Finally, Manny Machado is off the board. The infielder signed a 10-year, $300-million deal with the San Diego Padres on Tuesday, leaving Bryce Harper as the biggest domino yet to fall. It’s ironic that in the end, we went through an entire winter of rumors and back-and-forth thoughts on what kind of money these two would get and in the end, Machado got exactly what it was thought he would get at the beginning of the offseason. So tell me again why we had to go through all of that.
Now, it remains to be seen if the Padres will look to double-down and continue their pursuit of Harper. It’s not out of the question, because San Diego could be an interesting spot for Harper to land. They’ve got a great farm system with a lot of big-time talent either ready for the majors or near ready for the majors. Even without Machado, they were a team with a bright future. Now, with Machado, things look even better which may make the Padres a little more attractive to Harper. Keep in mind that Harper lives in Las Vegas, a not-too-distant jaunt from San Diego, especially when compared to Philadelphia.
Division rivals of the Padres could also reevaluate things now that San Diego has inked Machado. The Giants have been pursuing Harper and they could intensify that pursuit in an effort to keep up with the Padres signing of Machado. The Dodgers may also be rethinking how Harper might fit with their club even though they’re fighting to get around the luxury tax threshold. Machado’s entrance into the NL West doesn’t tip the balance of power though, so the Giants and Dodgers likely aren’t going to panic and make a move that they are afraid they’ll regret some point down the road.
Then, there’s the White Sox. You know how the question of how disappointed Phillies fans would be if they miss out on both Machado and Harper? Well, that same question is flying around Chicago, but the White Sox haven’t had the offseason that the Phillies have had with the addition of free agents like Andrew McCutchen and David Robertson and the trades for infielder Jean Segura and catcher J.T. Realmuto. If Harper signs elsewhere, the Phillies can still point to those moves and show how the team has improved over the offseason. The White Sox don’t have that type of winter to fall back on.
The good news is that Harper and his agent, Scott Boras, now have a more definitive price tag in mind. If Machado was worth 10 years and $300-million, Harper will likely want more than that to sign. Boras isn’t the type of agent to have his marque player sign for less than the other guy got. That’s one of the reasons this free agency soap opera has dragged out as long as it has.
At last word, the Phillies had offered 10 years and $310-million for Machado. Will that be enough of an increase for Boras and Harper or will they look for a little bit more. Will the White Sox, who had reportedly offered nothing near $300-million to Machado, go all out to get Harper and look to outbid the Phillies and their “stupid money?” Would the Giants or Dodgers get involved anyway?
Perhaps the biggest unknown is what the Washington Nationals will do. They had offered Harper 10 years and $300-million late last season and were shot down by Harper. Will they now decide to put more money behind that offer in a battle to outbid their division rival and keep Harper from winding up in Philadelphia?
And what about the Phillies? Is 10 years, $310-million the highest they will go or will they move above that to get Harper and keep him away from the Nationals?
Odds are that the Phillies will now get really serious. Yes, they have had a great offseason and nobody could really fault them if they don’t come away with Machado or Harper. Their first choice was Machado, but lately, it’s appeared that they were going harder after Harper than they were for Machado. It’s possible that the Phillies may at least look to get Boras to give them a final call before allowing Harper to sign elsewhere in an effort to trump any offer that other teams may have made. The Phillies were considered a front-runner for a reason. They have been going hard after both players from the minute free agency started and they’re not about to stop now. Yes, they’ve had a huge offseason, but it’s made even better with the signing of Harper, so they will go all out to get him to Philadelphia.
One thing is for sure. If Harper doesn’t come to Philadelphia, owner John Middleton isn’t likely to just sit back and keep counting his money. It would be surprising for Harper to sign elsewhere and the Phillies to not pivot to someone like Dallas Keuchel and/or Craig Kimbrel. If you can’t improve your offense with one of the two best bats available, then stop the other team from scoring runs with Keuchel and/or Kimbrel.
The other thing we know is that finally, thank God Almighty; finally, we are getting top free agents signed and into camp just ahead of spring training games getting underway later this week. What a long, strange trip it’s been.