Phillies

MLB rumors: Latest on Manny Machado and Bryce Harper

MLB rumors: Latest on Manny Machado and Bryce Harper

Every team in Major League Baseball will have its pitchers and catchers report by Wednesday, and yes, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are still free agents.

So are Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel, for that matter, two others who entered the offseason as top-five free agents.

Let's catch up on the latest news and rumors pertaining to Harper and Machado.

Yankees make Machado an offer

According to former Mets GM Jim Duquette, now on SNY, the Yankees made Machado an offer of $220 million over seven or eight years. Duquette was not reporting this as fact, rather passing along what he heard.

If true, would that offer be competitive enough to entice Machado? Keep in mind that the Yankees have been viewed all along as his top choice and have been connected to him almost as long as the Phillies. The reason the talk of Machado to the Yankees has quieted in recent weeks has been their own perceived hesitance to sign him.

Earlier in the offseason, the Yankees signed Troy Tulowitzki to a low-risk deal and added second baseman D.J. LeMahieu, who could also see time at first base and third base.

Between second, third and shortstop, the Yankees have LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, Tulowitzki and Rookie of the Year runner-up Miguel Andujar, with Didi Gregorius expected to return from injury some time around the All-Star break.

If the Yankees did make Machado an offer of $220 million over seven years, it would be the highest annual average salary ever for a position player at just over $31.4 million per year. The current record belongs to Miguel Cabrera at $31M. 

That would indeed be a competitive offer, even if it's not the $300 million most expected when free agency opened.

Mutual interest between Harper and Giants

The Giants aren't quite as dangerous a foe to the Phillies for Harper as the Yankees are for Machado, but they're still worth worrying about.

San Francisco was viewed toward the end of last season as one of the most likely landing spots for Harper because of his and his wife's interest in the Bay Area, its proximity to his hometown of Las Vegas in the regular season and in spring training (Arizona rather than Florida).

The Giants are coming off a pitiful 73-89 season they opened with a $201 million payroll. They already have about $170 million committed to players in 2019 but that number drops by about $40 million in 2020, so you have to consider more than just this year's finances. If necessary, the Giants could get creative to shed money, like trading useful players for meaningless returns.

Adding Harper would push the Giants closer to 80 wins but would not make them a contender in 2019 unless so many things unexpectedly break the right away. They just don't have as much talent as the Dodgers or Rockies in the NL West, and they're behind many of the teams that should fight for wild-card spots.

The Giants met with Harper last week, and like the Phillies earlier in the offseason, were pleased with how it went.

"There’s obviously mutual interest on both sides so we thought it made sense to get together," Giants GM Farhan Zaidi told NBC Sports Bay Area. "We had a good conversation over a few hours. He’s obviously got a lot of suitors and a lot of interest and has some decisions to make, but again, I think it’s fair to say that was an expression of our interest level, to make the trip out there."

According to USA Today, the Giants plan to make Harper a big short-term offer but are uninterested in going to $300 million over 10 years.

Again, while $300 million seemed to be the magic number at the beginning of the offseason, it may not take that sum for a team to sign Harper or Machado. It depends on whether the players' priority is total money, or the best combination of money and comfort. 

If Machado wants to play for the Yankees and is willing to leave money on the table, the Phillies can't control that negotiation.

If Harper would rather play out West and is willing to leave money on the table, the Phillies can't control that negotiation either. Harper would also be taxed more with the Giants — 81 home games in San Francisco, plus another 20 combined in L.A. and San Diego would all fall under California taxation. 

Best chance to win

The Yankees offer Machado a chance to win year after year, albeit in a more competitive landscape with the Red Sox and Astros looking like the two best teams in baseball.

The Giants cannot offer Harper a genuine chance to win in 2019, and you'd think the uber competitive Harper is interested in winning ASAP after so many early playoff exits with the Nationals and no postseason at all in 2018.

If winning is toward the top of Harper's list of objectives, the Phillies and Nationals offer him the best chance of any of his suitors. The White Sox and Padres just don't seem like actual competitors because the Phils can present more money and more of a chance for October baseball. With J.T. Realmuto on the roster, the Phils could realistically push for 90 wins with the addition of Harper.

