We at the moment are lower than every week away from virtually all pitchers and catchers reporting, and the 2 largest free brokers available on the market — Manny Machado and Bryce Harper — have but to signal. The rumor mill round them continues to swirl, however we’re uninterested in not understanding for positive the place these two will play this yr. So we thought we’d take issues into our personal arms, as an alternative of merely ready round for the newest hot-stove updates.
To that finish, we referred to as on our buddies at Out of the Park Baseball (OOTP), a strategic simulation recreation that permits gamers to placed on their basic supervisor hats and run their very own groups. We requested them to simulate out the careers of Harper and Machado a bunch of occasions underneath situations the place they signal with a bunch of various groups. Consider it because the multiverse of MLB prospects that also might play out, relying on the place these two superstars find yourself signing.
It’s necessary to notice that that is all guided by the sport’s synthetic intelligence, so it’s based mostly on a simulation engine primarily meant for enjoyable gameplay. Having stated all that, within the true spirit of J. Henry Waugh’s Common Baseball Affiliation, what if …
… Machado indicators with the White Sox?
Frequency: 80 % of simulations
Common contract: Eight years for $198 million
Six-year staff wins: 78.7 per season
Six-year WAR: 6.zero per season
Greatest playoff end result: Loses divisional collection in 2021
Machado is among the brightest stars within the OOTP universe, with an general score of 77 out of 80 (utilizing the normal 20-80 scouting scale). If he have been to signal with the White Sox, one in every of his most regularly rumored suitors in actual life, OOTP sees him having an incredible particular person debut in Chicago, placing collectively an All-Star season value 6.5 wins above alternative. However the White Sox must wait till 2020 to enhance as a staff, leaping from 63 wins in 2019 to 92 in 2020, with Machado as soon as once more having a robust 5.Eight-WAR season. Chicago would common 92 wins per season in 2020 and ’21, making the playoffs each years, however they might prime out with a troublesome five-game loss within the American League Division Collection in 2021, then drop right down to 80 wins in 2022 as Machado’s teammates regress.
He would common 5.7 WAR per season over the subsequent two years, however the Sox would miss the playoffs each seasons, with Machado opting out of his contract to hitch the New York Mets on a five-year, $197.5 million deal earlier than the 2025 season. (Chicago can be nice with out him, making the American League Championship Collection in 2025 and 2026.) In New York, Machado’s particular person numbers would decline to a mean of four.1 WAR per season, however he would assist the 2028 Mets attain the World Collection — the place, in basic Mets trend, they might lose to the Astros in seven video games. After bouncing to the Nationals and Rockies within the early 2030s, Machado would retire in October 2032 with a JAWS rating of 63.four, which ought to simply earn him a spot within the Corridor of Fame.
… Machado indicators with the Padres?
Frequency: 20 % of simulations
Common contract: Eight years for $212 million
Six-year staff wins: 83.Three per season
Six-year WAR: 5.zero per season
Greatest playoff end result: Loses league championship collection in 2024
If Machado have been to signal with San Diego, OOTP’s AI thinks that he would make about $14 million extra over an eight-year contract than he would with the White Sox. However how would his Padres do on the sector? On this universe, Machado would have an unimaginable preliminary marketing campaign in Southern California, placing up 7.5 WAR and profitable the Nationwide League’s MVP in 2019. His workforce, although, would solely enhance from 66 to 76 wins, good for third place within the NL West, and Machado would later wrestle to repeat his superb debut season. The simulations have him averaging simply four.1 WAR per season in 2020-21, with the Padres profitable solely 71 video games a yr. However in 2022, Machado would bounce again with 5.2 WAR, and San Diego would win 95 video games, making the divisional collection. It’s a part of a three-year playoff surge for the Padres, peaking with 100 wins in 2024 — however that group is projected to crash out of the playoffs with a disappointing five-game NLCS loss to the Dodgers.
That offseason, Machado would choose out of his preliminary contract and signal a five-year, $157.5 million cope with the enlargement Memphis Scouts — that are a factor on this universe! — the place he would spend the subsequent 5 seasons enjoying fairly properly (four.2 WAR per yr), however dropping so many ballgames would certainly give him flashbacks to the horrid 2018 Orioles. One of the best season of Machado’s remaining years is forecast to be an out-of-nowhere four.Three-WAR season with the 101-win Cincinnati Reds in 2032, however that workforce would finally lose within the divisional collection. In September 2035, Machado would retire from professional baseball as a possible Corridor of Famer.
… Machado indicators some place else?
Whereas OOTP’s AI thinks Chicago and San Diego are the locations more than likely for Machado, it additionally pressured him onto the Phillies, Yankees and Twins for the sake of the complete multiverse. The primary two outcomes are a few wash individually, with Machado nearing 7 WAR in his greatest simulated season for every group and producing roughly the identical complete WAR (33.9 in New York, 32.6 in Philly). He would additionally keep longer in every metropolis: seven years with the Phillies earlier than opting out to hitch the Giants and the complete eight-year contract span with the Yankees. However when it comes to workforce efficiency, Machado wouldn’t win a World Collection in both Philadelphia or New York, coming closest with a seven-game ALCS loss in 2022 as a part of his Yankees timeline. It’s sort of a tragic set of outcomes for a pair of groups that you simply’d assume would supply Machado the best probability of group success. As for the Twins, they might be very profitable with Machado, profitable 90.2 video games per season in his 5 years in Minnesota, together with a World Collection berth in 2021. However he would additionally choose out of that contract as early as potential, shifting on to signal an enormous cope with the Giants. Such is the best way of Minnesota sports activities.
