Phillies

Evolution of free agency is hurting players but could help Phillies with Manny Machado and Bryce Harper

ap_bryce_harper_manny_machado.jpg
AP Images

Evolution of free agency is hurting players but could help Phillies with Manny Machado and Bryce Harper

It's been a strange MLB offseason. Or maybe it's been a normal MLB offseason, by the current standards. 

Here we are on Jan. 10 and the top three players on the free-agent market (Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, A.J. Pollock) remain unsigned and the best catcher (Yasmani Grandal) was forced to take a one-year deal. 

The "middle class" of baseball players is no longer getting paid like it was from around 2007-16. Front offices are smarter now and more shrewd with their investments. It means fewer albatross contracts and probably more profits for owners ... but does that benefit the common baseball fan in any way?

Consider this: Free agency opened 73 days ago and there is only one position player who has signed a contract guaranteeing more than $10 million over at least three years. Andrew McCutchen. That's it. Just five years ago, this is the kind of contract teams were giving fifth starters like Scott Feldman.

It's a decline from even last offseason, which was a bad one for players. Last year, seven such contracts were given to position players. This offseason, Harper and Machado will obviously get them but will anyone else? At this point, a guy like Pollock might find it more worthwhile to take a high-priced one-year deal and re-test the market next year. It's what Grandal did by agreeing Wednesday to a one-year, $18.25 million deal with the Brewers, a contract nobody would have seen coming at the beginning of the offseason.

Another ominous sign for players looking to cash in: There are reportedly no more than four teams seriously pursuing either Harper or Machado. By most accounts, it's the Phillies, Yankees and White Sox after Machado and the Phillies, Nationals and Dodgers after Harper. That could change if a mystery team swoops in, but so far, neither race includes as many competitors as expected.

Part of that is because contenders like the Cubs and Indians aren't looking to add payroll and teams like the Giants, Diamondbacks, Mariners and Rangers are retooling. You can't really blame those latter four teams because they're more than one Bryce Harper away from seriously contending. (Then again, the same could be said of the White Sox and perhaps the Phillies.)

According to USA Today, the White Sox offer for Machado is around $200 million. Before your jaw drops, we don't know how many years were involved in that offer. If it's five years, $200 million, that's a fair annual salary for Machado. If it's 8 years, $200 million, they should've been laughed off the phone or out of the room.

When the offseason began, nearly the entire baseball world expected Machado and Harper to get between $300 million and $400 million. MLBTradeRumors, which does a good job forecasting contracts, projected a 14-year, $420 million deal for Harper. An offer close to that now seems remote.

Unless the pace and competitiveness of free agency changes, the Phillies have even less of an excuse to not land one of the two megastars.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies

Phillies finally add to bullpen by agreeing to deal with Drew Storen

Phillies finally add to bullpen by agreeing to deal with Drew Storen

The Phillies finally added a reliever, agreeing this week to a minor-league deal with former Nationals closer Drew Storen, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale.

Storen had some really good seasons with the Nationals at the beginning of the decade. From 2010-15, he had a 3.02 ERA in 355 appearances, most of which were high-leverage.

He had an unceremonious exit from D.C. after two poor postseason showings. He allowed the game-tying and game-winning runs to the Cardinals in Game 5 of the NLDS, and allowed a game-tying run in the 2014 NLDS as well.

When the Nationals acquired Jonathan Papelbon from the Phillies for Nick Pivetta in the summer of 2015, it led to the narrative that Storen's confidence was shaken and he was never the same.

Storen was traded to Toronto a calendar year after the Nats got Papelbon, and he's since spent time in the organizations of the Blue Jays, Reds and Royals. He underwent Tommy John surgery late in 2017 and has barely pitched the last two seasons, making just nine appearances in the minors with the Royals, all at Double A.

Storen is a classic buy-low reliever. Maybe things click in spring training and he makes the team and can provide the Phillies another quality right-handed relief option. The odds are probably against it, but the Phillies do have plenty of open roles in their bullpen.

The big wild-card in the Phils' bullpen is Seranthony Dominguez, who missed most of last season with arm injuries but could be a much-needed and useful weapon if he can revert to his 2018 form.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies

J.T. Realmuto will fight for future generations in salary arbitration case against Phillies

J.T. Realmuto will fight for future generations in salary arbitration case against Phillies

More than once last summer, J.T. Realmuto expressed his affection for Philadelphia and said he’d one day be up for signing a long-term contract extension with the Phillies.

The specter of his upcoming salary arbitration hearing hasn’t changed his outlook.

“Not at all,” he said before the 116th annual Philadelphia Sports Writers Association banquet Monday night. “Anybody who knows about the arbitration process knows it’s business. It’s not necessarily me against the Phillies right now. There’s definitely not going to be any hard feelings there. So I feel like we’re at the same place we were two or three months ago as far as with the contract extension.”

Before the two sides go to work on a long-term contract extension, Realmuto is likely to play the 2020 season on a one-year contract. Barring an unlikely settlement, Realmuto will have his 2020 salary decided by an arbitration panel next month. He is seeking $12.4 million. The Phillies’ arbitration offer is $10 million. The arbitration panel will hear arguments from both sides then pick one number or the other.

Realmuto knows the game. He went to arbitration with the Miami Marlins two years ago and lost.

“I have a good understanding of the process,” he said. “I know it’s not the Phillies trying to slight me. It’s more the system. There are no hard feelings there.”

Realmuto, who turns 29 in March, is coming off a season in which he solidified himself as baseball’s best catcher while making $5.9 million. He was an All-Star. He was the catcher on the inaugural All-MLB team and he won both the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards in the National League. He led all big-league catchers in hits, RBIs, total bases and extra-base hits while swatting a career-high 25 homers. He threw out 37 runners trying to steal, the most in the majors.

Realmuto’s 2019 season put him in a good position to win his arbitration case.

But he made it clear that this is about more than just himself.

"It’s not me against the Phillies,” he said. “It’s the system that we’re trying to fight right now.  I’m trying to go out and set a precedent for future catchers in the game and I feel like I had a season worthy of doing that so I’m going to fight for that.

"This is not because the Phillies didn’t give us a chance to come to an agreement. We’re fighting for a cause, fighting for the rest of the catchers. Historically, catchers have not been treated well in the arbitration process and we feel like this is an opportunity to advance that for the catchers. Just being able to fight for those guys is something I take pride in. I believe in fighting for future generations and I’m excited to do it."

Once Realmuto’s 2020 salary is established in mid-February, the Phillies are expected to initiate talks on an extension that would begin at the start of the 2021 season. Those talks should commence during spring training. A contract extension is expected to cover up to five seasons with an average annual value of over $20 million.

Realmuto, who was honored as the PSWA’s Athlete of the Year for 2019, was joined by new Phillies manager Joe Girardi at the banquet.

“I’m really excited to play for him,” Realmuto said. “I feel like he’s got a lot of feel. He knows exactly what he wants to do as a manager and has a lot of confidence and he’ll be able to instill that confidence in us.”

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies