The Padres stole headlines this week when they signed one of the game’s elite players, third baseman/shortstop Manny Machado, to a 10-year, $300MM guarantee. But it appears the Machado pickup will be the Padres’ lone massive splash in free agency this year.
While San Diego has at least considered pursuing free-agent superstar Bryce Harper, the team’s talks with agent Scott Boras have focused more on still-unemployed left-hander Dallas Keuchel than Harper, Ken Rosenthal and Dennis Lin of The Athletic report. Keuchel would be a noteworthy addition in his own right, but the chances of the pitcher-needy Padres signing him aren’t great, according to Rosenthal and Lin, who note it’s a “longshot.” That jibes with a report from Jon Heyman of MLB Network, who tweeted Saturday that the Padres “don’t see a fit” for Keuchel.
If the Padres aren’t going to seriously pursue Harper, who may join Machado in collecting a $300MM-plus guarantee, it seems to make it all the more likely he’ll head to Philadelphia. The Phillies – who just had at least their second in-person meeting with Harper – have been seen as the favorites to sign him throughout the offseason, for one. Moreover, it doesn’t appear there are other teams champing at the bit to meet the six-time All-Star’s asking price.
The Nationals, Harper’s only team to date, may have “moved on”; the White Sox, despite their clear weaknesses in the outfield, reportedly aren’t going to bid on Harper; and the Giants, despite their own outfield issues, don’t seem willing to give the former NL MVP a long-term contract. Barring a change of heart from one of those clubs or the emergence of an aggressive mystery team(s), then, Harper to the Phillies still appears to be the most probable conclusion to this protracted derby.
Unlike Harper, the 31-year-old Keuchel has hardly dominated headlines since last season ended. Even though Keuchel’s a onetime AL Cy Young winner with an excellent track record, there is nothing to suggest anyone has pursued him with much gusto in recent months. Of course, he and Boras may not have helped the hurler’s cause with an exorbitant early winter asking price – reportedly six to seven years and between $25MM and $30MM. Since the offseason began, Keuchel’s next contract has always seemed a solid bet to fall well short of that price in terms of both length and dollars.
In the end, it’s possible Keuchel will head back to Houston, where he has spent his entire professional career since it selected him in the seventh round of the 2009 draft. Not only could the Astros use another proven starter, but owner Jim Crane suggested this week that the team hasn’t closed the door on re-signing Keuchel.