Each week, Phillies Nation Editorial Director Tim Kelly will answer reader questions as part of the Phillies Nation Mailbag. Questions can be submitted by tweeting at @PhilliesNation, @TimKellySports or e-mailing your question to TSK@TimKellyMedia.com. Let’s get to this week’s question.
We’ve spent years hearing about the possibility of the Phillies signing Bryce Harper and/or Manny Machado. When can we expect a resolution, one way or another? – Matt in Delco
Well, that’s the million dollar (or maybe $300 million) question, isn’t it?
It’s probably not a coincidence that this year’s MLB Winter Meetings are in Las Vegas, Bryce Harper’s hometown. At the outset of the offseason, many thought Harper may want to sign his next contract at the MLB Winter Meetings, which will take place between Dec. 9 and Dec. 13. Things are fluid around this time of the year, but there’s been no indication that Harper is within 10 days of deciding where he will spend perhaps the next decade (maybe even longer) of his career.
Given that neither wants to be the first to sign – whichever one signs first, the other will likely try to top the mark they get in free-agency – if Harper doesn’t sign at the MLB Winter Meetings, Manny Machado probably won’t either.
Historically, the Phillies have made some major signings in the days after the MLB Winter Meetings. In 2010, they lured Cliff Lee back to Philadelphia, signing him on Dec. 14, the Tuesday after the MLB Winter Meetings. Last offseason, the Phillies signed Carlos Santana to a three-year/$60 million deal on Friday Dec. 15, two days after the MLB Winter Meetings concluded.
But while there is some precedent for the Phillies laying the groundwork for major signings at the MLB Winter Meetings and completing them shortly thereafter, you get the sense that if both leave Las Vegas as free-agents, they’ll leave 2018 as free-agents.
During World War 1, soldiers from Germany, Britain and France literally paused fighting a World War and enjoyed Christmas with each other. This isn’t quite the same, and perhaps I shouldn’t jinx myself and everyone in sports media, but there’s a good chance that neither Harper or Machado will sign between Dec. 23 and the new year. Players, agents, executives and even sportswriters enjoy celebrating the holiday season as well.
An anonymous executive told Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports last week that he believes that Harper and Machado won’t make their decisions until at least January, with it possible that their sweepstakes drag on into February.
The free-agent stints of Harper and Machado turned one month old Monday. It is fair to say that if the NFL or NBA had two in-prime superstars reach free-agency, there would have been quicker resolutions. NFL free-agents often sign within minutes of becoming free-agents. LeBron James announced that he was signing with the Los Angeles Lakers this past NBA offseason within five days of unrestricted free-agents becoming eligible to join new teams this past offseason. Kevin Durant did something similar when he joined the Golden State Warriors in June of 2016. There is an argument that baseball dropped the ball, knowing years in advance of the possibility of this free-agent class, by not altering how their offseason is structured by incentivising players to sign quicker. The most anticipated free-agent class in the history of the sport has been rather anti-climatic. The counter to that argument is that more eyes will be focused on baseball in the offseason months than normal, because even if Harper and Machado’s free-agent stints haven’t gotten to the point of serious negotiations in going on five weeks, there are still two in-prime superstars that are free to sign with any team at age 26.
Again, things are fluid in the MLB offseason, and get especially fluid at the MLB Winter Meetings. In a week, this article may find it’s way onto Old Takes Exposed. But the guess here is that neither Harper or Machado will sign their free-agent contract until 2019.
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