Schifman: Harper, Machado, and generational free agents

From Gerald Schifman at Baseball Prospectus on January 3, 2018:

To market Bryce Harper this offseason, agent Scott Boras’ campaign has revolved around a central theme: His client is a generational talent.

In an era when service-time manipulation and early-career contract extensions have sapped free agent classes of young impact players, Harper entered free agency at just 26 years old. Given all of the accomplishments already under Harper’s belt—six All-Star selections along with MVP, Rookie of the Year, and Silver Slugger awards—Boras conveyed that Harper is a singular type of free agent, one who is “almost a lock to be a Hall of Fame player” and “a rocket ship of economic opportunity that is about to blast off.”

Providing the media with superlatives and long-winded metaphors is part of Boras’ player promotion strategy, though there’s a valid point within the spin: Players as good as Harper seldom reach free agency. Yet within the context of the open market’s history, the standing of Harper and fellow elite free agent Manny Machado remains murky. Where do these two players rank in the annals of free agency, and how often do such good players hit the open market?

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Originally published: January 4, 2019. Last Updated: January 4, 2019.