid all-around with Jake Arrieta, Aaron Nola and Nick Pivetta, to name a few. The squad of slingers posted the league’s ninth-best era, at 4.40 in 2018. But it wasn’t supported by the team’s hitting, as the Phillies had the 15th best in the nation. The Phillies posted an 80-82 record finishing 10 games behind the division-leading Atlanta Braves.
Harper is one of those guys that makes clutch plays. He is an asset to have on any team and brings a level of swagger to the game that is sure to light a fire under the team and its fan base.
My gut tells me that this is the year they figure it out. Last year, things were new and full of promise. 2019 is the Phillies’ year.
Sam Arslanian is a sophomore writing about sports. His column, “Extra Innings,” runs Fridays.