The Philadelphia Phillies are widely expected to be very aggressive in the free agent market this offseason, and not just when it comes to the top names.
The Phillies are likely to pursue at least one of Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, but according to Jon Morosi of MLB.com, the franchise won’t let those two players hold up the rest of the team’s plans. He reports that the Phillies may pursue and sign multiple free agents before either player makes a final decision on their future.
Among the names the Phillies may have interest in are pitcher Patrick Corbin, relievers Craig Kimbrel and Zach Britton, and outfielders Michael Brantley and A.J. Pollock. They may also be active in the trade market during that time, too.
In other words, Philadelphia may be the team to watch this offseason. They’re already being linked to some other big names in addition to their expected pursuits of Harper and Machado, and they could spend more money than anyone else at this rate.
We had heard previously that the Yankees are “lukewarm” on Machado because of the controversies that followed him during the playoffs. That may be too strong, but they clearly have enough reservations that they’re voicing them publicly ahead of negotiations. It could be a ploy, and it remains to be seen how they handle it.
New reporting indicates that the New York Yankees remain very much a factor in the Manny Machado sweepstakes.
According to The Athletic’s Jayston Stark via colleague Ken Rosenthal, the Yankees are “doing particularly extensive work” on Machado. Manager Aaron Boone and members of the front office have been calling those who know Machado well to get a sense of his character and his reputation as a teammate.
Those are fair questions after a controversial postseason in which Machado attracted more attention for a lack of hustle and questionable on-field actions than any of his exploits at the plate. Previous reporting had indicated that all of that had caused the Yankees to cool their interest on him, but that may have been an attempt to manipulate the market, as this indicates they’re as interested as they’ve ever been.
Machado is still a 26-year-old fresh off a season in which he hit .297 with 37 home runs while playing in the middle infield. He’s going to get a ton of attention and a lot of money.
Of course, don’t discount the possibility of the White Sox getting both players. Chicago only has around $50 million in payroll commitments for the 2019 season, so they might be able to afford adding two high-priced players.
The White Sox finished 62-100 last season and have finished fourth in the AL Central five straight years. They haven’t had a winning season since 2012, but they’re probably figuring a combination of a superstar and their up-and-coming prospects could help them get back to that point.
Projections have the White Sox owing a little over $50 million in salary for Opening Day 2019 solely based on the players currently under club control. In other words, they have a lot of money to spend and could make a Machado/Harper combination happen. There’s plenty of reason to believe the interest is legitimate, as the White Sox wanted Machado last winter when it appeared Baltimore might trade him.
The big question is whether Machado or Harper would want to play for the White Sox, who are still very much in the midst of a rebuilding phase. Yes, two players of that caliber could turn things around quickly, and top prospect Eloy Jimenez is on the verge of breaking through to the big leagues as well, but this is still a team fresh off a 100-loss season.
The young, upstart Atlanta Braves may be just a piece away from serious title contention, but that piece probably won’t be coming from the cream of this winter’s free agent crop.
In an appearance this weekend on SiriusXM’s MLB Network Radio, Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos made clear that the team was unlikely to pursue top stars Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, per host Jim Bowden. Anthopoulos also spoke on his reluctance to hand out ten-year deals to those players and said that the team was likelier to target the trade market for roster improvements instead.
The Braves are coming off a surprise season where they won 90 games, which was good enough for the NL East title and their first playoff berth since 2013. They fell in four games to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS however.
Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are the two biggest free agents on the market this offseason, and the Chicago Cubs are a big-market, successful team looking to improve. It would stand to reason that they might get involved in the bidding for either player, but that might not be the case.
The Cubs got below the luxury tax in 2018 and have reset the escalating penalty timeline, which some thought would free them for a pursuit of the big free agents. However, Wittenmyer points out that the team traded Drew Smyly to the Rangers in a salary dump to clear room to exercise their contract option on Cole Hamels. They’re projected to have a payroll of around $204 million next year once arbitration players are retained, which wouldn’t leave much room for high-priced free agents.
Plus, there was this comment from team president Theo Epstein after the Cubs’ season ended.
“We’ve spent a lot of money on players, and that’s not always the answer, to rush back out and spend more. Obviously, there are a lot of attractive players out there and some impact players out there, and we’ll get together and figure out what’s possible, what’s not possible and all the best approaches to this offseason.”
Those don’t sound like the words of a man who’s ready to go on a spending spree. Perhaps the Cubs feel that with a new hitting coach and having players like Kris Bryant and Yu Darvish healthy will give them a better shot at a deep postseason run.