The holidays have passed, and the first days of the new year are being checked off before White Sox pitchers and catchers report to spring training in less than six weeks (Feb. 13).
Free agents Manny Machado and Bryce Harper are still available, and with both being pursued by the Sox, the suspense is becoming palpable with no particular team viewed as a lock to land either star. The Sox have been listed as long shots, but they are still in the race and giving Machado something substantial to mull over.
Machado, said to be favoring the Yankees but likely still waiting on an offer that suits him, reportedly has an offer from the Sox in the $200 million range, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
Whether the Sox’ package appeals to the third baseman/shortstop is the question of the hour. The Sox do have Machado’s brother-in-law Yonder Alonso, their newly acquired first baseman who spent the holidays with Machado, going for them. But money will ultimately be the key factor, as it always is.
Machado, represented by Dan Lozano, is expected to sign before Harper, whose agent is Scott Boras. For Harper, Boras is aiming to break the record $325 million, 13-year deal Giancarlo Stanton signed with the Marlins in 2014, or Zack Greinke’s $206.5 million over six years that netted him the highest average annual value above $34 million.
The Nationals, who offered a reported 10-year, $300 million deal to Harper during the season, have doubled back to the fray for him, thickening the plot but hurting the Sox’ chances for the right fielder.
In what has developed into another slow-moving market for free agents, Harper and Machado for weeks have dominated the speculation and rumor cycles with no solid evidence showing any particular team leading the pack.
“I truly believe Boras is just working his magic behind the scenes,’’ one industry source said Thursday.
The Sox’ presentation impressed Harper more than he anticipated, sources say, so it’s safe to say Machado was also moved by the team’s sales pitch. In the end, it will likely come down to the attractiveness of the deal, which is being negotiated by chairman Jerry Reinsdorf.
Industry sources expect the Phillies — who haven’t been shy about their intent to spend — to extend the highest offer for one or both of the top free agents.
Of course, that much isn’t known, either.
“It’s gonna gain steam now, especially with Machado,” an industry source said. “I’m just curious to know the mystery teams. I’m guessing there will be one or two on each guy.’’