The top two free agents on the market in Major League Baseball, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, remain unsigned, even with the start of spring training for most teams only days away.
However, one report this week states that Harper, at least, plans to make his decision very soon.
Chris Russell, a radio host in Washington, D.C., said on Twitter Monday that Harper has reached “decision week” as the player is done meeting with teams and three or four teams are serious contenders. An announcement of Harper’s next team is likely by Thursday. Russell also said that he heard last week that the Washington Nationals, Harper’s current team, will get a chance to match any offer for the player.
Harper, who plays right field, has been most often connected with the Philadelphia Phillies and the Nationals, with the San Francisco Giants emerging in the last week as a possible other team. Reports last week said the Giants were looking to sign Harper to a shorter-term deal, while still offering big money.
Per the Inquisitr, a report out of Las Vegas in late January stated that Harper signing with Philadelphia was “imminent,” but no such deal was ever announced.
Harper has played his entire career to date with the Washington Nationals. Harper was drafted first overall by the Nationals when he was 17 and reached the major leagues at age 19, meaning that he is unusually young for a star player reaching free agency.
In his seven-year career, Harper has batted 0.279 with 184 home runs and 521 runs batted in. In 2018, he led the National League in walks, with 130, per Baseball Reference. A five-time All-Star, Harper was National League Rookie of the Year in 2012 and Most Valuable Player in 2015.
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The Phillies last week traded for former Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto, and owner John Middleton said last year that the team is looking to spend “stupid money” this offseason, at a time when few other teams are committing big money.
Typically, the top free agents sign with teams in November, shortly after the end of the World Series. However, the last two offseasons have featured the slowest free agent signing periods in memory. It’s likely a combination of teams seeking to avoid paying baseball’s luxury tax and growing conventional wisdom among baseball executives that large free agent deals for veterans aren’t worth it. There’s also been some speculation that baseball’s owners are colluding with each other to keep salaries down, something ownership was previously caught doing in the 1980s.