The Philadelphia Phillies welcomed free-agent Manny Machado to Citizens Bank Park Thursday, finishing up a week where the four-time All-Star has also visited the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees. If general manager Matt Klentak and Phillies brass are hell-bent on adding a superstar this offseason, they perhaps felt increased pressure for this visit to go well.
Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports joined Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts on WFAN in New York Thursday and was asked why it is that the Phillies, Yankees and White Sox all seem to be more intrigued with Machado than Bryce Harper. While Heyman did admit that he’s not entirely sure that’s the case, he did pass along one reason why noteworthy reason why the Phillies may be more interested in Machado:
“The Phillies, I think, sense that Harper doesn’t really want to go there.”
In a column earlier this offseason, Heyman suggested that Harper had told some of his friends that Philadelphia wasn’t his No. 1 choice in terms of a potential city to live in. I followed up with the qualifier that most people with no connection to Philadelphia wouldn’t consider it their No. 1 destination in terms of a place to play either; certainly not over New York City, Los Angeles of Chicago. In Harper’s case, he’s understandably grown fond of Washington D.C., the place he’s spent the first seven years of his career. It is what it is, and perhaps a situation where money could change his mind.
It also didn’t seem to a be a dis on Philadelphia fans – although Harper did once take a swipe at Phillies fans during his rookie season – because during the 2017 season Harper told Ryan Lawrence, writing for Philly Voice, that he enjoyed playing at Citizens Bank Park in front of Phillies fans. He seemingly doesn’t mind visiting the city of Philadelphia either, because he posted an Instagram story of the Philadelphia skyline during the regular season, which was taken by many to signal that Harper enjoyed being in the city.
And perhaps he does, although you do increasingly get the sense that while Harper may enjoy visiting Philadelphia, it isn’t particularly high on the list of cities he wants to move to. Money still talks loudly, especially when Scott Boras is your agent, but while the Phillies are very financially flexible, they may not be keen on having to considerably outspend other suitors to land Harper. It certainly seems that Machado will be the first of the two to sign, and if the Phillies get the sense that Harper isn’t likely to sign with them, it would seem natural for them to put on a full-court press for Machado. Heck, they may have even preferred Machado to begin with, it depends who you ask.
It’s true, next year’s free agent class could be really good. Nolan Arenado, Xander Bogaerts, Anthony Rendon, J.D. Martinez and Paul Goldschmidt are among the star position players that can reach free-agency after the 2019 season. The year after that, a certain local star could become a free-agent, if he isn’t extended or traded in the meantime. But Phillies fans have been pitched on the offseason of Harper and Machado for at least three years now. If the Phillies don’t walk away with one of the two – especially if Harper is truly lukewarm on Philadelphia – it will be a bitter pill to swallow.
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