Photo: Jae C. Hong (AP)

It was not all that long ago that baseball people—smart, evenhanded baseball people—were wondering if Manny Machado would become MLB’s first $400-million man. Now we’re all wondering if he’s going to make that much more than Chris Davis.

On Wednesday, ESPN’s Buster Olney and USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported that the Chicago White Sox have offered Machado a contract worth $175 million over seven years, and that no other team has formally offered anything. This, if true (ESPN’s Jeff Passan had previously reported that Chicago’s offer was for eight years, but that discrepancy could be explained by an option year), would be shockingly low for a 26-year-old infielder with a career WAR of 33.8. That would be less overall money than was given to the likes of Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira, Jason Heyward, or Joe Mauer, and a smaller AAV than is being earned by Yoenis Cespedes, Miguel Cabrera, or Jon Lester.

I said, “if true.”

Machado’s agent Dan Lozano took the rare step of issuing a public statement disputing the reports:

I have known Bob Nightengale and Buster Olney for many years and have always had a good professional relationship with both. But their recent reporting, like many other rumors in the past several months, have been inaccurate and reckless when it comes to Manny Machado. I don’t know if their sources are blatantly violating the Collective Bargaining Agreement by intentionally misleading them to try and affect negotiations through the public or are just flat out lying to them for other reasons. But the truth is that their reports on the details of the White Sox level of interest in Manny are completely wrong.

I am well aware that the entire baseball universe; fans, players, teams, and media members alike; are starved for information about this free agent market for all players, including Manny. But I am not going to continue to watch the press be manipulated into tampering with, not just with my client, but all of these players’ livelihoods as they have been doing this entire offseason. The absence of new information to report is no excuse to fabricate “news” or regurgitate falsehoods without even attempting to confirm their validity and it is a disservice to baseball fans everywhere when the media does just that.

Moving forward, I will continue to respect the CBA’s prohibition on negotiations through the media, and hope that others would do the same.

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(I will just note briefly that I don’t believe for a second that Lozano isn’t also leaking—who else would have informed this tweet?)

If the seven years, $175 million is true, it’s baffling that there aren’t as yet teams willing to beat it. The Yankees, where Machado reportedly prefers to go, offered Robinson Cano the exact same contract five years ago—when Cano was five years older than Machado is now—knowing that it was far too small to have a chance of being accepted. Yes, the economics of baseball are changing, in a way that benefits the owners, but it’s still a little beyond belief that there’s no team willing to give Machado Albert Pujols’s current salary, and only through Machado’s age-34 season.

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As has been noted, one possibility here is that the White Sox (and other teams) are willing to raise their offers, but not until right before spring training starts. A bidding war that lasts a few days wouldn’t go as high as one that lasted all winter. It’s what happened with JD Martinez last year, and it resulted in the Red Sox getting him for a bargain-basement five years and $110 million.

One thing I don’t understand, and is really bothering me, is: who leaked the White Sox’s offer? Who stands to benefit from that being out there? Not the White Sox, because it seems like it’d encourage other teams to beat it. It doesn’t benefit Machado for everyone to know how depressed his market is. Perhaps his other potential suitors benefit from knowing exactly what they have to outbid without relying on Lozano’s word for it, but who in possession of that information would want them to have it? I feel like I’m missing something obvious here.