We're barrelling toward February, and Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, two generational free agents, remain unsigned ...
Each is just 26 years of age, each has franchise-altering upside, and MLB.com's Todd Zolecki has the overview ...(no matter what the money is). So at this reasonably late hour, what do we know?
Machado's top contenders seem to be the Phillies, White Sox and Padres. Harper's top contenders still seem to be the Phillies, White Sox and Nationals.
This square's with all credible reporting to date. You may have a mystery team or two on the fringes -- and such situations are fluid until ink is on paper -- but right now those look like the leading contenders. As for narrowing it down further, there's this ...
Three weeks remain until position players report to spring training and little has changed the last month. The #Phillies still are the heavy favorites for Harper and the #Whitesox for Machado while everyone awaits to see who blinks first on the final pricetag.— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) January 28, 2019
The White Sox were previously reported to have made an offer to Machado (though it was), so that does indeed perhaps make them the favorite. They're also committed to adding payroll and making a market splash, which distinguished them from, oh, the majority of the league at the moment. As for the Phillies, they almost certainly won't sign both, and multiple reports have it that that prefer Machado to Harper. However, if it's Harper rather than Machado who's willing to take their money, then Philly will welcome him. In that sense, calling the Phillies the Harper favorites is plausible.
The Padres are certainly the wild card to watch. They have an impressive young talent base in place or on the way, and Machado is young enough to be a major part of the next relevant Padres team. As well, the Padres boast geographical appeal, and they're apparently willing to spend money. Although the Nationals have been among the most active teams of the winter and although they're not desperate for outfield help (Adam Eaton, Juan Soto, and 2019 NL Rookie of the Year short-lister Victor Robles are all in the fold), they're not out on bringing Harper back. According to multiple reports, the Nats made a $300 million offer to Harper during the 2018 season, and if the market dips enough maybe that will merit revisiting.
While we still have a curious level of uncertainty given that pitchers and catchers report in a matter days, the markets for Harper and Machado seem to be taking shape, at least when it comes to the most serious suitors.