The saga of where – and when – Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are going to sign has gone on long enough. While we don’t know the exact dollar values that have been offered, at this point in the negotiations, you can figure that the offers are all relatively close and it’s a matter of splitting hairs. And if the offers aren’t very close and they can’t decide, that brings up an entirely different question.
Either way, it’s time for a team like the Phillies to deliver a little tough love. It’s time to tell both players that the Phillies and their fans really want them to be in Philadelphia in 2019 and well beyond, but it’s also time to either get something done or move on. The team has to let both players know exactly what kind of years and money they are offering them, put a completed contract in front of them and tell them that they need a definitive answer from them by the time the first pitch is delivered in their spring opener on Friday, or that offer comes off the table and they are moving on.
Could one player, or perhaps both, be offended and walk away? Yes. It’s a risk worth taking, because if they do walk, there are players like Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel still sitting out there waiting for somebody to throw stupid money at them.
It’s more likely that both players would stand up and pay attention. The reports of what’s being offered all seem to put the Phillies at the front of the line or at least right near the front of the line. If it’s a matter of a final tweak on a number or a clause here or there, fine, what is it? In the immortal words of Larry The Cable Guy, “get ‘er done.”
And if the Phillies really are at the front of the line where it’s been reported they’ve been all winter, then what’s the problem? If these guys are just waiting for a sexier team to jump in and sweep them off their feet, then it means that they’re not interested – and perhaps never were interested – in playing in Philadelphia. If that’s the case, then signing them makes no sense.
Baseball truly needs to do something about the lingering free agent market. Whether it’s a signing period or other changes, something needs to get done, because with the current system, the offseason has become a boring soap opera fueled by just two players, and of course, their agents.