With the winter meetings in the books, Machado and Harper have yet to sign with a team. That doesn’t mean, however, that the MLB’s historic off-season hasn’t already seen several big names come off the board. Patrick Corbin signed a six-year deal with the Nationals, St. Louis made a surprise move for Paul Goldschmidt and James Paxton has been shipped to the Yankees.
On the Phillies front, the team has added two reliable veteran bats in Andrew McCutchen and Jean Segura. Segura will be playing shortstop while McCutchen will likely be a corner outfielder. Both two former All-Stars (former MVP in McCutchen’s case) also project to be massive defensive upgrades. This is big considering the team’s abysmal defensive numbers last season.
Despite all the activity, the main story continues to be where the two franchise-altering stars will sign in Machado and Harper. The hype is so big that even sports fans who don’t care for baseball have paid attention to these two, and for good reason. Both at age 26, Harper and Machado are both significantly younger than most stars when they hit free agency. This of course means that whoever signs them will be getting more prime years out of their investment than they normally would.
That is because generally, the average free agent hits the market in their late 20’s/early 30’s. When teams sign players like this to multi-year deals, the back end of the contract can be quite brutal.
Think Albert Pujols for example. He put up Hall of Fame numbers in St. Louis and earned himself a 9-year deal worth over 200 million at age 32. And how has it worked out? Well, he’s yet to crack a .300 batting average once and is owed over 25 million per year until 2021. By that time, he’ll be 41 and the once greatest bat in the game is already putting up league average numbers.
Unlike Pujols, at 26, Machado and Harper still have plenty of productive years left and could potentially produce over the duration of their contract. “Franchise-altering” is the only way to describe what these players could do for a team. Whoever signs either one instantly becomes a contender for the foreseeable future.
Of course, the Phillies have long been linked to both and that buzz has persisted all off-season. With the team trending up and a statement that they might get “a little stupid” with their money from John Middleton, they’ve been seen as a natural fit for both.
So the club is still in on both, but who makes more sense? Harper and Machado can both consistently be counted on for 30+ home runs, an OBP in the .340 – .360 range and have accumulated WARs of 27.4 and 33.8 respectively. So needless to say, either one is a pure middle of the order bat with Hall of Fame potential. Complaining about signing either would be foolish, but could the ballpark factor in to the final decision from both camps?
Harper’s Numbers At Citizens Bank Park Are Quite Good
As a member of the Nationals, it goes without saying that Harper has plenty of experience playing in Citizens Bank Park. He has started 47 games there while playing in a total of 50. As for Machado, his sample size is naturally much more limited and isn’t enough to truly analyze.
So what do Harper’s career numbers at CBP look like? All told, he’s hitting .268 with an OBP of .365 and a slugging percentage of .564 , his best slugging percentage in parks with a minimum of 100 at-bats. In terms of power, Harper has hit 14 bombs – his most in any park outside Washington. He’s also racked up 32 RBIs and has an OPS of .930, again his highest outside Washington. This is all the more impressive when you factor in that he’s done all this while starting fewer games there. He has started 56 games in Miami, 55 in New York and 56 across Atlanta’s two parks he’s played in. Remember he’s started just 47 in Philly and still has more home-runs there than anywhere else.
Known as a hitter-friendly stadium, could playing regularly at Citizens Bank Park influence his decision? It is completely possible that his power numbers would improve playing in Philadelphia as opposed to Washington. Plus, Philly is known for hard-nosed players like Harper. His personality could play here much like Jimmy Butler’s has played well with Sixers fans. Money will obviously be the primary motivator, but could his numbers here along with his personality fit make Philly a more attractive destination?
Don’t Forget He Also Rakes Against The NL East As A Whole
Harper’s stats against the rest of the NL East are also worth taking a peek at. All told, he has largely mashed against them too. Counting both home and away games; he has a lifetime OBP of .399 with 24 home-runs against the Marlins, .392 with 25 against the Braves and .377 with 23 bombs against the Mets.
Will any of this matter? We’ll find out soon enough, but his numbers at Citizens Bank Park and against the NL East as a whole are certainly interesting to take a look at.