Even despite all-too-frequent defensive lapses in 2018, the Philadelphia Phillies may be in first place in the National League East if they got more consistent offensive production. As has long been speculated upon, the Phillies plan to pursue major offensive upgrades this offseason.
In fact, Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports spoke with a variety of anonymous league executives that believe that the Phillies could sign both Bryce Harper and Manny Machado this offseason:
Multiple rival executives suggested they believe it’s quite possible the Phillies land not one – but both – superstar free agents this winter. Of the more than 10 executives contacted this week, though the question was about who’d get the bigger deal between outfielder Bryce Harper and infielder Manny Machado, a few volunteered that they believed Philly could sign both players.
A rival executive opined to Heyman last month that he believes the Phillies will sign Harper – who manager Gabe Kapler said may be the best player in the sport – this offseason. This isn’t the first time that we’ve heard the idea of the Phillies signing Harper and Machado this offseason, as ESPN.com‘s Jerry Crasnick suggested in July that there was a belief from some in the sport that Phillies managing partner John Middleton may attempt to land both stars this offseason.
This report is interesting because these executives weren’t asked directly about the chances of the Phillies signing both Harper and Machado. Heyman wrote an entire story this week where he polled executives about whether Harper or Machado will ultimately land a bigger deal in free-agency this offseason. Instead of responding to that question initially, the executives went out of their way to note that the Phillies, of all teams, have at least a chance to sign both stars.
Perhaps even more interesting is that Heyman adds that executives in the sport believe it’s a near certainty that the Phillies will ultimately land at least one of Harper or Machado:
The rival execs are convinced that the they could get both superstars, but that one or the other is almost a fait accompli.
For those not fluent in french, Google’s dictionary defines “fait accompli” as “a thing that has already happened or been decided before those affected hear about it, leaving them with no option but to accept.” Sure, “fait accompli” is likely Heyman’s phrasing, but it’s a pretty strong phrase to use.
Harper, who will turn 26 in October, has slashed .319/.439/.584 with 10 home runs, 40 RBIs and a 1.023 OPS since the All-Star Break. Harper made his sixth National League All-Star team in 2018, but it was despite a first-half that was disappointing by the high standards that he’s set. But Harper now has a 33 home runs, 94 RBIs and the highest walk percentage in the National League. When you consider how young he is, the idea of signing Harper for what may be the peak of a Hall of Fame career sounds pretty tantalizing.
At the same time, Machado has always appeared to be the Phillies No. 1 target. General manager Matt Klentak and the club did make a spirited effort to acquire him from the Baltimore Orioles this July – including reportedly being willing to include No. 3 overall prospect Adonis Medina – but ultimately lost out the Dodgers. However, with Justin Turner at third base and Corey Seager set to return to shortstop in 2019, the four-time All-Star may just be a rental in Los Angeles. While it’s possible the Dodgers could find a way to make Machado work in their infield long-term, it’s fair to wonder if they’ll be as financially motivated as the Phillies come free-agency.
Even if Machado doesn’t return to Los Angeles in 2019, it doesn’t mean he’s a lock to join the Phillies. Heyman wrote last month that the New York Yankees appear the be Machado’s ideal landing spot, something Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia echoed. With Didi Gregorious, Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres in the fold, the Yankees may not be willing to compete financially with the Phillies either. But Machado’s reported willingness to return to third base for the Yankees is hard to shake.
For much of the last five years, Philadelphia has eyed this offseason’s free-agent class. Though the class as a whole may not be as intriguing as it once appeared it would be, the chance to sign one of Harper or Machado at age 26 still exists. The possibility of signing both, well, it may make the Phillies a World Series contender in 2019.
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