It seems extremely likely that the Philadelphia Phillies will land one of free agent superstars Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. But any dream of having both wear red pinstripes in the coming seasons now seems out of the question. According to The Athletic‘s Matt Gelb, the Phillies have explained during contract talks that they will not sign both.
Events of the past few days appear to be driving the situations of the All-Star free agents towards a conclusion. Harper met with Phillies brass on Saturday, a contingent that included owner John Middleton, general manager Matt Klentak, and manager Gabe Kapler.
After that meeting concluded, MLB.com‘s Todd Zolecki reported that the Phillies representatives were so impressed that their focus going forward has fallen squarely on Harper.
Meanwhile, Machado has been intimately engaged with the Chicago White Sox. 670 The Score‘s Bruce Levin had recently reported that there was “momentum” growing between the Chisox and Machado.
Sure enough, the White Sox offered Machado an eight-year contract per ESPN‘s Jeff Passan. While USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale later slightly contradicted that reported, saying the Chisox had offered nothing above seven years, the contract offer has indeed been made. Passan also noted, however, that the Phillies were still engaged with Machado as well.
While the idea of both superstars coming to Philadelphia had been posited long before the off-season began, it was always considered a long shot. The last few weeks appeared to be changing that line of thinking, opening up just such a possibility.
For Harper, the only two teams that have been connected to the outfielder recently have been his former Washington Nationals club and the Phillies.
At one point, MLB.com‘s Mark Feinsand reported there was “momentum” growing in regards to a Nationals-Harper reunion. Since that report, the Nationals agreed to an $18.8 million deal with third baseman Anthony Rendon in order to avoid arbitration, as well as a $3.7 million deal with shortstop Trea Turner.
Those two deals have increased the total amount of money spent by Washington this off-season to $183 million (per Spotrac), by far the most of any team in the majors. Giving Harper the kind of contract that he wants is getting trickier for the Nationals with every new deal agreed to by the Phillies divisional rivals.
The Los Angeles Dodgers had emerged earlier in the winter as a possible favorite for Harper after clearing payroll and outfield space in a trade with the Cincinnati Reds. But there has been virtually no talk between the two parties reported in recent weeks.
After a December meeting, interest in Machado from his dream team, the New York Yankees, has slowly diminished. The only two teams who appear to be in the hunt for Machado are the White Sox and Phillies. There is always the possibility of a “mystery team” stepping forward, or course. For now, it doesn’t appear that any Machado bidding war will grow out of control.
One reason that the Phillies may feel it important to let the two players know that they don’t plan on signing both could be to signal that they are willing to spend more money on one or the other. It has become clear that the Phillies could top any financial offer for either star.
Signing both would push the Phillies towards the luxury tax threshold. It would also hinder them in future free agent pursuits (Mike Trout anyone?), and could make signing homegrown players such as Rhys Hoskins and Aaron Nola to long-term deals more difficult.
Jeff Todd of MLB Trade Rumors provided more context to Gelb’s piece, mentioning that the Phillies were “exercising patience” in talks. They aren’t in any rush to get a deal done and are willing to play it day by day.
That would appear to be a smart strategy. The Phillies understand that they can top any financial offer for either of the players. They can afford to see how the market continues to develop and not rush into anything.
If Machado were to accept a deal from Chicago now, he would be missing out on much more from Philadelphia. Of course, it could that Harper is actually favored by the Phillies. They might not be ready to throw money at Machado just yet, instead waiting to see what Harper decides.
It is becoming clear that once one of these two big free agent dominoes fall, the rest would go down in an instant. Players such as A.J. Pollock, Dallas Keuchel, and Craig Kimbrel may be waiting to see how much the two young stars receive, hoping that raises the overall financial market.
All that appears to be left is for the Phillies to decide which they would prefer, Harper or Machado, and then make a formal contract offer to that player. That offer should be forthcoming very soon.
Nothing is final until it is done. There still remains a slim chance that the Phillies could sign both players. But with Machado receiving a big offer from Chicago and the Phillies increased interest in Harper, it seems a super-team won’t be taking the field at Citizens Bank Park come March.
MORE FROM PHILLIES NATION:
- As White Sox make formal contract offer, Phillies remain in contact with Machado
- Phillies pitching coach Chris Young feels strongly about the team’s current rotation options
- Alec Bohm will try to prove in 2019 that he is the Phillies third baseman of the future
- If not Harper, who? If not Machado, what? Other directions the Phillies might turn
- Middleton describes meeting with Harper as “really positive”