Updated: 1:03 pm.
The first major shoe has dropped. Manny Machado has agreed to a deal with the San Diego Padres, one of the top pursuers of both Machado and Bryce Harper, according to ESPN's Jeff Passan.
With Machado off the board, the Phillies’ pursuit of Harper will only intensify. They have been committed all offseason to landing one of the two superstars and now only one remains.
The deal is reportedly for 10 years and $300 million. It is a massive sum but it does not set the MLB record yearly salary for a position player, which still belongs to Miguel Cabrera at $31 million per year.
According to The Athletic's Dennis Lin, Padres executive chairman Ron Fowler said the Padres do not have a deal with Machado yet and are "continuing discussions."
Padres executive chairman Ron Fowler: “We do not have a deal. We are continuing discussions.”— Dennis Lin (@dennistlin) February 19, 2019
However, The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal says that Fowler's comments are "likely semantics."
The Phillies had been believed to prioritize Machado because of his positional value and two-way ability. Offensively, however, he hasn’t had the same ceiling as Harper.
Over the last four seasons, Harper’s OPS is 96 points higher than Machado’s. Harper is also a much more selective hitter you can pencil in for an on-base percentage in the high-.300s, whereas a down year from Machado in 2017 resulted in an OBP below the league average.
Harper’s left-handed bat is also more of a fit for a Phillies lineup that’s best hitters are right-handed: Rhys Hoskins, J.T. Realmuto, Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura.
The Harper domino could now fall at any time. All along, one side was waiting for the other to make a decision. With Machado off the board, there is more pressure on the Phillies to get a deal done for Harper, even with one fewer suitor (San Diego) in the mix.
It will be interesting to see whether Machado can remain an elite offensive player at Petco Park, one of the most pitcher-friendly venues in all of baseball. Keep in mind that all but a half-season of Machado’s career came at a great hitter’s park in Baltimore.
Machado is a career .271/.319/.442 hitter on the road, which wouldn’t be as meaningful a stat if he was headed to another hitter-friendly venue. Petco Park ain’t that.
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