SUNDAY: The Phillies are “clear-cut” favorites to sign Harper, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale hears from multiple sources. The Nationals, on the other hand, are fading in the sweepstakes, and team executives are calling it a “long shot” that he’ll re-sign with them. Nightengale reports. Washington isn’t prepared to pay Harper more than $25MM per year, Nightengale suggests. The Phillies, meanwhile, haven’t submitted a formal offer to Harper yet, but that should change during the upcoming week, according to Nightengale.
SATURDAY: After conducting a face-to-face meeting in Las Vegas with free-agent outfielder Bryce Harper on Saturday, the Phillies “remain optimistic” they’ll emerge from the offseason having signed him or free-agent infielder Manny Machado, Matt Breen of Philly.com reports. At the very least, the Phillies will be finalists for both Harper and Machado, Breen adds.
The Phillies entered the winter with owner John Middleton declaring that money wouldn’t stand in the way of upgrading a team which has missed the playoffs seven years in a row. And signing either Harper or Machado has always stood out as the clearest path to improving the Phillies’ roster, as the two 26-year-old superstars are easily the premier players on the open market. Given both the Phillies’ financial might and their need for at least one of those players, it’s “likely” they’ll put forth the richest offers for both Harper and Machado, according to Breen.
If the Phillies are only able to pick one, it’d be Machado, whom they “seem to prefer,” Breen writes. However, the Phillies have “signaled” to him that they are also interested in Harper – a move that Breen posits could pressure Machado to accept an offer from them. Notably, since the Phillies met with Machado in December, they’ve added one of his confidants to their staff, having hired former Orioles infield coach Bobby Dickerson in the same role. Dickerson was with the Orioles during Machado’s entire run with the team from 2012-18. Meanwhile, the White Sox – who look like the only other team seriously pursuing Machado – may have helped their chances this winter by acquiring the shortstop/third baseman’s brother-in-law, Yonder Alonso, and his friend Jon Jay. But if money, not personal ties, ends up being the deciding factor in where Machado goes, signs are pointing to Philadelphia. After all, the White Sox’s only known offer to date was reportedly worth closer to $200MM than $300MM, and it may take a proposal nearer to the latter amount to lure Machado.
As with Machado, Harper has fewer franchises going after him than expected this offseason. Still, at least four teams – the Phillies, White Sox, Nationals and Dodgers – look to be in the running. It seems the Nationals, with whom Harper has spent his whole career since going first overall in the 2010 draft, are particularly strong in the derby. As of earlier this week, the Nats were reportedly upping their efforts to re-sign Harper, to whom they’ve already extended at least one offer worth well north of $300MM. Reports have indicated the Dodgers aren’t keen on making a long-term commitment, on the other hand, meaning Harper may have to choose among the Phillies, White Sox and Nationals if he has any hope of landing a record-setting contract.