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Prepare yourselves for an offseason without Harper or Machado
by Scott Butler 12/16/18

Manny Machado Bryce Harper

To this point, at least in this blogger's opinion, the 2018 Phillies offseason has been a success. In one trade, the Phils unloaded a player who didn't fit their roster (Carlos Santana), moved a terrible defensive left fielder to his natural position at first base (Rhys Hoskins), added a great hitting shortstop (Jean Segura), and even snagged a couple relievers (Juan Nicasio and James Pazos), while only giving up an underwhelming prospect (J.P. Crawford).

They upgraded their outfield by signing Andrew McCutchen and marginally improved their bullpen by swapping out Luis Garcia for Jose Alvarez. There is also still a good chance they add an elite reliever or two before the winter ends.

But if you feel completely satisfied with those being the only changes, you haven't been preparing for this particular offseason for the past four years. I might be exaggerating that timeframe a bit, but it's not by much. The moment Matt Klentak was hired as the 11th general manager in Phillies history on October 26, 2015 and began orchestrating a rebuild, the Phils had their eyes focused on this very offseason.

That offseason is now upon us and the Phillies have been the odds on favorite to land Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, or both from the very beginning. And when John Middleton announced his intentions to be a little bit "stupid" with his money, fans in this region salivated. Inking one of those two superstars was a foregone conclusion. The only question was whether they could hook both fish.

There still is a better than good chance Harper or Machado wear Phillies red next season. But it is far from a certainty. The Phillies still have the means and the willingness to sign Harper or Machado, but one thing has changed. As Matt Breen put it:

In almost a worst-case scenario, the Dodgers and Yankees have emerged as suitors. 

Oh boy.

Machado has made it known that he wants to be a Yankee, and the Yankees have done nothing to suggest the feeling is not mutual.

The Dodgers, once assumed to be out of the running for either player, are rumored to be attempting to make trades to free up space in their budget and in their outfield for Bryce Harper.

From Breen:

The allure of playing in Hollywood or wearing pinstripes could be worth more than even a blank check. The winter meetings began with the Yankees saying they were out on Harper. It ended with them jumping back in and general manager Brian Cashman saying the team was “a fully operational Death Star.” Klentak better know how to pilot an X-Wing.

Machado might have his heart set on the Yankees and Harper may have star-struck eyes for Hollywoodland, but one thing is almost always true in these situations:

Players Go For The Money.

Patrick Corbin grew up near New York, never hid his intentions to play in The Bronx, and then there is this:

Well, Corbin is not a Yankee because the National made a better offer. The money was there and he took it, which is almost always the case.

Patrick Corbin wanted to be a Yankee and it is highly likely Machado wants the same thing. But there is also something else in play here. Agents are not stupid. They know that interest from the biggest market in the planet helps drive up the price on their clients.

If the Phillies make a better offer than the Yankees, they almost certainly will get their guy. Machado knowingly accepted all the risks that come with testing free agency and he's not about to give any major discounts now. But what it does mean is that the Phillies have to pay even more for a player looking for perhaps the biggest contract in MLB history. The same is true in Los Angeles as they make a play for Harper.

The Phillies are most definitely still in the mix, but the outcome is not as certain as it once seemed. Stupid is as stupid does, and stupid may not mean the same as we first thought when Mr. Middleton spoke the word.

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