By Albert Gregorio
With Spring Training in full swing, two of Major League Baseball’s prized free agents finally signed new contracts with their new teams. The deals were nearly a week apart from each other and the wait was well worth it. These contracts are the two biggest free agent signings in MLB history, according to MLB.com.
The first contract was signed by shortstop and third baseman Manny Machado, who signed a 10-year, $300 million deal with the San Diego Padres on Feb. 20. The other contract was a 13-year, $330 million deal signed by right fielder Bryce Harper with the Philadelphia Phillies on Feb. 28.
Machado’s deal came completely out of left field.
While many realized he was going to get a huge contract since he is a four-time All-Star who has hit over 30 home runs every season since 2015, no one expected him to sign with the Padres.
Teams that were expected to sign him were either the Phillies, the Chicago White Sox or the New York Yankees.
Unlike Machado, Harper ended up going with a team that was not all that surprising. The three finalists in the Harper race were the San Francisco Giants, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Phillies, the latter of whom signed him.
Even though the Machado signing will not have an immediate effect, it may end up having a bigger impact than the two signings once both players say goodbye to the game.
This signing puts the Padres back on the map since the team has been mediocre for well over a decade. San Diego has not had a winning season since 2010 and has not made the playoffs since 2006.
The signing of Machado will help the Padres get some respect back from around the league, but just because they signed this one superstar does not necessarily mean they will make the playoffs in the coming years.
The only players that have any name recognition on the Padres other than Machado are Will Myers and Eric Hosmer, who have both played in the All-Star Game in the past.
These three players alone are not going to be able to carry the Padres back into the playoffs in 2019, but what makes the Machado deal exciting is that the Padres now have an excellent core to build around.
These three players are all proven leaders that are in their mid-to-late 20s who will be around the Padres for the next four years minimum.
Combine them with the best farm system, according to MLB.com, and they will become a perennial playoff threat in years to come once some of these prospects mature and make it to the majors.
Unlike the Padres, the Phillies are now just entering their playoff window. The team has been on a steep decline since it won the World Series in 2008 and has not made the playoffs since 2011, but things are looking up in Philadelphia.
The team occupied first place in the National League East at times last season with the emergence of left fielder/first baseman Rhys Hoskins, who hit 34 home runs and had 96 RBIs in his first full season in the majors.
Even before adding Harper, the Phillies had already made a few other notable offseason moves to bolster their lineup and make a push for the playoffs.
They traded for catcher J.T. Realmuto (who played in the All-Star Game last year), signed closer David Robertson (who played an underrated role in a stacked Yankees bullpen) and signed Andrew McCutchen (a former National League MVP and five-time All-Star).
With these moves, they were already likely to make the playoffs, but with Harper — a former National League MVP, National League Rookie of the Year and six-time All-Star — in the mix, the Phillies will become much more of a threat not only in the playoffs, but on a deep run, too.
Because of all this, the Harper signing will have a more immediate impact that will allow the Phillies to compete for the World Series for the next few years.
The only real thing that is guaranteed about these signings are that it is an exciting time for both of these franchises. They both spent a hefty amount of money for a pair of fantastic baseball players who have changed the courses of their respective teams drastically.
It will be fun to watch how both of these deals play out and if both of these players can live up to the huge expectations that have been put on their shoulders by these organizations.