All eyes will be on baseball’s two biggest free agents as the Winter Meetings begin, as both Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are poised to land record-setting contracts, each likely to surpass Giancarlo Stanton’s $325MM pact. With both players vying for such a landmark deal, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal (subscription required) notes that super-agents Scott Boras and Dan Lozano of the MVP Sports Group will again be squaring off, with Boras representing Harper and Lozano representing Machado. The two agents have often competed for teams’ dollars and even for clients, including Machado himself — the star infielder was originally represented by Boras before hiring Lozano in 2011. The thought is that Boras will want Machado to sign first in order to fully establish Harper’s market, and to provide a specific dollar amount to shoot for in order to land Harper the biggest contract ever. That said, one agent believes “it’s Philly bidding against Philly” in terms of the Harper market, whereas at least six teams may be in on Machado. Beyond the Phillies, White Sox, and Yankees, Rosenthal reports (via Twitter) that three more teams will meet with Lozano during the Winter Meetings about Machado, as per a rival executive.
Here’s more on the Harper and Machado sweepstakes…
- While the Yankees have interest in Machado, Fancred Sports’ Jon Heyman (Twitter link) hears from a source that the team isn’t willing to pay more than $300MM to sign him. MLBTR projected a much higher price point for Machado, predicting a $390MM contract for the infielder, even with the spectre of Machado’s “Johnny Hustle” comments and his sometimes-infamous reputation for dirty play hanging over him. These factors led Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner to recently state that he would require a face-to-face meeting with Machado before the team considered a signing. If New York isn’t going to move past $300MM, however, one would think the club is simply going to be outbid, perhaps significantly.
- In regards to Machado, Joel Sherman of the New York Post wonders if the Yankees are hesitant to dive into another hugely expensive long-term contract with a player, just a year removed from their acquisition of Stanton. The slugger’s numbers in his first season as a Yankees (38 homers and a .266/.343/.509 slash line over 705 PA) were seen as disappointing by Stanton’s standards, leaving Sherman to speculate that the Yankees could have some second thoughts about last winter’s trade with the Marlins. Perhaps more tellingly, the Yankees haven’t yet shown a willingness to go beyond their comfort zones in bids for free agents this season, as the team wasn’t willing to give either Patrick Corbin or Nathan Eovaldi an extra year in contract offers.
- Several teams have already met with Harper and his team in private meetings in at a Las Vegas hotel, and USA Today’s Bob Nightengale provides a look inside the general format of these gatherings. Front office representatives (and, sometimes, the owner) from various clubs meet with Harper, his wife Kayla, and Boras to discuss all aspects of a potential signing, first in the form of a lengthy presentation from the team, and then rounds of questions from the Harpers about everything from baseball-related matters to how a club accommodates a player’s family. The meetings have ranged from five to 10 hours in length, with Boras providing business-related details and one of his famous notebooks of statistics and personal information outlining his clients’ strong points. In Harper’s case, the notebook is 118 pages long, comparing him to all-time greats in both baseball and other sports (i.e. LeBron James) while also focusing on how acquiring Harper can improve a franchise’s overall value. “Every GM in baseball wants him because he fills a need, but the owners are pursuing Bryce Harper because they know he can also make them a billion dollars over a period of years,” Boras said. Interestingly, Boras said that one team owner has been discussing Harper without his GM’s knowledge, a new wrinkle to Boras’ known strategy of bypassing a front office to negotiate directly with ownership about his biggest clients.