How much money will Bryce Harper and Manny Machado get? More pressingly, perhaps, for South Side baseball fans: How much money will it take to get either Harper or Machado to come play for the White Sox?
USA Today's Bob Nightengale reported Thursday that the White Sox have already made an offer to Machado, adding that they're more engaged on him than Harper at the moment, not entirely a surprise considering Machado is expected to make his decision before Harper's. Nightengale also said the White Sox have yet to make Harper a contract offer while staying in "constant contact" with the biggest name on the free-agent market. (But they're perhaps not behind schedule there, as the Philadelphia Phillies are just now sitting down with Harper for the first time after meeting with only his agent, Scott Boras, during the Winter Meetings. The White Sox twice met with Harper in Las Vegas, once early in the offseason and again during the Winter Meetings.)
Nightengale expanded on his initial tweet in a more detailed written piece and had a couple more nuggets to add, chiefly that the White Sox offer is "a serious offer, likely closer to $200 million than $300 million, but not enough to sway Machado to board a flight from Miami to Chicago for a press conference."
So what can we infer from that? Nightengale's details followed Wednesday's contradictory reports from ESPN's Jeff Passan and The Score's Bruce Levine, the former saying the White Sox were willing to guarantee a 10-year deal to Harper and the latter saying the White Sox wouldn't go past seven years with either Harper or Machado.
Unless the market for these two 26-year-old superstars has decreased to a point undreamt of when the offseason began, an offer to Machado worth "closer to $200 million than $300 million" probably isn't 10 years long. Remember that both of these guys were expected to get record-breaking deals when they started free agency, perhaps joining Giancarlo Stanton as baseball's only $300 million men or Mike Trout, Zack Greinke, David Price and Miguel Cabrera as guys making $30 million a year.
But the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers haven't seemed willing to make a decade-long offer, perhaps because they hold the leverage of these guys wanting to play for them, something Nightengale wrote Thursday, saying that "if Machado had his wish, and the offers were relatively close, friends believe he’d choose the New York Yankees" and that "if Harper had his choice, with the offers being close, friends believe he’d pick the Los Angeles Dodgers."
Those preferences could mean the White Sox and the Philadelphia Phillies, like the South Siders in on both mega free agents, would have to come to the table with huge contract offers. Again, that would be a logical assumption, as neither team can guarantee the immediate World Series contention the Yankees (100 wins last season) and the Dodgers (back-to-back NL pennants) can.
So what would a Yankees offer to Machado look like? And connecting dots that the White Sox offer could look something in the ballpark of seven years (off Levine's suggestion that it's as high as they'll go) and $210 million (off Nightengale's "closer to $200 million than $300 million" info and enough to make Machado a $30 million-a-year player), one wonders if it's enough to sway Machado from his long-held desire to play in The Bronx. Of course, "closer to $200 million than $300 million" could also mean as high as $249,999,999, and only three contracts in baseball history have been worth more than that. It'd give Machado an average salary of well more than $35 million, the highest in baseball history.
The White Sox might find themselves "relatively close" to the Dodgers in the competition for Harper, that is if they don't want to go past seven years and if the Dodgers have no interest in a gigantic, decade-long pact. That could give an edge to the Phillies, who have vowed to spend "stupid" this winter. Maybe they end up the only team willing to hand out the richest contract in baseball history. For the White Sox to do that and not go past seven years, the contract would have to pay Harper an average salary of nearly $47 million.
But Harper, according to Levine, has already received multiple 10-year offers, though there's no indication of which teams made those offers or if those offers have even been made by multiple teams. Remember the Washington Nationals' 10-year, $300 million offer that Harper reportedly rejected? Apparently that hasn't been their only offer.
#Nationals last offer to Bryce Harper was actually “much more than the $300m being reported by the media” according to a source. Apparently, The 10-year $300m offer was actually just the team’s 1st offer to Harper.— Jim Bowden (@JimBowdenGM) January 4, 2019
And with the Nationals still having meetings with Harper, including one as recent as right before Christmas, according to the Washington Post, that team is not at all out of the running. But they'll likely have to give him more than $300 million. Any team bidding for Harper's services probably will.
So will the White Sox — who have an incredible amount of financial flexibility and pretty much no long-term financial commitments to speak of, a big part of the reason they're in these derbies in the first place — make offers that take them out of the "relatively close" range and create separation between themselves and the teams these players seemingly prefer?
Don't expect a decision anytime soon, at least not both of them. One more line from Nightengale: "All we really know is that this wait could be a doozy. Maybe even into spring training."