In discussions about the Philadelphia Phillies over the course of the last few years, a single phrase has been repeated over and over again — on talk radio, among fans, and in local media.
“Harper and Machado.”
It’s been known for at least a year that in the offseason following the 2018 season, the Phillies would have money to spend — and that this fact would coincide with the free agency of two superstar players, Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. Therefore, it’s been thought the team would seek to sign one of those players, or possibly even both.
Phillies owner John Middleton said last year that the Phillies may spend “stupid money” in order to improve the team this offseason, per Philly.com, even as most other Major League Baseball teams are pulling back on expenses. More recently, various reports have stated that the Phillies will absolutely sign one player or the other.
Now, “Harper and Machado” is no more, as Manny Machado agreed to terms Tuesday with the San Diego Padres — per the Inquisitr, for ten years and $300 million. So now, in the Phillies’ free agent pursuit, it’s Harper or nothing.
According to Todd Zolecki of MLB.com, “sources said Tuesday that the Phillies have been talking regularly recently with Scott Boras,” who is Harper’s agent, but that no deal is imminent. It remains unclear whether or not Philadelphia has made a formal offer for the Washington Nationals outfielder.
The report also says that now that Machado has signed, it virtually guarantees that Harper will sign for more than Machado’s total — which is, as of now, the largest contract for a free agent player in baseball history.
A Twitter report from Ken Rosenthal on Monday indicated that there was a “split” within the Phillies organization over whether to more closely pursue Harper or Machado, with the front office preferring Machado.
Reporter Jon Heyman quipped on Twitter after the Machado signing that because the Chicago White Sox couldn’t get to the $300 million level for Machado, this makes them exceedingly unlikely to still be a contender to sign Harper.
The Phillies will likely face some fan criticism if they fail to bring in Harper, but the team has unquestionably improved in the offseason, adding such veteran pieces as outfielder Andrew McCutchen, shortstop Jean Segura, catcher J.T. Realmuto, and relief pitcher David Robertson.
Bryce Harper’s eventual destination remains unknown as yet, but remains the biggest story in baseball as of this writing.