White Sox

What the Phillies' meeting with Bryce Harper could mean for the White Sox and Manny Machado

1113_bryce_harper.jpg
USA TODAY

What the Phillies' meeting with Bryce Harper could mean for the White Sox and Manny Machado

The baseball world already made its trip to Las Vegas. The Philadelphia Phillies are going back.

The White Sox are competing with the Phillies in not only the derby for Manny Machado but for the other 26-year-old superstar on this winter's free-agent market, Bryce Harper. And while the White Sox have reportedly twice met with Harper in Sin City — once early in the offseason, with Hall of Famer Jim Thome supposedly present, and again during the Winter Meetings, when the baseball world descended on Harper's hometown — the Phillies are just now sitting down for a face-to-face meeting with one of the best players in the game.

While it's been reported that the Machado saga could soon be reaching its end, there's seemingly no end in sight for the Harper sweepstakes, which more than one report has suggested could last into February.

And because there's no apparent rush for Harper to ink what's expected to be one of the biggest contracts in baseball history, perhaps there's time for a little chess.

Not long ago, it seemed the Harper derby was down to three teams: the White Sox, the Phillies and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Well, the Dodgers haven't been making any noise on the Harper front, even if they did clear outfielders from their roster and salary from their books in that blockbuster deal with the Cincinnati Reds. Then the Washington Nationals re-entered the picture, despite Harper having reportedly rejected their initial offer of 10 years and $300 million. Harper, agent Scott Boras and Nationals owner Ted Lerner reportedly sat down for five hours just before Christmas, and now the possibility that Harper will return to the team with which he spent the first seven seasons of his big league career is looking like a mighty strong one.

So where does that leave the Phillies? You'll remember their owner saying they might "be a little stupid" with their spending this winter, and it wouldn't come as any surprise if they end up bringing a big bag with a dollar sign on it to their Saturday meeting in Vegas.

But remember, too, that the Phillies and Nationals are division rivals. And so whichever team doesn't get Harper is going to have to face him 19 times a season for the next decade. So what will the Phillies do if they're on the short end of that stick?

Enter The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal, who has a suggestion that ties all of this together. He wrote Thursday that the Phillies still prefer Machado to Harper. And with the New York Yankees continuing to add infielders to their already crowded infield, the Machado derby appears to be down to the White Sox and Phillies. If the Phillies want to spend that "stupid" money on Machado, why are they meeting with Harper? Rosenthal has a guess:

"A contingent from the Phillies’ front office is scheduled to meet with Harper in his native Las Vegas on Saturday. If the Phillies’ preference is Machado, as some in the industry believe, then the meeting from their perspective might simply be a ploy to drive up the price for the Nationals, a division rival. Harper and Boras, in fact, might be proceeding with the same motivation."

Oh really?

The White Sox have recently been considered "long shots" on Harper and have, like the Phillies, been reported to be more "in" on Machado, who by everyone's guess is expected to sign before Harper, with Boras likely waiting to ensure his client gets the biggest payday of the offseason. But if the Phillies throw their "stupid" money at Machado and reel him away from the rest of the "Miami Baseball Brotherhood" on the South Side, then does the Harper derby get whittled down to two teams, with the White Sox as one of them?

It's all a bunch of "what ifs" as this whole thing continues to be a head-spinning mess, with the rest of baseball along for the ride as much as fans of the involved teams.

Machado's decision could reportedly be made by next week, and perhaps the goings-on in Vegas will have something to do with that. In other words, stay tuned.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.

SprtsTalk Live Podcast: Is MLB about to strike out forever?

generic_baseball_ball_slide.png
USA TODAY

SprtsTalk Live Podcast: Is MLB about to strike out forever?

David Haugh, Chuck Garfien and JJ Stankevitz join Kap on a Friday edition of STL. 

The MLB owners and players appear to be farther apart then ever with the union saying they will not take a further pay cut. Is the sport about to strike out forever?

