According to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, a source has reported that there is “momentum building” towards Bryce Harper returning to the Washington Nationals, while the Phillies are ramping up their hunt for Manny Machado.
The Harper return to Washington has been something of an on-again, off-again topic throughout the off-season. USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale had reported that the Nationals offered Harper a mega-deal on the final day of the 2018 regular season. That offer, which he purportedly rejected was supposed to have been for 10 years and $300 million dollars.
Washington then ended up being the highest bidder for free agent starting pitcher Patrick Corbin. The left-hander signed a six-year, $140 million contract with the Nationals in early December.
USA Today‘s Jesse Vomtov wrote that Nationals owner Mark Lerner didn’t expect Harper to be back, seemingly closing the door on that possibility and any further discussion of the matter.
In order for a contract to work, the Nationals would likely need it to include deferrals, as Feinsand points out. Washington already has two players, Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer, with base salaries of 30 million (via Spotrac) annually.
Harper would give them a third, if that 10-year, $300 million figure is accurate as a minimum. According to Spotrac, the Nationals have already spent about $173 million this off-season. That figure is the most of any team in Major League Baseball, $100 million more than the New York Yankees, who are the second-highest team with $73.6 million spent.
If Harper returns to the Nationals it would give them a frightening team, one that would boast both an elite rotation and lineup. It would also force the Phillies hands into upping their offer to try and sign Machado and possibly even another top free agent, such as pitcher Dallas Keuchel or outfielder A.J. Pollack, in order to become competitive and challenge for the National League East Division crown.
As NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury reported, the Phillies are set to meet with Harper and agent Scott Boras on Saturday in Las Vegas. As Salisbury notes, owner John Middleton, president Andy MacPhail, general manager Matt Klentak and manager Gabe Kapler will all be making the trip. Salisbury did say that no offer has been made to Harper, however.
The presence of Middleton on the visit clearly shows that the Phillies hunt for Harper isn’t over yet. There would be no reason for the owner to make the trip if there wasn’t going to be a substantial financial offer made to the free agent.
Fancred‘s Jon Heyman said that the possibility of the Phillies signing both players isn’t completely off the table, though it remains unlikely. The Phillies have already met face-to-face with Machado last month at Citizens Bank Park.
All that appears to be left is for the Phillies to try and top the offers of the New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox, the other two top pursuers of Machado. According to 670 The Score‘s Bruce Levin, there appears to be some recent momentum between the Chisox and Machado.
Heyman reported that Machado’s asking price is still around $300 million, and that both the White Sox and Phillies aren’t close to that number, while also reporting that the Yankees still have not made a formal contract offer to Machado. Does news of the possibility that Harper could return to the Nationals change any possible offer to Machado? That remains to be seen.
MORE FROM PHILLIES NATION:
- Phillies monitoring the market for Mike Moustakas as Machado sweepstakes continues
- Hot Stove History: The 1982 trade of Ryne Sandberg
- Middleton leading Phillies contingent for weekend visit with Harper and Boras
- Phillies remain two big pieces shy of true contending status – but both remain available
- Additions this off-season have given Phillies a much stronger bullpen