MLB Trade Rumors is a site which describes themselves as "a clearinghouse for relevant, legitimate baseball rumors." Each week at Phils Baseball, we grab their latest Phillies rumors and put them all together in one weekly post.
Here are the latest Phillies rumors:
8:32pm: There is a meeting, Heyman tweets, but the matter of Harper’s destination has yet to be decided. Other teams are still involved at this point.
8:14pm: Private planes and visits to Las Vegas have featured prominently throughout the courtship of free agent outfielder Bryce Harper, and that’s true again tonight. Phillies owner John Middleton — or, at least, his jet — is currently gracing the tarmac in Harper’s hometown, a source tells Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philly (Twitter link).
“Team Bryce” (presumably, the player, his wife, his agent Scott Boras, and others) is also in Sin City at the moment, Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports (Twitter link). That makes it easy to imagine a forthcoming late-night rendezvous between representatives of the open market’s most willing spender and its biggest star — though Heyman adds that Middleton appears to be on his own, without president Andy MacPhail or GM Matt Klentak.
Of course, we’ve yet to hear any specific indication that a meeting is in the works. At this stage of the proceedings, though, even the (seemingly strong) possibility warrants close attention. Harper, after all, took center stage when Manny Machado recently signed a ten-year, $300MM pact with the Padres. He was joined in the spotlight by the Phils, who came in third in the bidding for Machado after entering the winter with expectations of landing a superstar.
These sides have held an in-person pow-wow already, back in early January. That was perhaps more of a meet-and-great. It’s fair to wonder whether a repeat visit is designed to finalize agreement on what promises to be a very large contract. Middleton and Boras combined last winter to deliver Jake Arrieta to his new home on a private jet; it could be they’re making similar arrangements now.
The market developments have remained mysterious since Machado reportedly agreed to terms. Word emerged (see here and here) that the Phillies felt in command, with the Giants still involved, the Padres trying to see if they could somehow finagle a stunning double-play, and the White Sox bowing out of contention. Today, the Nationals seemingly indicated they were on the sidelines.
Now that Manny Machado’s 10-year, $300MM deal with the Padres has been announced, Bryce Harper and agent Scott Boras have a definitive bar to attempt to clear as they seek a record-setting contract of their own. Yesterday’s slate of rumors on Harper had a series of updates on how the Phillies, Nats, White Sox and Giants view the former NL MVP now that Machado is off the board. Here’s a look at the latest chatter on “Harper’s Bazaar” as the long, drawn-out saga inches toward a resolution…
MLB.com’s Jon Morosi joined Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area for Pavlovic’s latest Giants Insider podcast (audio link; Harper talk beginning around 12:45), wherein Morosi called an 11-year contract for Harper “very possible.” As others have done before him, Morosi suggested that Harper is expected to receive a larger contract than the one Machado received in San Diego.
Coming away from their pursuit of Machado empty-handed has “heightened” the Phillies’ pursuit of Harper, writes Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Breen writes that the organization is confident it’ll be able to sign the six-time All-Star, adding that the Phils “will be much more reluctant to walk away this time.” General manager Matt Klentak spoke candidly this week about the fact that Machado’s price point simply got to a point that exceeded the team’s valuation of Machado. It’s not clear whether the organization will take a similarly practical approach to Harper in the end, but Breen notes that the front office and ownership are keenly aware of how the public would perceive a scenario in which the Phillies fail to sign either Harper or Machado.
Padres ownership will meet tomorrow to determine if it is feasible to make a run at signing Harper in addition to signing Machado, tweets MLB Network’s Jon Heyman. As one would expect, Heyman notes that such a scenario is not at all considered likely, but it seems that the organization’s partners will at least perform due diligence and see if such a strategy can be pieced together. Heyman further tweets that for the Nationals, the ultimate call on Harper will come down to Ted Lerner (despite the fact that in 2018, Lerner ceded control of the organization to his son, Mark). The elder Lerner’s relationship with Boras is well-documented, though virtually every report out of D.C. over the past several weeks has suggested that the Nationals won’t be a top bidder for Harper.
Bruce Levine of 670 The Score / CBS Chicago reports that the White Sox will not bid on Harper, echoing similar sentiments reported by USA Today’s Bob Nightengale yesterday. Levine notes that the organization is quite high on some of its outfield prospects, noting that the ChiSox could make a short-term pickup in the outfield to help bridge the gap to that young talent.
The Phillies have announced the signing of third baseman Trevor Plouffe to a minor-league deal. He’ll receive an invitation to Spring Training.
Plouffe had appeared briefly at the major-league level last year with the Phils, marking his ninth-straight season with some action in the majors. He only took a dozen plate appearances, though, marking the first time since his debut season of 2010 that he strode to the MLB plate less than three hundred times in a given campaign.
Once a solid regular with the Twins, Plouffe was non-tendered after an injury-marred 2016 campaign. He struggled badly in the ensuing campaign, leaving him to ink a minors deal last winter. Plouffe ultimately turned in solid power numbers at Triple-A in 2018, slashing .232/.357/.468 with 13 home runs in 291 plate appearances with the Phillies and Rangers organizations.
