Depending on how much you’re willing to believe the reported rumors, there appear to now be clear frontrunners in what seems to be at best to be three-team races for top free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.
For Harper, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale is reporting that the Philadelphia Phillies met with the outfielder for five hours on Saturday, and “have emerged as the clear-cut favorite” to sign him. They’re expected to make a formal offer this week. The Phillies appear to be by far the team most seriously in the running—unless Harper goes back to the “long-shot” Nationals’ 10 year/$300 million offer—because the Yankees have seemingly lost interest in any marquee free agents, and the White Sox have been focusing entirely on Manny Machado.
And particularly if Harper goes to Philadelphia, the White Sox could be in prime position to sign their number-one target. Jeff Passan reported on Sunday night that the Sox had given Machado an offer of 8 years/$250 million. While that would be the largest contract in franchise history by far, it’s also well short of the $300 million Machado is said to be seeking. Still, Machado’s camp may not have much in the way of negotiating leverage. The Yankees’ talks with Machado, according to Buster Olney, are “are either dormant or completely dead.” So unless the Phillies are willing to give big contracts to both Harper and Machado—which remains a possibility, USA Today says—that leaves the Sox as the number-one team by default.
In a nutshell, barring the return of Harper to D.C. or the real impact of a “mystery team” that may or may not only exist as a negotiating ploy, this certainly now looks to be a two-horse race, with the Phillies in the best position for Harper while also possibly trying to still compete with the White Sox for Machado. Of course, any other MLB team can decide to jump in and become the highest bidder whenever they want. But unfortunately, none of them care enough to actually do that.