Let’s transfer on to Harper, whose future is harder to learn than Machado’s. OOTP’s AI predicted that he’d signal with any of 4 groups — the Giants (64 %), Cardinals (20 %), Padres (12 %) and Dodgers (four %) — and that’s not even the complete spate of his generally rumored choices. However let’s peer into OOTP’s crystal ball anyway. What if …
… Harper indicators with the Giants?
Frequency: 64 % of simulations
Common contract: Seven years for $175 million
Six-year group wins: 82.1 per season
Six-year WAR: Three.Three per season
Greatest playoff outcome: No playoffs
The Giants are a bizarre workforce that gained 73 video games final season regardless of making an attempt to contend, they usually do have the necessity for a nook outfielder like Harper in the event that they need to attempt it once more in 2019. In accordance with OOTP, San Francisco would pay about $15 million to $20 million extra over a seven-year deal than Harper’s different potential suitors, they usually wouldn’t get a lot postseason success out of it. They’re projected to common 85.5 wins per season over the primary 4 years of Harper’s deal, ending second within the NL West (and out of the playoffs) annually. They might additionally get basic inconsistent Bryce: 5.7 WAR in Yr 1, adopted by 2.2 and a couple of.9 WAR (each seasons riddled with accidents), then four.four, after which zero.6 in a horrible 2023 season throughout which Harper would hit .209, with the Giants crashing to 74 wins.
After six up-and-down seasons by the Bay, Harper would signal a four-year, $116.Eight million cope with the Brewers. He’s projected for a robust season on a playoff-bound Milwaukee workforce in 2025 however then simply 2.1 WAR per yr over the subsequent two seasons earlier than opting out early but once more to hitch … sure, the Yankees. Throughout his inevitable run in pinstripes, Harper would boast an .821 OPS as his Yanks make (and lose) the ALCS in 2028, however he would put up destructive WAR over the subsequent two seasons. He would retire at age 38 after being launched by New York (and briefly rejoining the Giants). Harper’s last JAWS rating of 49.9 would put him proper on the sting of the Corridor of Fame relative to different proper fielders.
… Harper indicators with the Cardinals?
Frequency: 20 % of simulations
Common contract: Seven years for $151 million
Six-year staff wins: 87.2 per season
Six-year WAR: four.9 per season
Greatest playoff outcome: Loses World Collection in 2027 and 2030
This is among the most profitable universes both star free agent had in our OOTP simulations. On this world, the Cardinals would seize Harper for the bargain-bin worth of $151 million, and he would stick with them for a complete of 12 seasons thanks to a different midcareer contract extension. St. Louis can be principally aggressive all through Harper’s dozen seasons there, averaging 87 wins per yr and making the playoffs 9 occasions, together with two pennant-winning runs. Harper is projected for 53.four complete WAR in a Cardinals uniform (which might truly rank him slightly below Ozzie Smith for fifth on the franchise’s all-time leaderboard), profitable the 2023 NL MVP with a 1.033 OPS and seven.four WAR. In Harper’s last season as a Cardinal at age 37, OOTP sees St. Louis dropping the 2030 World Collection to (Machado’s?) White Sox in a heartbreaking seventh recreation.
After leaving St. Louis, Harper would signal a three-year, $62 million cope with the Mets, however a fractured knee would value him 88 video games in his first New York season, and he wouldn’t be the identical participant afterward, averaging simply 1.1 WAR/yr in 2032-33. Following an ineffective 51-game stint with the Giants in 2034, Harper would retire as a surefire Corridor of Famer with a JAWS rating of 69.2.
… Harper indicators some other place?
Harper has been linked to so many groups, it’s robust to maintain monitor typically. So we requested OOTP to take a look at the opposite groups its personal AI noticed Harper signing with (the Padres and Dodgers), plus the Phillies, White Sox and Harper’s erstwhile staff, the Nationals. Of these, the Dodgers simply supply the best quantity of workforce glory — actually, they might principally turn into a dynasty with Bryce on board, profitable the 2020, 2021, 2023 and 2024 World Collection and dropping it in 2025 (as Harper would put up 44.Three WAR throughout seven seasons in L.A.). Individually, Harper would end with 98.Three WAR in that universe, edging out his 93.2 WAR within the Cardinals simulation for the most effective of the choices we checked out. The remaining supply various levels of lesser success from each a group and private perspective, with the Phillies, Nats and Padres projected to make the playoffs a couple of occasions on Harper’s first contract (he would re-up with the Padres and Nationals for the long-term in these simulations) and Harper accumulating simply shy of 80 profession WAR in every universe.
So the place ought to every star signal? If these OOTP simulations are any indication, it appears like Harper and the Cardinals can be greatest off with him enjoying proper area in St. Louis, and Machado ought to lean towards manning the recent nook for the Padres. However these are however two choices within the multiverse of potential outcomes. The one factor that we’re 100 % sure about is that a minimum of considered one of these groups ought to signal these guys now. Stars like Machado and Harper shouldn’t nonetheless be going into spring coaching and not using a deal in place — for their very own sake and for the sake of fan bases whose groups can use them to compete this season.
Particular because of Richard Grisham and Out of the Park Developments for his or her assist with this story.