Meanwhile, the Bulls season is over. Will a nine-month lay-off help or hurt them? Plus, the Bears may not get together as a team until training camp. Will that hurt them at all?

Finally, Jean Lenti Ponsetto will retire as DePaul athletic director this summer. Can a new AD get the men’s basketball team back to national prominence?

0:00 - There’s still no baseball and the two sides don’t even appear to be in the same ballpark. Are the owners and players heading for a mutually assured destruction? Does one side need to give in first for the good of the game?

11:00 - The NBA is returning but the Bulls won’t take part. Is it better for them to have a 9-month lay-off?

15:00 - The Bears and other NFL teams may not get to work out together until training camp. Does the hurt the Bears?

19:00 - Jean Lenti Ponsetto will retire as DePaul AD this summer. Can a new AD bring the Blue Demons men’s basketball team back to national prominence?

 

Listen here or below.

Sports Talk Live Podcast

Subscribe:

Report: 2020 MLB season will happen, how many baseball games is unclear

Report: 2020 MLB season will happen, how many baseball games is unclear

Fans looking for good news during the financial fight between baseball’s owners and players are getting it from SNY’s Andy Martino. He says there will be a baseball season in 2020.

No, there’s no imminent agreement between the two warring sides. But the worst-case scenario, no season at all, seems as if it will be avoided, per Martino, who reported Friday that players will play even if Major League Baseball sidesteps further negotiations and imposes a season of perhaps fewer than 50 games.

The league’s ability to do that was reported on earlier in the week, included as part of the March agreement between the two parties. The parsing of that agreement is at the center of these contentious money talks. The players agreed to prorated salaries based on the number of games played, but the owners believe they’re able to ask for further pay cuts now that they’ve deemed it economically impossible to play even half a season without fans in the stands and pay players half their salaries. Players, distrustful of that claim, say the owners should prove it by opening their books.

The players are standing firm in not accepting further pay cuts, with union chief Tony Clark saying Thursday any proposal of further cuts would be rejected. While there was some confusion over whether the owners would stop making proposals altogether, Martino reported that the league could make another financial offer to the union.

Here’s another wrinkle: The governor of Texas recently said that fans would be allowed to attend sporting events in that state. Thursday brought a report that Major League Baseball is likely to allow the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros to have fans in the stands, signaling that governors in the 17 different states where major league teams play would have the final say on whether they could sell tickets. That could mean more revenue, a significant variable thrown into this whole thing.


RELATED: Return-to-play negotiations: How Rob Manfred and Adam Silver's roles differ

So how many games are going to be played? That remains a question without an answer.

If the players refuse further pay cuts, as they’ve said they will, then perhaps a roughly 50-game season would be in the cards. If there are concessions as negotiations continue, that number could grow. Martino outlined that if the owners agree to pay those full prorated salaries for more than 50 games, perhaps we’ll see expanded playoffs, which was part of the players’ last proposal the league rejected. Perhaps we’d see players mic’d up during games. Perhaps we’d see the union stop demanding full financial transparency from ownership.

But no budging from either side and the league’s 50-game plan seems more realistic, despite the frustration it could spark among fans. While a 50-game schedule would mean a lot more off days, creating health benefits for players related to both typical baseball maladies and the coronavirus, it could be argued it would be an illegitimate way to crown a champion. However, there’s an argument to be made that a 50-game sprint would be a fascinating contrast to baseball’s typical 162-game marathon, often criticized for its at times glacial pace.

If the two sides can come to an agreement, perhaps that wished-for July 4 Opening Day would still be possible, though teams would have to hustle to start a second round of spring training, which was originally pitched to begin next week. If they can’t, then the league’s mandated 50-game season might start closer to the end of July, with the postseason played as usual, during the month of October.

But with the league adamant about the playoffs wrapping up no later than early November, fearing an increase in COVID-19 infections come fall, time is of the essence. And that’s what makes Martino say that next week is when we’ll find out how much baseball will be played in 2020.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.