It’s an interesting time to be a superstar baseball player. This year’s free agent class is undoubtedly one of the most talented in MLB history, with names like Manny Machado, Clayton Kershaw, and Josh Donaldson coming onto the market. Teams are scrimping and saving, hoping to get one of these players who will hopefully take them all the way to the big time in 2019.
But one name, in particular, has been in the news more than most: Bryce Harper. The Washington Nationals outfielder will be a free agent come the fall, and some are speculating that he will get one of the most lucrative contracts in baseball history.
Harper is a standout talent, no way around it. Currently in his 6th Major League season, he has a career .278 batting average with 171 homers. In 2016, at just 23 years and 181 days old, he became the 8th youngest player in MLB history to reach 100 home runs.
On Monday night, Harper became the first lefty hitter to homer off Sox reliever Joe Kelly this season. But his 2018 stats are almost comically lopsided; he has 21 homers and 50 RBIs, but is only batting .215. Harper only managed two hits in 11 at-bats as his team went 0-3 against the Red Sox, getting outscored 18-7.
Perhaps what the unnamed Nation League exec said last month is true: Harper is a selfish player who performs for himself. After all, the Nats got themselves swept by the Sox this week, and have dropped below .500. They’ve lost 18 of their last 24, including a current 4-game losing streak. Losing Harper to a team that can give him more money almost definitely won’t help them, but it doesn’t feel like Harper is helping them very much, either.
Teams want superstars, but they should want team players even more. A guy like JD Martinez is infinitely more desirable than one like Harper, because he’s focused on doing his part for the whole, and not performing like this is a solo show. Heck, even a guy like Mitch Moreland, who’s almost always good for an RBI is someone I’d prefer, both from contributory and financial standpoints.
A star on a losing team is a loser just the same.