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Multiple reports suggest Phillies think they’ll sign Harper or Machado

Bryce Harper (left) and Manny Machado (right) are two free-agent targets of the Phillies. (Cathy T., Arturo Pardavila III/Wikimedia Commons)

At the outset of this Hot Stove season, perhaps no one thought that both Bryce Harper and Manny Machado would still be free agents as we approached the middle of January 2019. It is finally beginning to feel as if the two are approaching decisions on their future, and the Phillies reportedly feel good about their chances of landing at least one of the two young stars.

According to Matt Breen of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Phillies brass “remain optimistic that they will end the off-season with either Harper or Machado on their roster.” That’s in line with what Todd Zolecki of reported Friday, saying that the Phillies “remain optimistic of landing at least one.”

The Phillies met with Harper and his agent Scott Boras Saturday in Harper’s hometown of Las Vegas, Nevada. Details on what took place in the meeting are scarce at this time. Machado, meanwhile, spent over four hours at Citizens Bank Park with the Phillies prior to Christmas, later going to dinner in Philadelphia that evening.

For much of the off-season, the expectation has been that Machado would sign before Harper. That would give Harper and Boras a chance to top the Machado contract value.

The New York Yankees free agent signings of Troy Tulowitzki and D.J. LeMahieu seem to signal that the Yanks only plan to sign Machado on the team’s terms. Therefore, Harper may get more money than Machado regardless of whether he signs before or after. If Harper waits until after Machado signs, and Machado chooses either the Phillies or Chicago White Sox, it would seem to take at least one team off the market for the outfielder.

There is the possibility, as Zolecki alluded to, of an extremely financially flexible team such as the Phillies, signing both Harper and Machado. The White Sox, in theory, could also afford to do that, though there’s no indication that they are prepared to make that kind of financial investment.

Managing partner John Middleton’s “stupid money” quote from earlier this off-season has led some to think the Phillies would at least be open to the possibility of going for both players. However, it is fair to wonder whether general manager Matt Klentak and president Andy MacPhail would be as keen on spending $60-$80 million annually for just two players as they construct the overall roster now and over the coming years.

NBC Sports Philadelphia‘s Corey Seidman is correct in his repeated assessment that Boras and Dan Lozano, Machado’s agent, probably would prefer for their two highest-profile clients not to end up on the same team. That could create a dynamic where one agent would come out of the off-season looking inferior.

Both Harper and Machado are 26 years old, combining for 10 total MLB All-Star Game appearances. Rather incredibly, FanGraphs says that Harper’s career production has been worth $235.6 million, a nearly identical mark to Machado’s value of $235.9 million.


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