Following the Major League Baseball offseason has reached a new level of absurdity this winter. In fact, there might be a new, diagnosable seasonal depression disorder after the winter thaws and Bryce Harper or Manny Machado haven’t decided where they will play in 2019 yet. Add the latest report from one of the “Big Five” MLB Insiders and the rumor mill has been renewed.
If you’re anything like me, your thumbs are cramping and your eyes are bleached from all the searching and scanning on Twitter for news of a decision. And beware the fakes, my friends. There are plenty of trolls claiming “insider info” on Reddit boards and other places waiting to hold you up after their caper has become victorious.
But every so often news actually hits the airwaves that could elucidate a “truth” from Harper and Machado’s orbit. Joel Sherman of The New York Post had an interesting take on the free-agent sweepstakes monopolizing our thumb time. Sherman writes,
“I believe desperate teams will offer the most, and this offseason those are the Phillies and White Sox. Philadelphia has been plotting that this would be a substantial offseason for years and then its owner, John Middleton, publicly talked about spending “stupid” money. Translation: No matter how Phillies leadership spins it, the club signs Harper or Machado or it had a terrible offseason.”
Yes, we’ve known the Phillies will spend “stupid” money, the likely sum it will take to sign one or both of the prized players. We also knew (although secretly doubted) that the White Sox would jump into the deep end of the bidding pond for Harper and Machado. Sherman echoes the feeling that Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf will not be denied this offseason given his age and desire to re-energize the fanbase. Still, there could be a plot twist afoot that if true, could have ramifications on the market for both players.
What if Machado and Harper have already eliminated the Phillies as a possible location? More from Sherman:
“Word is neither player particularly likes Philadelphia and both would have preferred the Yankees, who have shown little interest in Harper.”
The Evil Empire in New York and Tinsel Town in Los Angeles have the glitz and glamor of ritzy real estate, celebrity communities and the allure of high-priced marketing deals, even if only regionally. Philadelphia, while a growing and historic city, cannot compete with either of those places. Chicago could be added to that list and round out the top-three media markets. While Philly has a $5 billion media deal and appears ready to throw bags of cash at both Machado and Harper, this statement from Sherman gives me the feeling that this comes down to a geographical decision right now.
Whether L.A. and New York have the ability to sign these players in the age of fiscally responsible payrolls and advanced analytics is relatively unknown, but the league can never count either team out. The Dodgers have already made a cleared a few dollars from their payroll after a trade with the Reds last week, but they are still lightyears away from the flexibility needed to sign either Harper or Machado if they don’t want to pay the Competitive Balance Tax.
This is good news for the White Sox and Sherman agrees, writing
“So if this is about the last dollar, then my money would be on the White Sox for Harper and the Phillies for Machado — or vice versa.”
The better news is that if Sherman’s sources are accurate, and Philly has fallen out of favor, the White Sox could be the largest media market left on the table. But the more likely scenario is that this is more leaked propaganda from a party with interest in controlling the public narrative to skew negotiations in their favor. With so much money at stake, it seems hard to believe that either player would eliminate a team from consideration already. They may have preferences on location, as anyone in their position would, but the final decision will come down to dollars and cents.