Boy, that really aged well. Generally, such a phrase is used in jest, looking to make light of something that turned out horribly.
Both free agency periods lingered into spring training.
Given deals of that size, there will always be lines of naysayers out the door. We know well enough that we certainly don't need to sift through the receipts. Just know they exist. This time around, the myriad scoffs and snickers from said naysayers are the things that deserve the sarcastic, "Wow, that aged well" retorts.
Both contracts are aging incredibly well as their teams gear up to face each other in the 2022 National League Championship Series.
Machado is coming off an MVP-caliber season and -- given how poorly Paul Goldschmidt finished the season -- there's an argument to be made that when he finishes second he'll have been shortchanged.
The numbers themselves pop. Machado hit .298/.366/.531 (159 OPS+, which was a full-season career high) with 37 doubles, 32 homers, 102 RBI, 100 runs, nine steals and 6.8 WAR.
Beyond the numbers, though, Machado has been so much more valuable to the Padres. Look at the circumstances. Fernando Tatis, Jr. was supposed to be the best player on the team and he would've been the easy and obvious MVP prediction back in the spring. Only he broke his wrist in the offseason. The Padres had to start the season after taking a gut punch. Machado stormed out of the gate, hitting .389 with a 1.000-plus OPS through the first nine games.
He was the steadying force on offense and defense throughout the season, even after the front office made a huge splash at the trade deadline, adding superstar Juan Soto and All-Star closer Josh Hader, among others. Machado continued to be the best player on the team.
How about in the playoffs, as the Padres went into New York as heavy underdogs. Machado homered in Game 1, a Padres win. He went 2 for 5 with a double and RBI in Game 3, a Padres' clincher. He homered in the first inning to set the tone in Game 2 of the NLDS. He finished that game 2 for 5 with a double, homer and two RBI. And then he was 2 for 4 in Game 4 Saturday night.
All along the way, he was a leader and continued to play his excellent defense. The only complaint there is he makes it look too easy.
Harper won MVP in 2021, doing absolutely everything he could down the stretch to almost will his team to the playoffs. They came up short, but he led the majors in doubles, slugging, OPS and OPS+. The 5.9 WAR he posted was the second-highest mark of his career after a historically-good 2015 season that got him his first MVP.
This year, Harper has again been great at the plate, but he can't help in the field. He's playing through a torn UCL in his elbow (that's the injury that leads to Tommy John surgery in pitchers). He also broke his thumb in late June and worked his way back much faster than expected from surgery.
He struggled at the plate after his return, but things have since clicked. We could go back to Game 1 of the Wild Card Series.
Again, Harper hadn't been very good since returning from the broken thumb. The Phillies were down 2-0 with one out in the ninth inning, just two outs away from facing elimination. Harper battled back from a 1-2 count to walk. He would eventually score the tying run as they stormed back to win. In first at-bat of Game 2, Harper hit a colossal bomb to right field. It was vintage Harper. It was also his first pull-side homer since the thumb injury. Was he back?
He seems back. He had another hit later in that game. In Game 1 of the NLDS, he was 3 for 3 with a double and he even laid down a bunt for a hit. He doubled in Game 2. He was 2 for 4 with a double and home run in Game 3. He was 2 for 5 with a homer in Game 4 and, perhaps more importantly, he also had a shift-breaking RBI single to left field.
So far in the playoffs, in which the Phillies had the worst record coming in and still haven't faced elimination, Harper is hitting .435/.480/.957 with three doubles, three home runs, six RBI and six runs. He's obviously not the only player doing his job, but he's playing like an MVP again and few players can serve as such significant difference-makers in the middle of an order the way he can.
Simply, the Phillies are in the NLCS for the first time since 2010. They wouldn't be here without Bryce Harper. As well, the Padres are in the NLCS for the first time since 1998.
One of the two teams is going to win the pennant. When that happens and we retrace the steps of the franchise, the deepest footprint will be from signing one player to a gargantuan contract in spring training of 2019
As the saying goes, "That's why they pay them the big bucks." Yep. They are both paying huge dividends right now as their teams head to a fresh and fun matchup in the NLCS.