The baseball world goes into a brief slumber during the period between Christmas Eve and New Year's. Last year at this time, a few minor moves were finalized by teams on Dec. 26, and Wade Davis signed a multi-year contract with the Rockies on Dec. 29, but other than that, there weren't any moves of consequence until mid-January.
Obviously, at this point, the decisions of both Manny Machado and Bryce Harper will come in the calendar year 2019. And the longer the Phillies go this offseason with a roster including neither, the more antsy and worried fans are going to get. It's already evident, the unease from a fan base that was expecting at least one of the stars to put pen to paper and join the Phillies.
It's interesting how much the narrative has shifted this offseason and it's again why you can't put much stock in random gossip at the beginning of free agency. Remember when anonymous executives were telling a few national baseball reporters that the Phillies were the heavy favorite to get Machado/Harper and that the entire MLB offseason ran through them?
That eventually shifted to the more measured sentiment that maybe the Phillies don't get one of them, despite the money they're willing to spend. The Phils cannot force anyone to sign with them, all they can do is offer the most money, which at the end of the day, they probably will for Machado.
The latest bit of info from Joel Sherman of the New York Post won't make anyone around here feel much better.
"Word is neither player particularly likes Philadelphia and both would have preferred the Yankees, who have shown little interest in Harper," Sherman wrote Wednesday.
Machado liked Philly enough earlier this month to make it his third visit in a week that included prior stops to hear the sales pitches of White Sox and Yankees. And if/when the Phillies offer him upwards of $300 million, Machado and agent Dan Lozano will like that too. If nothing else, it will give them leverage.
And if, at the end of the day, all Machado's camp seeks is leverage from a deep-pocketed team, what else can the Phillies do?
It's been clear since midseason that Machado would like to be a Yankee. Truth be told, that's where I expect him to land at this point, and I can already envision the introductory press conference with him donning a Yankees cap and saying, "This is where I always wanted to be. All those years playing the Yankees 20 times a year, I knew this was the right fit for me."
The Phillies will likely need to outbid the Yankees to get Machado but there's a limit to everything. They're not going to outbid the Yankees by $100 million over the same number of years under contract, for example, despite the Phils' desperation to land a star. Nor should they need to. If it requires beating the Yankees' offer that substantially, then it shows the player never really wanted to be here, to begin with.
The same four teams continue to hover around the talks for Machado and Harper. The Phillies and Yankees are the two likeliest spots for Machado; the White Sox and Dodgers are the two likeliest spots for Harper.
It would make things interesting if Machado were to sign first with the Yankees. Then, with no star infielder on the board, the Phillies' attention would shift to Harper, creating a bidding war against the Dodgers and White Sox that might be easier to win, and one that doesn't include a strong preference from Harper, at least none that has been made as public as Machado's affinity for the Yankees.
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