When it comes to Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, if not the Phillies, then who?
We know the Phils will have competition for both players, but the list of teams able to pay $350 million or more is not long.
The Cubs, for example, are a team long thought to be in on Harper. But they could have some financial impediments after splurging on so many free agents the last three years. The Cubs will be over the luxury tax threshold in 2019 and could approach $220 million in payroll even before a huge contract for Harper.
They could be in the race, but they're not exactly the favorite to win it.
Which borderline World Series contender has the biggest outfield need? The Indians, a team in win-now mode that has made plenty of win-now moves the last few seasons. After a quick playoff exit, they likely realize they need more to compete with the Red Sox and Astros. But their attendance has lagged, ranking in the bottom third of baseball the last decade and barely rising with the win totals. How much more can they actually spend?
The top contenders for Harper are the Phillies and Dodgers. The Yankees will bid, too. Then there figures to be a group of teams that tries for Harper but probably can't reach the ultimate asking price — the Nationals, Mariners, Diamondbacks and Giants.
For Machado, the likeliest landing spots are the Yankees, Phillies and Dodgers.
There always seems to be a mystery team in the negotiations for a superstar, but it will be hard for any non-major-market club to compete with the Phillies' finances and desires to land one of the two players.
If an unforeseen suitor does emerge, don't be shocked if it's the Cardinals. They have the offensive and outfield need, the commitment to winning, and about $30 million coming off of last year's payroll.
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