“There’s been some speculation about what we’re going to do [this offseason], where I find it to be that someone just didn’t put a paper and pencil together and do the math,” Phillies president Andy MacPhail said at his season-ending press conference. A sentence before that, MacPhail acknowledged that the Phillies likely will approach the top five payroll that they had at the beginning of this decade. But MacPhail’s quote was largely interpreted as pouring cold water on speculation around the league that the Phillies will attempt to land both Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper and Los Angeles shortstop/third baseman Manny Machado this offseason.
While there doesn’t seem to be a zero percent chance that the Phillies sign both Harper and Machado, Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports spoke to some inside the organization that seem to think there’s next-to-no chance the Phillies land both superstars:
Phillies people suggest they don’t think signing both Manny Machado and Bryce Harper is likely, but no one should rule it out. They are expected to be the most aggressive team in bidding this winter.
It is interesting that Jerry Crasnick, then with ESPN, first reported that some around the league thought Phillies managing partner John Middelton could try to land both Harper and Machado this off-season. (The interesting part was that he cited the seemingly financially motivated Middleton, as opposed to the Phillies as a whole). The Phillies are so financially flexible that, in theory, they probably could afford both Harper and Machado. They currently have under $70 million in payroll commitments for 2019, as opposed to the $169 million payroll they carried in 2011. But it’s entirely possible that MacPhail and general manager Matt Klentak will sign one of Harper or Machado and then use other resources to add a front-line starting pitcher, a closer or sign Aaron Nola to a long-term extension.
The 26-year-old Machado rebounded from a disappointing 2017 season to put together the finest offensive campaign of his accomplished young career. The former No. 3 overall pick slashed .297/.367/.538 with 37 home runs, 107 RBIs and a 6.2 fWAR in 162 games split between the Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers. However, Machado, considered one of the better defensive third baseman the game has ever seen, posted -12 defensive runs saved in 1,261.1 innings at shortstop, the position he asked to return to prior to the 2018 season. In the small sample size of 143.0 innings at third base in 2018, Machado posted three defensive runs saved. Machado – who posted 81 defensive runs saved at third base between 2012 and 2017 – said in July that he plans to sign his next contract to play shortstop.
Harper, who will turn 26 next week, finished the season with a slash-line of .249/.393/.496 with 34 home runs, 100 RBIs and a 3.5 fWAR. Though Harper slashed .300/.434/.538 after the All-Star Break, it was a relatively disappointing contract year for the former National League MVP. After a freak injury cut short his 2017 season, perhaps costing him his second league MVP, Harper hit just .214 in the first-half of the 2018 season. Still, he finished the season with 130 walks and made his sixth National League All-Star team. Though some expected Harper to have a historically dominant season prior to becoming eligible for free-agency, his 2018 season could only be considered disappointing by the high standards that he has set for himself.
Earlier this week, our Phillies Nation staff debated whether Machado or Harper would be a better signing for the Phillies this offseason.
More From Phillies Nation
- Andy MacPhail On Free-Agency: You’re Not Going To Throw Every Resource At This Year
- The Clock Is Ticking For Nolan Arenado, Something The Phillies Should Monitor
- Could Scott Kingery Play Shortstop In 2019? The Phillies Seem To Think So
- Klentak: Gabe Kapler Learned This Year That Perception Matters
- Kingery, Franco, Alfaro And The Delicate Balance Between Potential And Performance
- Manny Machado Asked Carlos Santana About Phillies, Has Some Interest In Signing With Club
- Rival Executives View It As A Near Lock That The Phillies Land Harper Or Machado, Both Possible
- Phillies Roundtable: Would Harper Or Machado Be A Better Signing?
- Phillies Expected To Make A Push For Japanese Southpaw Yusei Kikuchi
- Phillies Nation Mailbag: What Under-The-Radar Free-Agent Options Should Be Considered?