The free agent saga of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado has, improbably, stretched into the start of spring training. The two superstar free agents remain unsigned for now, as rumors continue to swirl as to the players' ultimate destination.
One team that's been linked to both players is the Philadelphia Phillies, a team whose owner, John Middleton, said at the beginning of the offseason that the team may spend "stupid money" on players this offseason. In a winter in which many teams aren't spending at all on players, the Phillies signed free agent outfielder Andrew McCutchen and relief pitcher David Robertson, traded for shortstop Jean Segura and catcher J.T. Realmuto, and signed young pitcher Aaron Nola to a contract extension.
The Phillies, per Inquisitr yesterday, are still seen as a good bet to sign one of Harper and Machado, or possibly even both of them. Also optimistic about the pursuit? Some of the Phillies' current players.
Pitcher Jake Arietta, who himself signed as a free agent with the Phillies during spring training last year, told NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Clark, per a Twitter post, "I'm pretty optimistic about it, really" when asked about the Harper and Machado free agency. "There's no inclination that we are not the favorite, or at least one of the favorites... I can definitely see at least one of those guys here."
Arietta spoke at the Phillies' spring training complex in Clearwater, Florida, where pitchers and catchers reported this week.
"I hope we end up with one of these guys," Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins said to reporters, per another John Clark tweet. "They are generational talent."
The Phillies' general manager, Matt Klentak, also spoke to the media at a start-of-spring-training press conference this week, and while doing so he expressed pride in the team's offseason, even if they don't end up with one of the two big stars."I want to try to temper the notion that a failure to sign one of these big free-agents renders this offseason a failure," Klentak said Thursday, per local sports radio station WIP. "We've had an objectively great offseason in my opinion. It doesn't mean we're going to stop trying, we're gonna keep pushing - our ownership demands nothing less than us continuing to push. But I think we're comfortable with where we are right now, and we just have to play it out."
Baseball's free agent market, for the second straight offseason, has been uncommonly slow, leading to whispers that the owners are colluding among themselves to keep salaries down. Others argue that it's become conventional wisdom around the game to rely on younger players instead of older free agents, while many times they are also either rebuilding or attempting to avoid the luxury tax.