If the Phillies are the clear-cut favorite to sign free agent Bryce Harper, as USA Today reported Sunday, then the ripple effect should be beneficial for the White Sox and their chances of landing Manny Machado.
After all, the Phillies were the only other team known to be involved in the Machado sweepstakes. If the Phillies invest a fortune in Harper, the Sox would seem to be the favorite to land Machado, although it’s possible the Phils are willing to spend for both Harper and Machado.
The Sox have tried to make things comfortable for Machado by trading for his brother-in-law, Yonder Alonso, and signing a good friend, free agent Jon Jay. And according to ESPN, they have made an eight-year offer to Machado, who’s still being pursued by the Phillies. One report, from Dominican-based Hector Gomez of Z101 Digital, says the offer is for $250 million. The Sox, who have never awarded a contract beyond six years, $68 million for Jose Abreu, were previously believed to be holding the line on seven years.
That offer comes with a hefty annual average of $31.25 million taking Machado through his age 33 season. And the bidding might not be over.
“Everything is still on the table,” one industry source said, “especially in this new age of free agency where not everything makes sense. These guys are still so young [both 26], so if things aren’t what they want, they could gamble and take a much shorter deal and try again in the near future.”
It’s not clear how enamored Machado is with the Sox, who lost 100 games last season and haven’t been to the postseason since 2008. The Sox are selling a strong farm system, a comfortable clubhouse and a rebuilding plan that bodes well for a brighter future. Machado’s first choice was the Yankees, who were believed to be the favorites at the outset but are loaded with infielders after adding D.J. LeMahieu and Troy Tulowitzki to an already deep group.
The self-described free-spending Phillies became the favorites to land Machado as the Yankees’ interest waned, but if they invest in Harper, how much cash will they have left for Machado?
The Nationals, who offered Harper, their right fielder since his career began in 2012, a 10-year, $300 million deal during the season and were thought to be out before re-emerging in the picture, have already spent $189 million in payroll this offseason and might be out again. The Sox also have been in the hunt for Harper and met with him in November but haven’t made an offer.
The Phillies haven’t made an offer to Harper, either, according to USA Today, but their five-hour meeting with him Saturday apparently went well.
“I think it was really positive,” Phillies owner John Middleton told the ABC television affiliate in Philadelphia. “We got to understand the man. We got to understand what he’d be like in the dugout, the clubhouse and the community. He and his wife are really an impressive young couple.”
As is their practice, the Sox’ front office has been mum on free agents, especially with two players of this magnitude, although they have made it clear they are in pursuit. Jim Thome, special assistant to general manager Rick Hahn, said on MLB Network last week that Hahn and vice president Ken Williams are “working hard” and that signing Machado “would be wonderful.”
Hahn, on a conference call discussing the Jay signing Thursday, remained coy and collected when asked about the nonstop rumors.
“I realize it’s part of the business,” Hahn said, “but especially when you’re talking about
negotiations, which are understandably and purposely confidential and not something we conduct through the media, the amount of rumors out there can get frustrating. We don’t let it be a distraction.”