MLB rumors: Agents for Bryce Harper, Manny Machado still seeking $300M deals; inside Marlins-Phillies trade

We're less than a week away from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training, and we've still got plenty of big names left on the board in free agency, including superstar sluggers Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. That means we've got a healthy supply of hot stove buzz in early February. To give you an idea of what's out there this Friday, we're here to round up all the notable trade and free agency rumors. As always, our free agent tracker is a great way to catch up on what's already happened on that front. Now let's jump in.

Harper, Machado still seeking $300M

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Manny Machado SD • 3B • 13
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There are plenty of reasons why the stove has been freezing cold for free agents, and the deadlock between the agents for Harper and Machado and suitors could be one of the main reasons. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic is reporting that neither agent want to blink first. Here's more on the current holdout between Scott Boras, Dan Lozano and the teams interested in the superstar free agents:

Harper's agent, Scott Boras, and Machado's agent, Dan Lozano, both are believed to be seeking at least $300 million. Neither wants to sign first, knowing once one of the players goes off the board, the other will benefit from gaining the sole attention of the remaining suitors.

The clubs, too, prefer to stall.

White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, for one, would prefer to chase the market rather than set it, according to sources. That way, he could avoid a bidding war, wait until the very end to hear the number he needs to reach, then decide whether he is willing to pay.

With neither player wanting to be the first to sign their contract, who knows how long they could go unsigned. Plus, the latest teams to jump into the Harper and/or Machado sweepstakes could further complicate things. Here's more from Rosenthal:

Other clubs seemingly are taking the same approach. The Phillies, sitting on "stupid money," figure they will get one of the two stars, knowing they can top any offer. The Padres are acting more aggressively on Machado, sources say, but to what end if they ultimately get outbid?

Then there are the mystery teams. It's reasonable to assume they exist on both players – the Padres jumped in on Harper last week, the Giants this week. The more teams that get involved, the more complicated the process will be.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred remains hopeful that baseball's biggest free-agent stars are signed before position players report for spring training next weekend, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today:

How Phillies sealed Realmuto deal with Miami

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After months of speculation, the Miami Marlins finally shipped All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, big-league catcher Jorge Alfaro, Class A lefty Will Stewart and international bonus slot, the teams announced Thursday. It was no secret that the Marlins' asking price for Realmuto was incredibly high this offseason. Miami made it clear that it was seeking at least a top prospect or promising young big leaguer with controllable years of service time, and more, in return for Realmuto.

Fancred's Jon Heyman has more on why the Phillies' package was enough for Miami:

Realmuto, with only two years of team control before he can become a free agent, rejected a contract extension offer from the Marlins in October, at which point Miami entered into negotiations to trade him. More from Heyman on that below:

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic further describes the high-risk, high-reward trade:

If Alfaro and Sánchez both reach their ceilings, the Phillies could lose the deal, considering they acquired Realmuto, arguably the game's best catcher, with only two seasons of control. The chances of both Alfaro and Sánchez hitting their full potentials, however, appear remote.

The Marlins believe Sánchez is worth the gamble, understanding he needs to clean up his delivery, but viewing him as the type of power arm necessary to win championships. Their hitting people watched hours of video on Alfaro – the Phillies had made him available early in the discussions – and saw room for offensive improvement.

It wasn't until the Phillies included Sánchez that the Marlins became comfortable moving forward. Despite their suggestions to the contrary, they had to trade Realmuto, had to maximize his value.

Giants' Zaidi: Interest in Harper is mutual

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On Wednesday, it was reported that the San Francisco Giants had joined the Bryce Harper sweepstakes.

A Giants contingency that included CEO Larry Baer, president Farhan Zaidi, and manager Bruce Bochy, flew out to meet Harper earlier this week in Las Vegas. And according to Zaidi, the fact that they made a trip to meet with Harper means their interest is real. Here's more from NBC Sports Bay Area:

Harper would provide the Giants with the power bat they've long sought after. The club hasn't made the postseason since 2016 and earlier this offseason appeared closer to entering a full-fledged rebuild instead of pursuing a superstar free agent.

The only factor that could hold San Francisco back from snagging Harper is the price. The Giants did their best last season to duck under the competitive balance tax. Currently, they're projected to be more than $30 million below the threshold. It all depends on whether or not the Giants' ownership is willing to risk paying a luxury tax overage penalty.

Lindor could miss Opening Day

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Francisco Lindor CLE • SS • 12
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Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor could miss the start of the season with a strained calf. The team announced Thursday that the three-time All-Star will be held out for 7-9 weeks. More on that here.

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