It’s always fascinating to think about the road not taken. This off-season there were a number of different alternate timelines the Phillies could have experienced. They could have made Manny Machado their big-ticket free agent pickup instead of Bryce Harper. That would have meant possibly signing a second outfielder in addition to Andrew McCutchen, which could have then possibly forced a trade of Maikel Franco.
When one move was made, the dominoes fell a certain way and, after a little more than a month of the 2019 season in the books, Phillies fans should feel pretty content with the decisions that were made.
So, let’s just say the Phillies went ahead and signed Machado, traded Franco, and then signed A.J. Pollock or Michael Brantley.
What Could Have Been
Brantley is off to the best start among any of the players on that list, but if the Phils had signed Machado and Pollock and traded away Franco, they’d be in a world of hurt right now.
Just comparing Harper and Machado’s numbers should put Harper’s struggles into focus. Machado has a slightly higher average (.237) than Harper (.231), but as was said all off-season, Harper’s OBP (.376) would likely outpace Machado’s (.320). Harper, despite just six homers, has outslugged Machado .472-to-.395 thus far.
Harper hasn’t been awesome, but he has been better than Machado.
And what about Franco, who we all thought was getting shipped out of Philadelphia before the regular season? His .262/.344/.514 slash line dwarfs Machado’s thus far, although Machado’s outstanding defense and base running still has him as the more valuable player overall, according to Fangraphs (0.6 fWAR-to-0.3 fWAR).
Of course, it is WAY too early to make any kind of declarations on the Phils’ off-season decisions just yet. There are still five months of baseball left, and a lot can happen. Still, despite Harper’s slump, the early returns have been good.
On Episode 282 of “Hittin’ Season” this week, I discussed this issue a bit more in depth, why anyone outside of Philadelphia is unqualified to talk about the booing of Bryce Harper, and gave some thoughts on early season MVPs among position players and in the bullpen.