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Phillies pursuit of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado: the best we have is conjecture

Phillies setting a meeting with Harper while still negotiating for Machado.
(Photo: Arturo Pardavila III)

There is a certain amount of burnout taking place among Philadelphia Phillies fans as they continue to wait on decisions from free agents Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. That is totally understandable as negotiations for the two young superstars drag into a third month.

However, we’re going to keep trying to inform fans on the latest anyway. That’s our responsibility here at Phillies Nation as (hopefully) one of your favorite providers of Phillies-related news and opinion. So here we go.

MLB insider Jon Heyman of Fancred reinforced early this afternoon that the Phillies are indeed in the process of setting up a formal face-to-face meeting with Harper and agent Scott Boras.

Heyman also mentions that the National League East Division rival Washington Nationals remain interested in bringing Harper back into their fold. The 26-year-old was Washington’s choice at first overall in the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft and has played the last seven seasons in their uniform. The organization obviously has a great deal of financial and emotional investment in him.

The Nationals are believed to have offered a 10-year, $300 million contract as the 2018 season drew to a close. On the weekend before Christmas, a second meeting resulted in an offer of “much more” according to former big-league GM Jim Bowden.

It can be assumed that Harper also has emotional ties to the Washington organization. That could make the Nationals favorites to bring him back for the long term, if indeed the financial offer is substantial enough.

Corey Seidman of NBC Sports Philadelphia speculated that the actual length of a contract offer might have less influence in landing Harper as would the annual average value of such a deal:

“…it should not be taken as gospel that the Phillies have offered or will offer Harper 10-plus years. And quite honestly, the focus on the number of the years for either player, but particularly Harper, has been overblown to this point. The annual average salary is what matters most.”

What Seidman is referencing is the possibility that Harper could take fewer guaranteed years in exchange for a higher AAV with an opt-out clause that could return him to free agency in his prime once again.

For instance, a four-year deal at a guaranteed $160 million ($40 mill per season average) could put Harper back into the free agent market again at age 30.

However, if the Phillies, Chicago White Sox, or some other team were to offer, say, a full 10-year deal at or above $400 million total value, such security would likely prove difficult to turn down.

Harper could get injured and lose his overall effectiveness, even his entire career, next year and that money is still his. There is a big difference between $160 million and $400 million dollars.

Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia wrote earlier this week that “a person close to the player tells NBC Sports Philadelphia that a face-to-face meeting between Harper and Phillies officials is being planned for “the next week or so,” in Harper’s hometown of Las Vegas.

The Phillies clearly remain interested in Harper. It is also believed that they are even more interested in Machado. However, the 26-year-old infielder has long held a desire to one day play for the New York Yankees. That emotional attachment makes the Yankees the clear favorites to sign him, as long as the money is even close to right.

In the end, where do the Phillies actually sit at this point in regard to either superstar? TC Zencka at MLB Trade Rumors may have captured the essence with the final six words of his piece on Harper today: “the best we have is conjecture.



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