Bryce Harper and Manny Machado remain unsigned as both players continue to look for record-setting contracts. Neither superstar might get the kind of money they were initially looking for, but the 26-year-olds are almost certain to get average yearly salaries that are among the highest in MLB history.

Machado is expected to sign first and for less money than Harper, who seemingly has more suitors. But that doesn’t necessarily mean Harper is the better player.

Which free agent will have a better 2019 season? That’s up for debate.

Harper has the bigger upside with a better chance to have a monster season. It wasn’t long ago that he had one of the most productive years in recent history when he became the sport’s youngest ever unanimous MVP.

As a 22-year-old in the 2015 season, the outfielder hit .330/.460/.649. He led the majors in on-base and slugging percentage. His 42 home runs were first in the NL and he was the runner-up for the NL batting title.

If Harper didn’t miss 51 games two seasons later, he might have won a second MVP award. The six-time All-Star hit .319/.413/.595 with 29 home runs and 87 RBI in 111 games for the Washington Nationals.

While Harper has posted an OPS north of 1.000 twice in the last four years, Machado posted a career-high .905 OPS in 2018. The infielder doesn’t have the chance to be slugger that Harper does, but he is a safer bet to perform like a top-10 player.

Following his MVP-caliber seasons, Harper’s production decreased significantly. He hit .243/.373/.441 with 24 homers in 2016. Even after getting hot in the second half of the year, Harper only finished with .249/.393/.496 splits last season, though he did hit 34 home runs and lead the league with 130 walks.

Machado has never played fewer than 156 games in a season since 2015, and he played in all 162 games twice. His worst year during that span came in 2017 when he hit .259/.310/.471, but he still posted a 3.8 WAR because of his defense at third base.

After finishing ninth in the AL MVP voting as a 21-year-old in 2013, Machado came in fourth for the award in 2015 and fifth in 2016. He might have been an MVP candidate in 2018 if he didn’t split time between the AL and NL. Machado has hit at least 33 home runs in four straight seasons with WARs of 7.1, 6.9, 3.4 and 5.7.

In 2015, Harper became the second player since Barry Bonds to post a 10.0 WAR. He’s followed that up with WARs of 1.5, 4.7 and 1.3, in part because of his declining defense.

It might be wrong to say Harper peaked four years ago, but he hasn’t come close to being that type of player for a full season in the years since. Machado seems to improve every year, and he might finally be a top-3 MVP finalist with his new team.

Only Harper has proven that he can be the best player in baseball over the course of a season, but Machado is a safer bet to have an elite 2019 season after signing a nine-figure contract.

2019 Predictions

Manny Machado: .290/.350/.570, 38 home runs, 7.0 WAR

Bryce Harper: .260/.385/.520, 35 home runs, 4.5 WAR