Given that Orioles third baseman Manny Machado and Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper are scheduled to reach free agency after the 2018 season, high-payroll teams will spend the next two years deciding the more worthy target, writes Buster Olney of ESPN.com. With that in mind, Olney polled seven evaluators on which potential $400MM player they’d prefer to sign. Six chose Machado, whom the evaluators regard as a more well-rounded player. “Harper gets credit and gets a huge part of his reputation for how far he hits home runs, but they still only count for one run,” one evaluator told Olney. “Machado is an entire field hitter who hits to the situation. He can hammer majestic homers, but can also do other things to help a team win.”
More from Olney:
- If the Tigers don’t begin the season well, there’s a sense around the majors that they could consider moving the likes of second baseman Ian Kinsler and outfielder J.D. Martinez. Both veterans came up in offseason trade rumors and aren’t under team control for much longer. The 34-year-old Kinsler is controllable for the next two seasons at $21MM, including a $10MM option for 2018. Martinez, 30 in August, will make $11.75MM this year and then become a free agent during the winter. Notably, the slugger suffered a foot injury Saturday and will undergo an MRI on Sunday.
- The Blue Jays “are said to be” in the market for outfield help, per Olney. Toronto is set in center (Kevin Pillar) and right (Jose Bautista), but left is questionable with Steve Pearce, Melvin Upton Jr., Ezequiel Carrera and Dalton Pompey as its in-house options. The top free agent outfielder left on the board is Angel Pagan, whom the Jays are reportedly unlikely to sign. They do have interest in free agent utilityman Kelly Johnson, though he’s primarily an infielder.
- Free agent catcher Derek Norris has a reputation of “sometimes clashing with pitchers,” according to Olney, who notes the 28-year-old will have to overcome that as he searches for his next employer. There are reportedly “about a half-dozen teams” interested in Norris, whom the Nationals released this week after they weren’t able to find a taker in a trade. An acquiring club would have had to take on his $4.2MM salary, of course, whereas signing him should come at a cheaper price.
- There’s concern in Giants camp regarding the play of center fielder Denard Span, who’s not hitting or, to some evaluators, moving well. The 33-year-old fared decently at the plate in 2016 (.266/.331/.381 in 637 trips); however, he’s coming off back-to-back subpar campaigns in the field, during which he combined for minus-17 Defensive Runs Saved and a minus-13 Ultimate Zone Rating. The Giants owe Span $22MM over the next three years, including a $4MM buyout for 2019.