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.
There have been rumblings this offseason that an MLB team could decide to make an unprecedented splash in free agency by signing two players to record-setting contracts, but that does not seem all that likely to happen.
Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports noted on Tuesday that the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago White Sox appear to be the two teams most interested in Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Recent reports indicated that either team could be open to signing both, but Heyman doesn’t see that happening.
Phillies met with agent scott boras regarding bryce harper at gm and winter meetings, and manny machado will travel to meet with Phillies Thursday. they and chisox are the 2 teams known to be interested in both mega stars. though the chances of 1 team signing both seems remote.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 18, 2018
Both Harper and Machado are expected to land contracts worth more than $30 million annually for somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 years. While the two All-Stars are still young, the back end of those contracts will probably be a nightmare. It could potentially cripple a franchise 10 years down the road to have both on the books.
The biggest obstacle for the White Sox may be that they have not contended in recent years, and perhaps they aren’t looking to blow Harper or Machado away anyhow. Both players are going to get paid, but there may not be as many suitors for them as initially believed.
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.
Several Milwaukee Brewers players made their feelings known about Manny Machado during the NLCS earlier this year, and Christian Yelich was among the most outspoken. However, that does not mean the star outfielder would be opposed to playing alongside his playoff foe.
During a brief chat with TMZ at the Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year ceremony in LA this week, Yelich was asked how he would feel about the Brewers opening up their checkbook for Machado.
“It’s part of the game. It wasn’t anything too crazy,” Yelich said of his team’s feud with Machado. “It’s nothing that would be a real hostile beef or anything, at least on my part. … If we ended up crossing paths again being on the same team I’m sure we’d be able to work that out.
Yelich called Machado a “tremendous player and a tremendous talent,” which is a much different description than the one he had for him after Machado clipped Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar in the leg while running out a routine ground ball in Game 4 of the NLCS.
We’ll probably never know how Yelich truly feels about Machado, because the Brewers aren’t believed to be a contender to sign the former Los Angeles Dodgers star. In reality, there’s probably a decent chance Machado will end up being teammates with someone he rubbed the wrong way at some point. Between his dirty antics and some of the remarks he has made about hustling, he has become quite the polarizing figure over the past several months.
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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.