Phillies

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

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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.

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At The Yard Podcast: Phillies predictions, prop bets and over-unders from Corey Seidman and Jim Salisbury

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At The Yard Podcast: Phillies predictions, prop bets and over-unders from Corey Seidman and Jim Salisbury

On this edition of At The Yard, Corey Seidman and Jim Salisbury make their predictions for the 2019 Phillies.

How many home runs will Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins hit? Will Aaron Nola have an even better season than last year? Will Gabe Kapler manage the full season? Will Vince Velasquez still be in the rotation in June?

Also, do the guys see the Phillies making the postseason?

1:00 — Pitching rotation predictions.
4:30 — Will Vince Velasquez be in this rotation June 1?
9:00 — Who leads the Phillies in saves?
12:00 — Scott Kingery predictions.
17:00 — How many home runs for Bryce Harper?
22:30 — How many all stars will the Phillies have?
25:00 — Aaron Nola predictions.
32:30 — Gabe Kapler predictions.
36:00 — How will the Phillies' attendance numbers be?
44:00 — Days Phillies will spend in first place.

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Live stream: Bryce Harper, Aaron Nola, Gabe Kapler speak to media Tuesday at 2 p.m.

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Live stream: Bryce Harper, Aaron Nola, Gabe Kapler speak to media Tuesday at 2 p.m.

Live Tuesday at around 2:15 p.m. from Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies will address the media as they prepare for Thursday's Opening Day.

Starting pitcher Aaron Nola, right fielder Bryce Harper and manager Gabe Kapler will be the ones to step to the dais and speak during the final media availability of the offseason. 

We don't really need to tell you who Harper is, of course. The marquee offseason acquisition is now in Philadelphia -- his home for the next 13 years -- and will surely be asked about how excited he is to play in front of the CBP crowd for the first time as a friend, not an enemy. Nola will be pitching on Opening Day for the second time, but it's the first time he'll do so with the home fans behind him. 

The live stream will begin below around 2 p.m. ET. Don't forget tune in to NBC Sports Philadelphia or the MyTeams app on Tuesday night at 8 p.m. ET for Signing Harper, our exclusive look at how the Phils made the biggest free agent acquisition in Philly sports history.