Christmas officially ended in Philadelphia without a single Manny Machado or Bryce Harper jersey under anyone’s tree. And the way that things are moving, it feels as if the two free-agent superstars are in no rush to sign before even next Christmas. But things are about to pick up as the calendar turns to 2019 and the Phillies are still in position to land a prize, just not in time for Christmas.
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It has been one week since Manny Machado knocked on the front door of Citizens Bank Park and it has been two weeks since Matt Klentak met with the agent of Bryce Harper inside a Las Vegas hotel suite. But ever since, it has been relatively quiet in the chase for a superstar.
Machado does not plan to sign with a team until after New Year’s Day and Harper is expected to sign even later. Machado visited his three suitors - the White Sox, Yankees, and Phillies - earlier this month and it can be assumed by now that he has a good idea of were he’ll play next season. The Phillies have as good of a shot as anyone.
Matt Klentak said twice in the last five months that he believes the most important factor to a free agent is “years and dollars.” The general manager is most likely correct. Harper and Machado are on the open market for the first-time in their careers. It’s foolish to think they would take less money to wear a certain uniform or to play with an old friend. Harper and Machado want to make the most money they possibly can and the Phillies seem to have the most to spend.
The contracts that Harper and Machado sign this winter will be used next offseason to determine the value of a player like Nolan Arenado. They will the be used a winter later by Mike Trout. If Harper and Machado took a discount to play somewhere, it would only hurt their fellow union members. A “hometown discount” does not exist. Patrick Corbin grew up in upstate New York in a Yankees-crazed family. He dreamed of wearing the pinstripes. But the Nationals offered more “years and dollars” so he instead went to Washington. The same can be expected for Harper and Machado, which is why the Phillies remain contenders to land one.
The Dodgers made a trade last week to both free up money to spend and create a space in their outfield, which seems to signal that the team is ready to make a push for Bryce Harper. If Harper is headed to Hollywood, then the Phillies have to go all-in on Manny Machado.
The Phillies, Bob Brookover wrote, are the best option for Manny Machado and the Phillies have the “greatest need and desire for Machado.” Brookie - which I have been told by an avid Extra Innings reader is the correct spelling of Bob Brookover’s nickname - also gives out a few other thoughts on the team’s offseason.
Jan 11: Deadline to exchange salary arbitration figures.
Jan. 22: Hall of Fame results announced.
Feb. 22: Phillies play first spring-training game, 1:05 p.m.
March 28: Phillies open 2019 season, 3:05 p.m.
How good is Manny Machado? I feel like I had this conversation a few times this week as I bounced from Christmas party to Christmas party. The Phillies, in my opinion, are the favorites to land Machado. They have the money to spend and seem more passionate about Machado than Bryce Harper. So how good is he? Machado has had four consecutive seasons of at least 30 homers and an OPS of .780 or better. The only players in Phillies history to do that are Mike Schmidt, Ryan Howard, and Chuck Klein. That’s elite company. And Machado is just 26 years old.
Question: My question is why is it that Manny Machado wants to play shortstop so much when it is pretty much universally agreed that he is an “elite” third baseman and only an “average” shortstop? Does that mean he is a selfish, “me” player and not a team player? Do the Phillies really want to invest so much money in such a player? - Tom B., email.