The free agent class of 2018 is going to be for baseball what the Summer of 2011 was for the NBA. It's going to change the league forever, but not just in terms of who signs where. Sure, if Bryce Harper signs with the Yankees it's going to increase their odds at a title. But the more drastic changes to the sport are going to occur financially.
We all know the names available by now. Harper. Manny Machado. Maybe Clayton Kershaw and David Price. Josh Donaldson. Andrew McCutchen. Dellin Betances. Andrew Miller. Zach Britton. Too many to name really. Currently the record for guaranteed money handed to a baseball player is the $325 million Miami gave to Giancarlo Stanton. 2018's two biggest free agents, Bryce and Manny, could fetch as much as $400 million due to the combination of their production and age.
And THAT is what's going to change baseball forever. It's the money players will start making. There's a reason why young studs aren't signing early extensions right now. For example if you're Mookie Betts and the Red Sox approached you about a long term deal why would you do that now? There's a chance Harper blows Stanton's contract out of the water, which only increases Mookie's potential earnings. Despite some fans thinking baseball is dying, revenue is booming right now. Television contracts remain insanely profitable so teams will be looking to make a splash. The Yankees will be ready to spend. The Dodgers will be ready to spend. "Mystery teams" will be ready to spend. Simply put the best players are going to cash in.
One of those players, Machado, was having a weird season up until recently - and it was affecting what teams thought he might be worth in a year. When I think of prime Machado I think of him spraying doubles to the left and right field gaps, 30 homer power, and elite defense. The defense was still there this year, but the 25-year-old (younger than Aaron Judge) was getting away from the line drive swing that made him so successful. Here's a great Fangraphs piece from the end of June explaining what was happening, but basically Machado seemed to be trying too hard to hit homers. The result? More pop ups and grounders to the left side of the field. At one point the former third overall draft pick was hitting .216 with a .289 OBP.
However, since this low point Machado has been on an absolute tear. Entering today, in 42 games since July 7th, he has 12 homers, 43 RBIs, and is batting .352/.382/.636. He's doing it by being more selective at the pitches he swings at, which is helping him use the whole field. Machado is strong enough that if he simply tries to hit line drives the power will come. Last week he had a three homer game that ended with him hitting a walk-off grand slam, and last night he hit a walk-off homer in the 12th. Plus he's arguably the best defensive third baseman in baseball yet could also be one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball. There was some doubt earlier this year as to what Machado would be worth next winter, but not anymore. He's once again projected to break the bank.