Predicting the Next 10 MLB Superstars to Top $200M Megadeals

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistJanuary 10, 2019

Predicting the Next 10 MLB Superstars to Top $200M Megadeals

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    With the new year upon us and spring training around the corner, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado remain on the free-agent market.

    Both will eventually sign, and the consensus is they will land megadeals in excess of $200 million. According to The Athletic's Jim Bowden, the Washington Nationals offered Harper "much more" than $300 million.

    As we gaze ahead to next offseason and beyond, it's worth wondering what other MLB superstars will receive $200 million-plus deals in the near future. By "near future," we mean a free-agent pact or extension issued in the next two years.

    Here's a look at 10 players—including Harper and Machado as impending honorable mentionswho could soon join that elite financial fraternity.

Honorable Mentions: OF Bryce Harper and INF Manny Machado

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    Yes, Harper's market has been slow to develop. But he's going to get paid. The same goes for Manny Machado. 

    We mentioned Bowden's rumor regarding the Nats' massive offer to Harper. The Los Angeles Dodgers could still swoop in. The Philadelphia Phillies have featured in multiple reports. The Chicago Cubs loom as an intriguing dark horse.

    Wherever he signs, Harper will command massive money. Six-time All-Stars and former MVPs entering their age-26 seasons don't come around every winter.

    Machado is also 26 years old. He's made four All-Star teams, won a pair of Gold Gloves and twice finished in the top five in MVP voting. Plus, he can capably play shortstop and third base, which broadens his market.

    The New York Yankees might be the favorites to land his services, but the Phillies and Chicago White Sox, among others, could jump into the bidding war.

    A decision on Machado is expected "within a week," according to 670 The Score's Bruce Levine. Levine name-dropped the three teams mentioned above as the leading contenders.

    If the Machado domino falls, Harper will topple posthaste. Both will crack the $200 million mark. After that? Let's see...

1B Paul Goldschmidt

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    Looking ahead to next winter's free-agent class, two names jump out. First up: Paul Goldschmidt.

    Goldschmidt was traded this winter from the Arizona Diamondbacks, the only MLB franchise he'd ever known, to the St. Louis Cardinals.

    He arrives in St. Louis as a six-time All-Star and three-time top-three MVP finisher. He's won a trio of Gold Gloves for his play at first base and is the best player in the game at his position (no need to add the "arguably" qualifier).

    Assuming he keeps doing Goldschmidt things with the Cards, he'll rightly command a Brink's truck payday in free agency.

    Sure, he'll be entering his age-32 season, which could reduce the length of the deal he strikes. The money, however, will be there.

3B Nolan Arenado

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    If Goldschmidt is almost guaranteed to crack the $200 million threshold in free agency, Nolan Arenado is a lock.

    The Colorado Rockies third baseman has won a Gold Glove in each of his six big league campaigns. At this point, MLB might as well name it the Nolan Arenado Award.

    He's also hit at least 37 home runs and driven in at least 110 runs in each of the last four seasons. Even adjusting for the Coors Field bump, that's impressive.

    If you like wins above replacement, no player has produced more than Arenado (25.3) since 2015, by Baseball Reference's calculation.

    Assuming the Rockies don't blow him away with a gaudy extension offer, Arenado will be the most coveted free agent of the 2019-20 offseason.

SS Francisco Lindor

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    Now, let's consider some in-house candidates. Meaning, players who are in their arbitration years or about to enter them who deserve big-time extensions.

    We'll begin with Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor, who is projected to earn $10.2 million in his first year of arbitration, according to MLB Trade Rumors.

    As he embarks on his age-25 season, Lindor has already snagged a Gold Glove for his slick play at shortstop and finished in the top 10 in American League MVP voting each of the last three seasons. In 2018, he posted career bests in home runs (38), stolen bases (25) and OPS (.871).

    Cleveland isn't in the business of handing out megadeals, but Lindor is a generational talent at a premium position and just entering his prime. Rather than pay through the nose during his arbitration years and then watch him walk via free agency in 2022, the Indians should open their wallet and lock him up now.

INF Javier Baez

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    If Javier Baez keeps producing the way he did last season, the Chicago Cubs will be obligated to offer him a huge extension.

    Baez logged significant innings at second base, shortstop and third base and hit 34 home runs with a National League-leading 111 RBI, and he finished second in NL MVP voting.

    He's entering his first year of arbitration, where he's projected to earn $7.1 million. That'll be a nice bargain for the Cubbies in 2019.

    If Baez replicates those numbers, however, Chicago will be all but forced to buy out his remaining arbitration years (and beyond) or risk losing a rising superstar to free agency in 2022.

3B Kris Bryant

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    Speaking of Cubs infielders ripe for a rich extension...paging Kris Bryant.

    Yes, Bryant dinged his stock in an injury-shortened 2018 season, during which he posted career lows in batting average (.272) and OPS (.834).

    That said, Bryant is 27 years old and already has an NL Rookie of the Year Award and MVP trophy. And if an .834 OPS is your idea of a "down" year, it's safe to say you're pretty good at baseball.

    Bryant is projected to make $12.4 million in arbitration and will get more expensive as he approaches free agency in 2022.

    It might seem like a lot for the Cubs to commit megadeals to Bryant and Baez, and it's possible they'll have to make the mother of all tough choices. But that's the price you pay, quite literally, to retain top-shelf talent.

OF Aaron Judge

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    After clubbing 52 home runs in 2017 and winning AL Rookie of the Year honors, Aaron Judge essentially had nowhere to go but down.

    And the Yankees slugger did dip a bit, as a fractured wrist limited him to 112 games. Still, Judge finished with a .919 OPS, made his second straight All-Star team and is inarguably one of the most exciting hitters in the game.

    He won't reach arbitration until next winter, which means New York gets one more rock-bottom-price season. After that, assuming he continues his fence-clearing ways, Judge will get progressively more expensive.

    The Yanks might muddle through his first arbitration year, but at some point, the extension talk will inevitably begin. When it does, it ought to involve eye-popping dollars and years for the Bronx Bombers' homegrown franchise masher.

OF Mookie Betts

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    Mookie Betts did it all in 2018. He won a batting title. He snagged an AL MVP trophy. And he won the World Series with the Boston Red Sox.

    What will the 26-year-old do for an encore? How about sign a colossal extension.

    Betts is entering his second year of arbitration. He's projected to earn $18.7 million and can become a free agent in 2021. Simply put, the Red Sox can't let that happen.

    "I love it in Boston," Betts said in July when asked about a long-term contract, per Christopher Smith of MassLive.com. "So I think you've just got to cross that bridge as it comes."

    The Sox could probably nudge him from noncommittal to all-in with the right offer, and they should try to do exactly that.

OF Mike Trout

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    Now we arrive at the biggest fish, pun sort of intended.

    Mike Trout is the best baseball player on the planet. We could recite WAR statistics and list the awards he's won and the stats he's compiled, but let's stipulate the obvious.

    OK, fine: In 2018, he led baseball with a 1.088 OPS and .460 on-base percentage, hit 39 home runs and stole 24 bases while playing a solid center field. Satisfied?

    Trout is under contract with the Los Angeles Angels through 2020. Between now and then, one of two things will happen.

    Thing one: The Halos will make Trout "a lifetime Angel," as Fancred's Jon Heyman reported they hope to, for a record-breaking sum of money.

    Thing two: Trout won't sign an extension with Los Angeles and will instead test free agency, where he will land a record-breaking sum of money.

    Either way, we all know where this is going.

                                              

    All statistics and contract information courtesy of Baseball Reference unless otherwise noted.