Harper, Machado, and more: Reassessing the 2018-19 MLB free agents

Sep 22, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper (3) waits in the outfield before the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 22, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper (3) waits in the outfield before the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /
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Michael Brantey. Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Brantey. Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /

Examining the contract: Michael Brantley, Houston Astros, two years, $32 million

Of all the major free agents three winters ago, probably none delivered so substantially on his contract as did Brantley.

Signed for two years, Brantley topped .300 both seasons, with an .875 and .840 OPS and a 90-RBI season in 2019.

In the 2019 postseason, Brantley produced 20 hits in 70 at-bats. That included a .321 World Series, which the Astros memorably lost to the Nationals in seven games.

One postseason later, Houston went out in seven games to Tampa Bay and, again, Brantley was decidedly not the reason. He produced a .346 postseason and identical .346 ALCS.

The Astros were satisfied enough to give Brantley a two-year, $32 million deal to stay through 2022.

In 2021, Brantley made a legit run at the batting title, finishing at .311, second to his teammate, Yuli Gurriel.

Brantley’s performance is one final proof of the reality that purchasing on the free agent market involves a significant portion of finger-crossing. That finger crossing can swing either way.

Next. What $300 million will buy you in MLB today. dark

In the specific case of Brantley, it’s well to keep in mind that just a few years ago Cleveland was only too willing to unload him, seen at the time as an aging, injury-plagued 30-something whose best days were behind him. You can never really be sure.