Manny Machado is off the board, but Bryce Harper is still out there.
As the front offices of the teams that went after and failed to get Machado (the White Sox, Phillies and to some extent the Yankees) scramble to adjust, Harper is now the lone remaining superstar free agent on the board.
Don’t tell Bryce Harper or Scott Boras this, but at least two of the main suitors for Harper seem like they are in the losers’ bracket for this season’s free agency. The front office brass for both the White Sox and Phillies had to face the music regarding Machado on Tuesday and tried to explain what happened.
Kenny Williams said the White Sox “could not go to that level” when referring to the $300 million guaranteed contract for Machado. Meanwhile, in Florida, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak explained his team’s reaction to the Padres’ offer to Machado.
"There's a certain value that we believe a player brings and we were willing to be aggressive," Klentak said. "If the reports are true, then this contract will exceed our valuation and sometimes you have to be willing to walk away.”
The way Williams and Klentak said those things is different, but the meaning is the same. Neither team was willing to offer $300 million guaranteed for Machado (even if the White Sox offer reportedly could have been worth more with incentives and vesting options).
This also doesn’t sound like the stupid money the Phillies were said to be spending this offseason. This sounds more like a very large pile of measured, thought-out money.
What does that mean for Harper? Do the White Sox and Phillies have different evaluations for Harper than they did for Machado? Can they shift focus to Harper and make a winning pitch?
It is assumed that Harper will get at least that much money, if not more, on the market. The reactions from the White Sox and Phillies on Tuesday put that into question, even if Harper’s marketability likely makes him more valuable off the field than Machado. Still, the Phillies remain the favorite in the eyes of many of the national media to land Harper.
The Padres took Manny Machado off the board, but they may still be in the running for Harper. The only other known potential suitors are the Nationals (if they will rejoin the bidding after Harper rejected the team’s reported 10-year, $300 million deal in October) Giants.
After reports that the White Sox, Padres and Phillies all preferred Machado to Harper the race for Harper is still an intriguing one given what happened on Tuesday.
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