At the start of the offseason, MLBTradeRumors.com released its predictions for the free agents this winter. Bryce Harper was predicted to sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers and get a 14-year contract for $420 million. Manny Machado was projected to sign with Philadelphia for 13 years and $390 million.
So it’s February and we are still waiting. Will either of these players get anywhere close to those numbers?
For years we heard that teams like the Yankees were pointing specifically to this winter to strike and add one or even both of these players. So where are the Dodgers, the Yankees and the Red Sox? Are teams like San Diego and the Chicago White Sox really in the mix for this duo?
This is one strange winter. Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel are both still out there as well. The Nationals signed pitcher Patrick Corbin for six years and $140 million, and that in total dollars is more than twice the next biggest contract. That one went to pitcher Nate Eovaldi, who re-signed with Boston for four years and $67.5 million. Just five players have signed for $40 million or more.
To me, the holdup on Harper and Machado is due to a combination of factors. The typical big spenders seem to be staying on the sidelines generally, and both players come with question marks. For Harper, it’s defense. His fell off big in 2018. In two of the last three seasons, he’s posted a wins above replacement figure of 1.5 or less, per baseball-reference.com. Machado got so much bad press in October - all self-inflicted - for his antics in the postseason, and it sure seems to have hurt him.
The luxury tax factors in here, too, and it does seem to have kept some of the big boys from just throwing money around like a rich, drunken sailor. To me, this is not at all playing out like most figured it would. Camps in many places open in less than two weeks and baseball’s top two free agents, both heading into their prime years, are still available.
Kendall is movin’ on up: The Orioles top farm team, the Triple-A Norfolk Tides, announced Friday that Gary Kendall will be the club’s manager in 2019. Norfolk is getting a very solid skipper and a real player-development pro. Kendall managed Double-A Bowie the last eight years, winning a franchise record 570 games and the 2015 Eastern League championship. After the 2013 season he managed Surprise to the Arizona Fall League championship. New O’s GM Mike Elias clearly realized what he has in Kendall, who is about to enter his 20th year with the Orioles.
A former scout, Kendall is a manager players really seem to want to play hard for but also one not afraid to kick some butt when it’s called for. Over the years, he’s not been afraid to give a piece of his mind to and/or bench some of the biggest names and top prospects to pass his way whenever something happened to warrant that. He never played in the majors, but he’s earned plenty of respect.
He loves to win. After a rehab start a few years ago that didn’t go well for him, Kevin Gausman told me he wasn’t thrilled with his outing but what hurt the most is Bowie lost a game it needed to win in a playoff race, and he knew how much Kendall hates to lose.
If you want to ever find someone in baseball to blow his own horn, don’t talk to Kendall. I’ve never heard him do it. He never takes any credit. He always praises players who work hard and his coaches who help those players improve. Always. A native of Baltimore, he loves this organization as much as any die-hard fan I’ve ever met. He does indeed bleed orange and black.
Kendall is a great choice to manage the Tides. I have no doubt that he would be an outstanding major league coach or director of player development if this team or any other were to provide him that chance one day.
But for now he’ll move to the International League and push players to get better. He’ll try to get Norfolk to the playoffs, all the while knowing that getting players to Baltimore is really job one. He’ll always have the best interest of the Orioles at heart, and if the limelight ever comes his way he’ll probably find a room to hide in until it passes.