Bryce Harper vs. Manny Machado: Who Had the Better First year?

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Philadelphia Phillies
Sep 11, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper (3) slides safely into third base on the single of first baseman Rhys Hoskins (not pictured) during the fourth inning against the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

As the 2019-2020 MLB Free Agent period is underway, it’s time to look back at the two superstars that signed during the last offseason. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado will forever be linked due to the 2018-2019 offseason. Both were expected to and signed mega year deals with new teams. They both were paid and are set for the future.

Machado signed first, leaving Los Angeles and driving a few hours south to San Diego. On February 19th, Machado agreed to the largest free-agent contract in North American sports history. San Diego locked up Machado for 10 years, giving him $300 million.

Bryce Harper Says “Hold My Beer”

Ok, not really, however, Bryce Harper did not let Machado stay at the top for long. Harper signed the second “largest contract in North American Sports History” just nine days after Machado. Harper signed with the Phillies for 13 years for $330 million.

Sadly, Harper’s contract did not hold that title for long either. The Angels signed Mike Trout to a well-deserved contract of 12 years, $420 million.

Was It Worth It?

If you follow along on Twitter, you will see fans and reporters from other teams making jokes about how $330 million bought the Phillies fourth place. This basically sums up the Braves’ fans humor.

Aren’t Braves’ fans cute? The bottom line is that it WAS worth it. This coming from a fanbase, the Braves, that rarely packs their stadium. The Braves had a better team this year but I have one tweet that makes it worth it:

On-Field Performance

So we know that both the Phillies and Padres took a risk and paid both players big-time money. But who had the better season? If you go by record, you have to say Harper by a mile. The Phillies had a record of 81-81 and were still in the playoff race in September. The Padres were 70-92. That was good for the last place in the NL West.

Let’s start with Machado. His first season in San Diego was his career-worst in terms of his batting average. Machado hit just .256. He only hit lower than .260 one other time, in 2017 he hit .259. His first season as a Padre can be described as below average. In fact, his only offensive statistic that was above his career 162 game average was home runs. His career average is 31, last season he hit 32.

Machado’s first season in San Diego was not his best offensively. With a new manager, the star will look for a new start, both in his career and on the field as the Padres made the right decision to go back to the brown uniforms.

Harper’s first year in South Philly

Harper had a better year offensively than Machado. Bryce hit .260 and had a career-high 115 RBI. Harper was around his career average for 162 games in most of the categories. Although his batting average and total hits were lower, he was above average in doubles, home runs, and slugging percentage.

Harper also had a fantastic season defensively. He was runner up in Gold Glove voting for right fielders. The knock-on Harper was that he was an average fielder. He proved that myth to be false. Harper had a great season defensively.

Regardless, both players had less than stellar seasons. Whether it was self-inflicted pressure due to the huge payday they both received or adjusting to new environments, both should rebound. I expect both superstars to have better seasons in 2020. There still is one question that won’t be answered until the end of their careers. Who will have the better career?