Splendid (pencil) splinter Eno Sarris threw out a terrific read on Bryce Harper and Manny Machado at the athletic on Tuesday, and there’s just no way not to give it some love here today.
It involves the conundrum facing (theoretically) 30 teams, and possibly coming down to all but two — the Chicago White Sox and Philadelphia Phillies — who will have the better career from here, Machado or Harper?
Here at SSS, we’ve had the debate in comments, very briefly. I’ve said that Bryce is more the Brooks Boyer choice, as a player with the oversized personality to own the city, while Manny will provide more value and flexibility on the field.
Taking almost completely the “aging curve” angle, does Sarris agree that Manny is the better play?
Before I crib (hopefully gently) from his piece, let me advise that you should be reading Eno as often as you can, whether or not you share his love for brewhouse esoterica and food plate pics. I’ll try to highlight some of the points of greatest divergence between the two.
One element quick to flush careers down the toilet is plate discipline, or as Harris says it, “the ability to make contact on pitches outside the zone ages poorly.” To a somewhat slight extent, Harper stabs less often outside the strike zone and has better plate discipline overall. More significantly, though Machado’s contact is better, it comes more often on pitches outside of the strike zone. And yet, Machado’s has a really nice career strikeout rate (16.4%), better than Harper at 21.1%. Perhaps Harper has sold out more often for power?
The word-that-didn’t-exist-two-decades-ago, “athleticism,” is the the next major point, and in this, Harper prevails readily. While it’s great that Machado has greater positional flexibility (and value), he’s, to put it bluntly, slow (per Sarris, the second-slowest shortstop in MLB last year). The metrics point to Harper as, simply, a better athlete, and one who will age better.
Sarris notes that generally, the aging curve really picks up on defense at age 33, which might be something to toss out of the mix here because we’re talking about the tail end of a 10-year deal. However, props for Machado for playing shortstop in 2018 (theoretically making him able to man any position on the field, sans pitcher or catcher).
Sarris sees both players as ~30 WAR guys to this point, with Harper getting about 10 more offensive wins than Machado (thus Machado sees more of his value balanced between offense and defense). Harper’s next position options are very limited. Left field? First base? A 30-year-old DH? Significant advantage for Machado here.
Finally, Sarris lands at “coaching” as a category: Which player has untapped potential that a new staff might unlock? The advantage goes to Machado, as there’s more upside for him with defensive coaching, and a new hitting coach might be able to get him to chase less often out of the zone. Harper, on the other hand, appears to be more of a what-you-see-is-what-you-get player — if not a “finished” player, one with a shorter ceiling from here.
I’ll have you click Sarris’ piece to see who he prefers, but the over breakdown is:
- Advantage, Harper: better plate discipline, better athlete
- Advantage, Machado: (significantly) better defense, more untapped potential
For the White Sox, Machado fits more of an organizational need, and offers a more steady baseline of production than Harper. But that may be putting a magnifying glass over immediate team needs, which is a bit silly when addressing a possible 10-year deal. (Sort of like when pundits are pushing the New York Yankees as a “perfect fit” for Machado because he can play shortstop for three months while Didi Gregorius rehabs from TJS.)
The lame (though very true) answer is: Either one is fine! Or: Both!
So, let’s choose and discuss. Presuming the exact same contract terms, who do you want on the White Sox in 2019 and beyond, eventually going into the Hall of Fame in a White Sox cap?
Do you prefer to have Bryce Harper or Manny Machado sign with the White Sox?
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Who is a better fit for the White Sox, Manny Machado or Bryce Harper?
This poll is closed