The top two free agents on the MLB free agent market are waiting until January to sign, and it appears that one is going to go first.
Outfielder Bryce Harper remains in limbo, according to Michael J. Duarte of NBC LA, as he is likely to sign only after Manny Machado does. Machado is expected to sign in January, with some considering the New York Yankees the frontrunner.
If Machado joins the Yankees, Duarte reports that the Philadelphia Phillies will likely increase their efforts to land Harper.
Anything on Bryce Harper is not expected to come until after the New Year, and likely after Manny Machado contract details are announced. IF Machado does sign with #Yankees, expect #Phillies to increase their pursuit of Harper. #Dodgers
— Michael J. Duarte (@michaeljduarte) December 28, 2018
In other words, this will drag on for at least another week. The Phillies have been linked to both Harper and Machado, but haven’t appeared close on either. They have a lot of money to spend and a desire to land a big name, so while reports indicate that their interest up until now has been overblown, that may well change if he becomes the only game in town.
Even as we move toward Christmas, the bulk of Major League Baseball’s big-name free agents remain unsigned. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado both appear willing to bide their time to get the offers they feel they deserve, while the rest of the market seems to be moving slowly on some of the other names available. That means that two weeks away from 2019, there are still plenty of options available for teams eager to improve via free agency.
Here are the 10 best free agents still on the market.
10. Marwin Gonzalez, IF/OF
Gonzalez will never be a star, but he will be an extremely valuable player for someone. The former Houston Astro spent at least some time at seven positions last season, not including DH, with only pitcher and catcher not on the list. That versatility, combined with the fact that he has enough pop in his bat to be a threat when he’s at the plate, makes him a valuable player. Remember, this is a guy who got MVP votes in 2017. He could do a lot for a contender.
The Philadelphia Phillies are still very interested in one of the two big names left on the free agent market, but they reportedly prefer one to the other.
According to Todd Zolecki of MLB.com, the Phillies prefer Manny Machado to Bryce Harper, but are still interested in either of them. This is backed up by the fact that the Phillies will host Machado in Philadelphia for a Thursday visit, while they didn’t meet with Harper at the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas.
This is not an indication that there’s no interest in Harper. The team is aware of his demands, but as he’s demanding a record deal in excess of $35 million a year, the expectation is he won’t sign before January at the earliest.
Machado is taking a tour of interested suitors this week. It’s publicly known that he was in Chicago on Monday to visit the White Sox, and he’ll visit the New York Yankees as well. Those appear to be the three main suitors, though other teams are still at least somewhat involved.
Much has been made about the Chicago White Sox’ interest in both Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, but their willingness to bring in one or both may not be as strong as it had been believed.
According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the White Sox do like both Harper and Machado a lot, and are prepared to enter the market for them. The fact that they traded for Yonder Alonso, Machado’s brother-in-law, only intensified the rumors. However, according to Olney, Chicago’s interest falls within the more traditional financial parameters, and the team is unlikely to make a record-setting offer for either player.
The expectation is that both Harper and Machado will sign record deals this offseason. If that’s the case, the White Sox are unlikely to land either player.
In other news, unless the market turns out to be less robust than it seems to be, this report probably won’t hold up. The interest is real, but it does not appear to be the frenzied, aggressive sort.
The Chicago White Sox may have had a greater prize in mind when they acquired Yonder Alonso in a trade.
The White Sox acquired Alonso in a trade with the Cleveland Indians on Friday, as first reported by Watch Stadium.
Alonso is the brother-in-law of Manny Machado, so there is some thought that the White Sox are trying to appeal to the free agent shortstop. Ken Rosenthal mentioned this factor on Thursday, a day before Alonso was traded.
Value-obsessed baseball teams do not think like this, but it would be interesting if a Manny Machado suitor traded for his brother-in-law, #Indians 1B Yonder Alonso, who now figures to be highly available. Alonso would amount to a $9M enticement, but who’s counting?
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 13, 2018
The White Sox are among the teams said to have high interest in Machado.
Alonso, 31, is making $8 million next season and has a $1 million buyout for 2020, so he’s only guaranteed $9 million. He batted .250 with 23 homers and a .738 OPS last season. Dealing him helps the Indians clear some payroll, which could allow them to keep all of their starting pitchers despite the trade rumors.
Manny Machado has made it no secret that he wants to continue playing shortstop with his next team, but the All-Star slugger is not going to pass up millions of dollars just to get his wish.
Bobby Dickerson, Machado’s longtime personal coach and mentor, told Scott Lauber of The Philadelphia Inquirer this week that Machado has a strong preference to remain a shortstop but will transition back to third base if the money is right.
“Manny’s mindset is to be a shortstop. He really wants to play short,” Dickerson said. “But I do think for the correct team in the correct situation and the right contract, all those things, he’d be willing to play third. I don’t know this, but I believe it.”
The problem for Machado (if you want to call it that) is that at least two of the teams that are interested in signing him, the Yankees and Phillies, appear to be set at short. New York is committed to Didi Gregorius as its shortstop of the future, and Philly recently acquired Jean Segura in a trade with the Seattle Mariners. When asked if he thinks Machado would go back to third for the Phillies, Dickerson again said it would be all about dollars and cents.
“I think if the contract is right he would,” the coach added. “It may have to go an extra five million, or more, or whatever to get him out of [shortstop]. But if the contract is right, I think he would go to third.”
The Yankees are said to be interested in making a significant trade that would clear the way for Machado, but he’s going to have to play the hot corner if he wants to wear pinstripes. At the end of the day, the 26-year-old is smart enough to know he can’t limit his market by insisting on only playing shortstop.
- Manny Machado
Free agent shortstop Manny Machado’s market is strong as we move toward the MLB Winter Meetings.
According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, six teams have registered their interest in Machado. Three of them — the Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees, and Philadelphia Phillies — are known commodities. Rosenthal adds, however, that at least three other teams have voiced their preliminary interest.
It’s not just the #Phillies, #WhiteSox and #Yankees that have interest in Manny Machado. One rival executive hears at least three other teams are in the mix and will meet with Machado’s agent, Dan Lozano, at the winter meetings.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 8, 2018
While some believe they know where Machado will land, they’re all just guesses, especially with so many unknown suitors lurking. He’s exceedingly likely to get one of the two biggest deals handed out this winter, rivaling only Bryce Harper’s.
- Manny Machado