Phillies

Phillies release Michael Saunders, Jeanmar Gomez

Phillies release Michael Saunders, Jeanmar Gomez

The Michael Saunders experiment is finally over.

The Phillies on Sunday officially released Saunders and reliever Jeanmar Gomez after the pair was designated for assignment Tuesday. After clearing unconditional release waivers, the duo is now free to sign with any team.

Saunders signed a one-year, $9 million deal in the offseason to jolt the Phillies' power-needy corner outfield spots. Saunders floundered in his time with the Phillies, slashing .205/.257/.360 with six home runs, 20 RBIs and 51 strikeouts. Saunders boasted the league's worst on-base percentage among qualified hitters (.257). 

With a white-hot May, Aaron Altherr supplanted Saunders in the outfield, making the Phillies' big offseason acquisition expendable.

After saving 37 games in 2016, Gomez's late-season struggles carried over to 2017. Gomez tossed a 4.85 ERA in 2016, en route to tossing the eighth-most saves in baseball. He was a noticeably different pitcher as the season wore on, as he lost his grip on the closer position. Gomez rounded out the year with a 19.13 ERA in September.

Gomez posted a 7.25 ERA in 18 appearances this season.

Manny Machado’s agent, Dan Lozano, not happy with a couple reporters

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USA Today Images

Manny Machado’s agent, Dan Lozano, not happy with a couple reporters

There’s been a lot of back and forth so far this offseason in the national media with regard to Manny Machado. This week alone, ESPN has contradicted itself in reporting the number of years Machado has been offered by the White Sox.

Machado’s agent, Dan Lozano, isn’t happy with how negotiations have been portrayed in the media, calling a couple of national reporters out by name.

You can understand why, because if the Buster Olney report Wednesday is accurate, the White Sox offer would be hard to take seriously (see story).

Lozano acknowledges this in the statement, but a contributing factor to the madness in the national media this winter has been the pace of the MLB offseason, which has gotten uncontrollably slow. When two superstars linger in free agency and delay the process this long for solid players available behind them, it invites speculation and games of leverage.

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Manny Machado sweepstakes are set up for Phillies to win

Manny Machado sweepstakes are set up for Phillies to win

Updated: 5:30 p.m.

If Manny Machado is still the Phillies' preferred big-ticket free agent — and the belief here is that he is — there is no excuse for them not landing him.

We base this on some new reporting from Buster Olney of ESPN. Olney reports that the Chicago White Sox, considered the Phillies' main competitor in the Machado sweepstakes, have offered the player a seven-year contract worth $175 million.

This is remarkably low considering Machado — and the game's other mega free agent, Bryce Harper — entered the offseason looking for record deals of more than $300 million.

To put this in perspective, there are already 13 players in the big leagues on deals of $175 million or more.

The Phillies have deep pockets and they have been gearing for this offseason for several years. If the number cited in the ESPN report is true, then the Phillies undoubtedly will blow by it — they probably already have — and make the most lucrative offer to Machado. Even if the White Sox were to add a year and $25 million (the average annual value of their offer) to their pitch to Machado, the Phillies would have no trouble blowing by that. There are a dozen players in the majors making at least $25 million per season. This is hardly stupid money, to use the phrase that has become legendary in these parts.

So, it's time to lock this thing down and go get Machado, especially if that $175 million figure is accurate.

Of course, issues remain in the Phillies' pursuit of Machado.

One is the Yankees. Are they in or are they out? Sources say they like Machado but won't go crazy to get him. Well, the prices being cited are hardly crazy. Maybe even the Cardinals would jump in at the White Sox' number. But would either of these teams spend stupid money? Probably not. Advantage Phillies.

The other factor is Harper. The Phillies had a very nice get-to-know-you meeting with him Saturday in Las Vegas, but there has been no firm sign that he has zoomed past Machado as the team's preferred free agent and there has been no firm sign that Harper prefers the Phillies over other suitors.

What is undeniable is that the Phillies have long pursued Machado. Their front office has been angling for ways to get him for two years. They tried to get him in July and are pursuing him at the moment. Now comes news that the Phillies' chief competitor hasn't even reached $200 million in its offer. This thing is shaping up beautifully for the Phillies, a team whose greatest resource is just what Machado is looking for — money.

Now, none of this ensures that this drama is about to reach an end. Surely, Machado and his representatives can't be thrilled that the market for the player isn't, well, more lucrative. Surely, they will wait this thing out and try to push the price higher.

Later Wednesday afternoon, Machado's agent, Dan Lozano, issued a sharply-worded statement and called Olney's report false and reckless.

Surely, Harper will continue to look for something more than the $300 million he reportedly turned down from Washington and may or may not still have on the table.

Other than Olney's report today, things seem very quiet on the Phillies' pursuit of these top two free agents. At least not a lot of new information has been revealed. This quiet could signal that talks between the Phillies and Machado have reached a sensitive stage. Or maybe talks between the Phillies and Harper have reached a sensitive stage.

The guess here is that the Phillies are still on Machado and this thing is set up for them to win.

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