Four reasons Manny Machado is more valuable than Bryce Harper

Manny-Machado_headshot

When you’re only 20 and hit the ball like Bryce Harper, you’re pretty valuable.

But the Orioles have their own 20-year-old superstar, and he’s pretty valuable too.

Bryce Harper is under the Nationals control until the 2019 season, when he hits free agency.  With a 5.2 WAR season in the books, and a 1.8 WAR through a quarter of 2013, Bryce Harper has already established himself as one of the most valuable properties in baseball.  It’s hard to a imagine a package of players big enough for the Nationals to trade Bryce Harper.  Mike Rizzo wouldn’t trade Harper for the entire Houston Astros franchise.

But Manny Machado is probably more valuable.  It’s difficult to comprehend, but here’s why.

1. Contract/Arbitration

Manny Machado will hit free agency the same year as Bryce Harper, but he wasn’t called up to the majors until August 2012.  Harper was called up in April, meaning he will likely gain “Super Two” status–giving Harper four years of arbitration instead of three.  This means in 2015 Harper will start to get pretty expensive.  If he keeps performing at MVP levels, he will set arbitration records.  Furthermore, Harper will receive $2 million this season and $2.15 million in 2014 by virtue of his Major League contract signed in 2010.  Machado by comparison will make close to the league minimum until 2016.

2. Defense

Machado plays superb defense at third base.  In 2013, he has already put up a 1.3 defensive WAR.  Harper this season has been playing replacement level defense in left field.  With Machado playing elite defense at third, Harper will be operating at a value deficit, no matter what he does at the plate.  This defensive value gulf only promises to get bigger when Machado moves to shortstop in 2015, as is expected.

3. Injuries

Minor injuries seem to find Bryce Harper.  This season alone, he’s been sidelined with the flu, a bruise on his left side, an ingrown toenail, and a knee bruise that’s caused him to miss almost a week worth of games (and counting).  At 20, he can shake off these injuries, but they should nonetheless be worrisome as Harper ages.  Even minor injuries can dampen a player’s value.  Also, Harper’s reckless style of play puts him at constant risk for a major injury, which might eliminate his value altogether for a particular season.

4. Free Agency

This is the elephant in the room that no Nationals fan wants to address.  Bryce Harper’s agent is Scott Boras, who has a lengthy track record of taking all his clients to free agency.  With Boras doing the negotiating, a long-term contract extension seems like a long shot.  Disturbingly, Bryce Harper is already on record as a Yankees fan.  In 2019, Harper’s free agency may turn into a LeBron style free-for-all.  Without Boras as an agent, the Orioles at least have a shot to keep Machado away from free agency.

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