Phillies Panel: Harper and Machado

Welcome to the first post of the offseason here at PFO – Phillies. With the hot stove heating up as teams prepare for Winter Meetings, we want to get on the record. Part 1 of our panel discussion focused on the two big elephants in the room.

Panelists:

Jack Levy- @jlevy34

Chris Deibler- @mrcrockpot

Ty Book- @TyBook3

Steve Starkins – @Fansince09

Adam Schorr – @BusterDucks

Moderator: The Phillies obviously have needs on the left side of the infield and in the corner OF. Is there any reason the Phillies shouldn’t be in on Machado and/or Harper? I know they both have attitude concerns. What about the price? Is there a price too high?

Jack: There is no reason why the Phillies should not try and get one of Harper or Machado, if not both. The Braves have an incredible farm system, and the Phillies are going to need some superstars to keep up. Also, the Phillies have been saving money to get a superstar in free agency, and this is the year. They can’t wait and hope the Mike Trout comes in a few years. No price will be too high for either of these guys.

Chris: I have a recurring nightmare that one of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado is not enough to consistently compete with the Atlanta Braves. It’s incredibly painful to say this, but the prospects in the Atlanta Braves farm system are head and shoulders better than those in the Phillies system moving forward. In my opinion, if the Phillies plan on competing for a World Championship, Klentak must be willing to break the bank to sign both Machado and Harper. On my end, there is no price tag too high to get these guys. The Phillies’ offense (and defense) was a joke last year, and getting Machado and Harper would immediately solve our biggest issue from the get go. Signing both Machado and Harper would be great for obvious reasons, but giving Rhys Hoskins that kind of protection in the lineup would simply be incredible.

Ty: The upcoming offseason for the Phillies should be a lot of fun to watch unfold. The organization has been open about wanting to make a splash. The two biggest splashes would be Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

I love the Harper idea, he fits well with a young core of players and has postseason experience. He solidifies the outfield and provides a huge boost to the lineup, adding protection for guys like Rhys Hoskins. His numbers also line up with what the Phillies want to do offensively, even if you don’t agree with analytics. Scoring over 100 runs two of the last four years and walking over 100 times three out of the last four feed right into Gabe Kapler’s coaching style. Harper also plays hard, which will help win over a fan base that watched him in a Nats jersey the last seven seasons.

Machado is a tough sell for me personally because of his personality. This year’s postseason was a great showcase of his extraordinary talent and a disappointing display of his heart. He puts up good numbers but doesn’t walk much or score a ton of runs. The power statistics are very good, and he plays every day, playing all 162 two of the last four years. The Phillies’ need on the left side of the infield is glaring, but this doesn’t seem like the right fit. His openness about not hustling and then Cadillac’ing the longest single in World Series history leads me to believe this isn’t the right city for him. In a town that prides itself on being blue collar, Machado would struggle to win over fans.   

FS09:  The worst part of this rebuild has been that it’s allowed Atlanta to stock their farm system with incredible talents like Acuna while the Phillies struck out. Looking down the farm system, there are a few good arms but nobody who compares to some of the great young players we saw take the NL by storm, so the Phillies are now in this position where they have to throw money at every big name free agent just to compete. I think they’ll need both Machado and Harper to win the division barring a major overhaul of the supplemental pieces on this team.

I think Harper is a perfect fit. He has the personality to succeed in Philadelphia. The Phillies know it, and I believe he knows it. He’s going to take the biggest offer he can, and I don’t see the Phillies letting him get away. Harper is an East Coast type of player who already knows Philadelphia well, has seen Phillies fans when they’ve packed CBP, and knows he would become part of a landscape of superstars with Wentz and Embiid. Yes, I know we said this about LeBron, but Harper is in a totally different situation. LeBron wanted to start thinking about the end of his career, and only LA could provide that. Harper has a long career ahead of him, and I really don’t see him going anywhere else. For all of the Machado talk of the last season, I’ve always felt that Harper was the primary FA target.

While Harper is the better personality fit, Machado fills the biggest need that the team has. At this point, we can safely say that Maikel Franco don’t got it. Scott Kingery, as much as Gabe tried to convince us, is not a shortstop. Machado gives you the chance to replace Franco or to slide Kingery to 2nd and deal Cesar Hernandez – replacing any one of those guys with a generational talent like Machado solves a whole lot of problems.  As for his attitude, I’d take Manny giving up on some grounders to first for the talent that he provides.

Adam: Obviously both these guys fit, but my big concern is the cost. I’m not averse to paying huge talent huge money. But I am averse to paying not huge talent huge money. And therein lies the question: is Bryce Harper actually huge talent? By baseball-reference’s WAA (like WAR, but compared to an average player instead of a replacement player), he’s been a below average player in two of the past three seasons. He fared only slightly better on fangraphs. If you pay a guy $30M+ a year, you better be getting a superstar. And while Harper has shown flashes of that level, I think it’s dangerous to assume he will consistently be that level when he hasn’t shown it. I’m just not sure I would give him a blank check. I have no such misgivings about Machado. Pay him whatever he wants.

Check back for Part 2, a look at other free agents and some current Phillies that may not fit here anymore.