If you put any stock into odds, BetOnline now lists the Giants as the favorite to land Harper and the Yankees as the favorite to land Machado.

Harper odds

Giants: 1/1

Padres: 2/1

Phillies: 4/1

Dodgers: 15/2

Nationals: 10/1

Machado odds

Yankees: 1/2

Padres: 4/1

Phillies: 5/1

White Sox: 5/1

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At the Yard podcast: Where will Didi Gregorius bat? Are Phillies done?

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At the Yard podcast: Where will Didi Gregorius bat? Are Phillies done?

Where will Didi Gregorius hit in the Phillies' order? How will the infield defense be aligned? Are the Phillies done? Jim Salisbury and Corey Seidman discuss on Wednesday's At the Yard podcast.

• Surprised it was a 1-year deal?

• Why a 1-year deal carries so much value for the Phillies.

• Will Kingery play 2B or 3B?

• Could Segura be dealt?

• Where might Didi bat in the order?

• An interesting Phillies-Yankees trade idea from Jim.

Subscribe and rate At The Yard:
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Phillies obviously better with Didi Gregorius, Zack Wheeler and Joe Girardi, but was this enough?

Phillies obviously better with Didi Gregorius, Zack Wheeler and Joe Girardi, but was this enough?

Didi Gregorius is a fun addition for the Phillies. His personality and the joy he plays with will quickly make him a fan favorite. He'll improve the clubhouse dynamic and he'll improve the Phillies' infield defense and lineup.

At one year, what's not to like? It's a one-year, $14 million contract for Gregorius, according to Jim Salisbury, which gives the Phillies an entire year to figure out their infield. Where does Jean Segura fit? What about Scott Kingery? When will Alec Bohm be ready? Can Rhys Hoskins, the most important hitter of them all, turn it around in 2020?

By tying themselves to Didi for only one year, the Phillies can pivot quickly if this does not work out, or if a second base/third base combo of Jean Segura and Scott Kingery does not provide enough offense. Bohm is the other major factor in all of this — if his defense can hold at third base for even a few years during the early part of his career, and if his power and control of the strike zone can translate to the majors, he could be the run-producing five-hole hitter this Phillies team needs.

Before Bohm arrives, though, the question is whether the Phillies' eight projected everyday players represent a contending lineup. It will likely shake out like this. Focus more on the names than the batting order because of how many variations there could be:

1. Andrew McCutchen, LF (R)
2. Didi Gregorius, SS (L)
3. J.T. Realmuto, C (R)
4. Bryce Harper, RF (L)
5. Rhys Hoskins, 1B (R)
6. Jean Segura, 2B (R)
7. Scott Kingery, 3B (R)
8. Adam Haseley, CF (L)

Given the current composition of the rest of the Phillies' roster, this looks like a mid-80s-win team at first glance. A team that projects for 85 to 87 wins with a chance to crack 90 if many things break right. 

If Hoskins rebounds. 

If Kingery becomes a valuable everyday offensive contributor. 

If McCutchen has a full season as productive as his pre-injury work in 2019. 

If the Aaron Nola-Zack Wheeler duo combines for 400 innings with an ERA in the low 3.00s.

If Bohm and Spencer Howard force the Phillies' hand by playing well.

If we see second-half Realmuto and Harper in 2020.

If Jake Arrieta can be more of a No. 3 than a No. 5.

If the Phillies find and settle on a reliable 8th inning-9th inning combination.

The Phillies are unquestionably better now than they were at the end of the 2019 season. Gregorius is a better and more impactful than the player he's basically replacing, Cesar Hernandez. Wheeler is the No. 2 starter the Phillies desperately needed. New manager Joe Girardi may be able to add a win or two here and there with good decision-making.

They are better. The question is how much better. Good enough to push the Nationals and Braves for the division? That would seem an optimistic viewpoint of this Phillies roster, but they can still tinker with their core throughout the offseason by adding another starting pitcher like Wade Miley, a high-upside reliever like Dellin Betances and another good hitter for the bench.

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