Updated: 2:15 p.m.
With Manny Machado off the board, so too are the Padres in the Bryce Harper sweepstakes.
Are the Phillies just bidding against themselves at this point?
Let's take a look at the rest of the market:
The White Sox richest reported offer to either player this offseason was in the range of $200 million. Aside from not being able to offer the most money, the White Sox offer even less of a chance to win now than the Padres. Harper is uber-competitive, so you would think this matters.
White Sox executive VP Ken Williams said this:
Ken Williams: “We could not go that $300M level.”— Daryl Van Schouwen (@CST_soxvan) February 19, 2019
Here's what White Sox GM Rick Hahn had to say:
Hahn says he’ll take the next few hours “feeling pretty pissed” about not getting Machado, but will then look at what they have in the clubhouse and feel better about what they have for the future.— Chuck Garfien (@ChuckGarfien) February 19, 2019
Hahn: “This isn’t the last time we’ll be going after premium talent.”— Chuck Garfien (@ChuckGarfien) February 19, 2019
These do not sound like the comments of a team that thinks it has a chance to land Harper.
You learn in this business to never say never, especially when it comes to high-priced negotiations that can change at a moment's notice.
The Nationals, by word and deed, appear to have moved on from Harper. They have a good outfield even without him — Juan Soto, Adam Eaton, top prospect Victor Robles — and also must worry about paying underrated star Anthony Rendon when his contract expires after 2019.
Rumblings about Harper's work ethic also leaked out of the Nationals' spring training clubhouse earlier this week.
Washington's payroll is nearing $200 million and is precariously close to exceeding the luxury tax threshold of $206 million. The Nats do, however, have about $60 million coming off the books after 2019.
That said, the Phillies should be able to top Washington's offer, especially since all of the Nats' highest-priced players have deferrals in their contract. The Phils should be able to close a deal without deferring any of the money. Deferral vs. non-deferral should be an easy decision for any player.
If money means the most to Harper, the Phillies have the clear advantage. If it's a combination of money and comfort, you can't just outright eliminate the Nats.
The Giants have reportedly only been interested in giving Harper a shorter-term deal. At this point, especially after Machado got a 10-year contract from the Padres, it would be extremely surprising if Harper went that route. It might look like a loss, which Scott Boras is rarely willing to take.
The Giants were a team to worry about because of the affinity Harper and his wife Kayla have for the Bay Area and because of his friendship with guys like Brandon Crawford and Buster Posey.
But again, the Giants just aren't a win-now team. They won 73 games last season and their top players are aging out of their primes. Posey is no longer the elite offensive option he once was. Madison Bumgarner, a free-agent at season's end, is no longer the unquestioned ace he once was.
San Francisco is also a tough place to hit. Harper's numbers there would probably be worse than they were at Nationals Park (which plays mostly neutral but hitter-friendly when it's warm) and at Citizens Bank Park.
The pressure is on the Phillies' front office to get this done. The biggest roadblocks at this point would be an 11th-hour mystery team emerging, or a genuine hesitance from Harper to play in Philadelphia. There's no real indication he doesn't want to be in Philly other than this tweet, which could also be a mere ploy by Boras to get the Phillies to boost their offer one final time.
Have been hearing lately Bryce Harper unsure about Philly. They'd better convince him for their sake.— Andy Martino (@martinonyc) February 19, 2019
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