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Battle of the Beltway Stars: Machado has performed in 2018, while Harper continues to struggle

Manny Machado has been one of the few bright spots for the Orioles in 2018, while Bryce Harper has struggled for the Nationals. With a Machado trade imminent, Manny cementing his trade value may be his best contribution yet.

MLB: New York Yankees at Baltimore Orioles Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Things haven’t gone very well for the Orioles this year. In fact, they’ve been absolutely dreadful. But one thing has been a constant this season, and that’s the success of the Birds star player. Manny Machado has consistently delivered for the Orioles in a year where they’ve been starved for offense.

Why bring this up? Yes, it serves as a reminder that not every player has been a let down this season. But after taking a look at the Orioles current opponent, Orioles fans are reminded that star players don’t always deliver in a contract year.

Machado and Bryce Harper have long been linked together as the top free agents in the 2019 class. However, Harper has yet to live up to expectations in 2018, and the Nationals still have something to play for.

In 69 games, Harper’s batting average sits at .212. And while one would think that Harper would be due to heat up, he has yet to show signs of improvement. In fact, in his last 22 games, Harper has hit only .167 and struck out 37 times. Harper has hit .050 and struck out 7 times in the past seven days.

Machado has not shared Harper’s struggles. The third-baseman-turned-shortstop has hit .310 this season with 18 home runs and 53 runs batted in. Machado’s average remains comfortably above .300, despite hitting only .211 in his last 10 games. He has not homered in his last 10 games, but his 18 are a testament to his early season success.

Both beltway teams need impact performances from their stars, but for very different reasons. That Nationals are currently in second place of the NL East, and chasing a talented, but unproven, Atlanta Braves team. A greater presence in the lineup from Harper would go a long way in the Nationals division push, and the Nationals will need Harper to play up to his abilities if Washington has any chance at a World Series.

There’s really no reason to mention the words “world” and “series” in Baltimore. There’s likely not even be a reason to mention the words “five” and “hundred.” But two words that should be extremely valuable in this section of the DMV are “trade” and “value.” Machado has delivered for the Birds in a huge fashion by remaining healthy and producing at the plate.

Trade speculation for Machado has dominated the headlines around the Orioles for the majority of this season. The question of whether or not the Orioles would deal the 25-year-old quickly turned to when and what they could get for the free-agent-to-be. Several teams have been reported to be interested, with different organizations emerging every week.

Whether or not the Orioles would be willing to flip Machado inside the division remains to be seen, but there should be plenty of offers in addition to interest from Boston and New York. The Diamondbacks, Cubs, Phillies and Braves have all been mentioned, and there’s always a mystery club that gets some buzz around the trade deadline. The combination of Machado’s production, mixed with enough interest from several clubs, should be enough to drum up a few legitimate offers for an All-Star rental.

I’ve always enjoyed watching Machado play. He’s the type of player that a team builds around, but that won’t be the case here. Machado’s sudden promotion in 2012 helped expedite the Orioles arrival as contenders, and he’s been an absolute joy to watch in the field.

The three-time All Star has produced a plethora of memories for Orioles fans, but his best gift may be producing in the first half of this season. Machado served as the corner stone of one window, and he may help produce the players that provide the Orioles another chance to win down the road.

The Orioles dropped the opener of the “Battle of the Beltways” last night, and with the pitching matchups in the remainder of the series (previewed here), they likely won’t have many reasons to celebrate this week. But in the battle of the stars, the Orioles have had the upper hand. Harper should eventually heat up, but Machado has already cemented his trade value this season.