Could Braves make play for both Machado and Harper?

Knox Bardeen
November 06, 2018 - 8:50 am
Shortstop Manny Machado and outfielder Bryce Harper

© Richard Mackson, Russell Lansford-USA TODAY Sports

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Two notions have been swirling around the Atlanta Braves fan base for some time now; one as staunchly polarizing as two fat kids on a playground see-saw, the other as seemingly inevitable as the sun rising in the... well, you get the picture.

Let's start with notion that starts arguments...

Braves fans love to hate Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper. And as he's entered the free-agent market, Braves Nation has split onto two sides: 1) those who are shocked the Braves would even consider adding such a rowdy, rambunctious, villain of a character; and 2) those who have watched him launch five dingers and accumulate a 1.138 OPS at SunTrust Park since the Braves moved north, been crushed to see him send 184 bombs out of ballparks over his seven MLB seasons, but could quell their nasty perception of Harper were he to be a rowdy, rambunctious villain in a Braves uniform.

The second notion seems as agreeable as the world is round, or most Braves fans hate Bryce Harper...

Now that the Braves' rebuild looks to be coming to an end, isn't it time to take a few pieces from Atlanta's embarrassment-of-riches farm system and turn some of those players into All-Star ready tools to propel this team directly at World Series appearance after World Series appearance?

Jon Paul Morosi, of MLB.com, believes there's a chance the Braves could attempt to satisfy both notions this offseason by taking a run at adding both Harper and Manny Machado.

The Braves, meanwhile, are taking an opportunistic approach to the free-agent market, given the youth and quality of their current position players. Atlanta general manager Alex Anthopoulos expressed his aversion to long-term contracts in a recent interview with MLB Network Radio, in keeping with the approach he took as the Blue Jays' GM. But if the market for either Harper or Machado is not as robust as expected, the Braves could be a fallback option.

Adding both Harper and Machado would help build a heart of the batting order unlike few have seen. Imagine adding 71 home runs to  Braves lineup that finished 19th last year with 175. How many runs could a batting order produce where Ronald Acuña Jr. and Ozzie Albies set the table for Freddie Freeman, Machado and Harper in the 3-4-5 slots? This all should certainly gets Braves fans drooling.

But there's also a few slow-your-roll factors here to keep Braves Nation in check.

First, as Morosi noted, Atlanta's GM isn't terribly high on long-term contracts. It's safe to assume both Harper and Machado want record-setting deals. Anthopoulos, in a recent interview, shared his ideas on long-term contracts.

"We can be in on any player, we certainly have the dollars to do that," Anthopoulos told MLB Network Radio. "That said, I don't know that it makes a lot of sense. This is just me, from a philosophical standpoint, to do deals that are 10 years in length and longer at significant dollars with the payroll that we have."

So, not only does the Braves' general manager seem unlikely to pull the trigger on one long-term contract, not to mention two, don't forget there's another piece to the puzzle that has to fit before both Harper and Machado can land in Atlanta, according to Morosi: a weaker-than-expected market for the two sluggers.

Yes, last year's free-agent period moved molasses-slow, something few expected and fewer had ever seen. But, Harper and Machado are both generational hitters and both just 26 years old. Raise your hand if you truly believe the Phillies, the White Sox, the Mets, the Nationals, the Giants or that myriad other franchises aren't going to roll trucks of money up to one or both of these sluggers.

Keep drooling of the notion of adding Harper and Machado, Braves fans. But don't get your hopes up.