Phillies Nuggets with Tim Kelly

Machado deal represents victory for players, puts major pressure on Phillies



Manny Machado will remain in the National League West, as he’ll head to San Diego. (Ian D’Andrea)

Whether there was any internal disagreement about whether the Philadelphia Phillies were better suited issuing a historic contract to Manny Machado or Bryce Harper, that debate is now over. Machado, a four-time All-Star, is heading to the San Diego Padres, per ESPN‘s Jeff Passan. MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand says the deal will be a 10-year/$300 million deal, one that Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports says will include a player opt-out after year five, which would allow Machado to re-enter free-agency when he’s 31.

In an offseason where Dan Lozano, Machado’s agent, had to issue a stern response to reports that Machado’s best offer at one point was seven years and $175 million, securing a deal that for the time being is record-breaking is a hell of an outcome. It also shifts enourmous pressure onto Phillies brass.

As recently as this past weekend, the overwhelming belief was that the Phillies had put forward the best overall offers for both Machado and Harper. That put pressure on both players to decide quickly, because they couldn’t afford to lose the Phillies as a leverage point. It does appear, though, that the Padres made a final push for Machado, probably topping any offer that the Phillies (or any other team) had made. And the Phillies no longer have leverage.

Not only is Machado no longer avaliable for the Phillies to sign – whether it would have been instead of Harper or because Harper went elsewhere – but Machado got at least two more years than most came to expect he would. He signed for $30 million a year, a number that Harper and his agent, Scott Boras, will certainly look to top. And the fifth-year opt-out that Machado got? With the leverage on their side now, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if Harper’s camp seeks one even earlier in the deal.

The city of Philadelphia is now anxious. Managing partner John Middleton – he of the “stupid money” – is probably now anxious. And considering Middleton is now anxious, that has a trickle-down effect on general manager Matt Klentak. For years, the Phillies have been expected to land one of these two 26-year-old stars in free-agency. Machado is off the board. Harper – who some national baseball writers/reporters suggested was nearing a deal with the Phillies this past weekend – remains avaliable, and the Phillies are now in a position where they may be forced to dole out a deal bigger than they initially hoped, or risk losing out on both stars.

Klentak said last week that the Phillies have had an “objectively great” offseason. On paper, he’s not wrong. The Phillies traded for All-Star shortstop Jean Segura in December, trading Carlos Santana in the process, which will allow Rhys Hoskins to return to first base. They signed veterans Andrew McCutchen and David Robertson, both of whom are former All-Stars. Earlier this month, the Phillies completed one of the biggest trades in franchise history, acquiring All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto from the Miami Marlins. Realmuto stands to get even better playing his home games in Citizens Bank Park. In a normal offseason, what the Phillies have done would be considered a rousing success.

And yet, right or wrong, if the Phillies exit this offseason without Machado or Harper in red pinstripes, many will see the offseason as a failure. In an offseason where Klentak has repeatedly talked about how “perception matters,” the Phillies have to be aware of the cloud that would hang over their 2019 season if they don’t now secure Harper.

Make no mistake, Machado waiting out the market and ultimately landing a 10-year deal, even if it wasn’t from a major market team, is a victory for players. It assures that Harper will get a 10-year deal, perhaps one that will surpass the total value of Giancarlo Stanton’s record 13-year/$325 million deal. Both of those deals will set the market for other star players than can become free-agents in the next few offseasons.

But it does back the Phillies into somewhat of a corner. We’ll see in the coming days how the Phillies attempt to get themselves out of said corner.

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