Now 32, Plouffe will certainly face an uphill task to crack the Phillies roster. But with the club falling short in the bidding on Manny Machado, there could be some opportunity available. Plouffe might conceivably push incumbent third bagger Maikel Franco in camp and could theoretically earn a MLB roster spot or a place on the depth chart at Triple-A.
If you’ve been away from the internet for the last 24 hours, you’ll want to catch up on the major free agent news that broke yesterday. If not, you can safely skip ahead to focusing on what’s next: the final stretch of bidding for Bryce Harper. Here’s the latest:
The Phillies’ “total focus” right now is on Harper, Heyman tweets. Another free agent, such as Dallas Keuchel and/or Craig Kimbrel could become a target once Harper signs (be it in Philadelphia or elsewhere), but at the moment, the organization’s efforts are zeroed in on landing Harper.
Todd Zolecki, Mark Feinsand and Jamal Collier of MLB.com write that the Phillies are wary of bidding against themselves and overpaying for Harper. Notably, the MLB.com trio cite multiple sources in reporting that the Nationals “have no plans to give Harper a mega-deal comparable to Machado’s 10-year, $300 million contract.” If that’s the case, then it’s not clear exactly who’d pose a threat to the Phillies at present, as the Giants’ interest in Harper has repeatedly been reported to be on a shorter term deal with a significant annual value. The report also cites two sources indicating that approximately $100MM of the Nationals’ initial 10-year, $300MM offer to Harper (issued back in September) would have been deferred. Certainly, ownership could still decide to step up and retain the face of the franchise, but the fact that the initial offer was well shy of $300MM in actual, present-day value because of those deferrals doesn’t bode well for the Nats now deciding to top $300MM. Machado’s deal reportedly contains no deferrals.
Giants president of baseball ops Farhan Zaidi didn’t speak with an increased urgency after the Padres landed Machado, as Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. Specifically, Zaidi stated that he doesn’t think the Machado agreement “really changes how we’re viewing our team and what we might still do with it,” going on to emphasize the importance of making the “right decision” rather than acting “in a reactionary way.”
Phillies outfielder Odubel Herrera left camp today with a wrap on his leg after aggravating a hamstring strain he’d suffered a few weeks ago in offseason workouts, writes Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia. Manager Gabe Kapler called the issue “mild,” and there doesn’t seem to be any immediate concern, though it’s obviously a situation worth monitoring. More broadly, though, Salisbury’s latest piece takes a look at Herrera’s future with the Phillies — particularly with the addition of Bryce Harperstill very much on the table for the Phils. Herrera could potentially become a trade option in the event that the Phils land Harper, Salisbury notes, and even if it’s not Herrera, one of the Phillies’ incumbent outfielders would likely be forced out of the picture. Although Herrera only just turned 27, he’s been a fixture on the Phillies’ roster for the past four seasons. He’s guaranteed $24.5MM over the next three seasons as part of a $30.5MM contract extension that also contains a pair of club options.
After nearly four months of waiting, Manny Machado’s free agency came to a close Tuesday when he agreed to terms with the Padres on a 10-year, $300MM contract that represents the largest free-agent contract ever signed in American professional sports. Only Giancarlo Stanton’s 13-year, $325MM contract has ever guaranteed a player more money. Machado was pursued by other teams, most notably the Phillies, White Sox and (early in the offseason) the Yankees. While New York was already known to be out of the mix for Machado, the other two primary suitors still had hopes of reeling in one of the offseason’s biggest fish. With that in mind, here are some early reactions to the agreement and some notes on how those who missed out on Machado may proceed in the wake of today’s news…
Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets some insight into how the negotiations themselves played out. Machado’s agent, Dan Lozano of the MVP Sports Group, initially asked teams to submit their best offers in the final week of 2018. At the time, Machado had six clubs involved to varying extents. Those offers were shy of the $300MM guarantee Machado’s camp coveted, though, and rather than simply take the best offer presented, the agency continued working to drive up Machado’s price tag. Ultimately, of course, that proved to be a wise strategy. It’s not known just where Machado’s offers sat in early January, though Lozano made the rare move to publicly speak out against reports on Machado’s market, emphatically calling reports of Machado’s top offer sitting at seven years and $175MM “inaccurate and reckless … [and] completely wrong.”
The White Sox offered Machado a higher annual value than the Padres but less guaranteed overall money, reports Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (Twitter links). Chicago’s top bid for Machado was a $250MM guarantee over an eight-year term with vesting options and incentives that could’ve escalated the contract’s value to $350MM. It’s rare, however, to see players max out their incentives and escalators (particularly on a deal of this length), so it’s not surprising that Machado opted for the larger guarantee. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale adds a bit more context, reporting that Chicago’s proposal contained a pair of $35MM vesting options in addition to incentives and escalators.
Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes that a high-ranking Padres official flatly informed him that the team will not sign Bryce Harper following the agreement with Machado. The Padres’ payroll will be in the neighborhood of $110MM — a franchise record — but while ownership is clearly willing to spend more than ever before in 2019, it’d still be a shock to see another seismic addition. Despite that report, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman tweets that the Friars won’t completely rule out adding Harper. The Padres have clearly done their due diligence on Harper, so perhaps they’ll continue to lurk on the periphery in case Harper’s view on a shorter-term deal changes.
Acee’s column also offers a look at how the Padres came to reach an agreement with Machado. San Diego, according to Acee, hadn’t even expressed legitimate interest, let alone discussed an offer, until mid-January. Their early meetings revealed the asking price to be considerably higher than expected, but, as Acee notes, general manager A.J. Preller’s “creativity and relentlessness” ultimately swayed ownership into approving the expenditure. At this time, Acee adds, there’s no immediate plan to add another starting pitcher to the mix. Friars fans in particular will want to be sure to read the column in its entirety, which contains quotes from several Padres players on the reported agreement.
Although Phillies owner John Middleton infamously spoke of spending “stupid” money early in the offseason, the price for Machado apparently reached a point where the team’s baseball operations officials simply weren’t comfortable. “There’s a certain value that we believe a player brings and we were willing to get aggressive on this,” general manager Matt Klentak told Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Daily News. “If the reports are true, then this contract will exceed our valuation, and sometimes you have to be willing to walk away.” Klentak confirmed that the Phillies are still interested in Harper but cautioned that the team simply wouldn’t allow itself “to be put into a position where we have to do something at all costs.” There’s no way of knowing whether the Phils objectively value Harper at a higher number than Machado, but agent Scott Boras will likely be aiming to topple Machado’s guarantee and Klentak didn’t speak like someone gearing up for a bidding war.
White Sox general manager Rick Hahn expressed “frustration” and “disappointment” after learning of Machado’s deal with the Padres, writes Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times. The Sox met with Machado’s camp Monday and presented an increased offer (as noted above), believing that may put them over the edge. Ultimately, though, it seems as though owner Jerry Reinsdorf knew the point at which he felt he had to walk away. “[The Padres’] ownership group did a great job in trumping everyone else,” said Hahn while also commending Reinsdorf’s “willingness to step up” with what would’ve easily been a franchise-record contract for the ChiSox, who have never signed a player for more than Jose Abreu’s $68MM. Hahn indicated that the White Sox eventually topped out because of a need to “project putting together a total winning roster, and keeping the young players that will ultimately earn into greater dollars themselves.” As for the money earmarked for Machado, Hahn said it would be spent, though not necessarily this offseason (Twitter link via Van Schouwen). It’s worth noting, of course, that next winter’s free-agent market has its own share of high-profile names (e.g. Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt, Chris Sale, Gerrit Cole, Xander Bogaerts, Madison Bumgarner).
In other Phillies health news, second baseman Cesar Hernandez is coming back from a broken foot that he played through late last season, as Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Hernandez, who struggled after suffering the injury, now says that “it affected me in every single way.” The team was aware of the injury and did what it could to limit the strain; it was determined that Hernandez could play without risking further injury. Still, it’s not hard to imagine how it limited the switch-hitter, who saw his OPS fall by over 100 points from the first half of the season to the second. He was also just five-of-nine in stolen base attempts down the stretch. It’d be a nice boon for the 2019 Phils if Hernandez can get back to reaching base at the .370+ clip he carried in the two and a half seasons before his injury.
Phillies righty Jerad Eickhoff is back on the bump in camp, making for a notable step in his comeback effort. As Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports, it was an emotional moment for the 28-year-old and others in he organization. Eickhoff still has quite a few tests ahead of him as he looks to put his finger troubles behind him. As Salisbury explains, there doesn’t seem to be a clear path right back into the Phillies rotation, but it’s also not hard to imagine Eickhoff forcing himself into the picture. There’s still some flexibility to work with as well, as Eickhoff could open the season on the DL and has an option year remaining.
The White Sox are a “strong factor” in the market for star infielder Manny Machado, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (via Twitter). Attention has in recent days focused on the Padres, but it seems it’s still a multi-horse race, with the Phillies also known to be in the picture as well.
It isn’t terribly surprising to hear that the Chicago organization still factors into the discussion. Just how active the club is in its bidding isn’t clear, but the South Siders are continuing to dangle carrots (in less-than-subtle ways) in an attempt to lure Machado to Chicago.
Still, it’s notable that the White Sox evidently remain a legitimate potential landing spot — if only because that’d potentially make for much-needed leverage for Machado’s representatives. With the jockeying surrounding Machado and fellow unsigned star Bryce Harper perhaps entering a final phase, those players’ respective agents need all the cards they can get their hands on.
Recent indications are that the Padres have offered Machado something greater than $240MM and perhaps reaching $280MM. That sets a rather high bar — loftier, perhaps, than the level of contract the White Sox were reportedly dangling one month ago.
Even if the White Sox are willing to top the Friars, there could be further competition. Rosenthal suggests that the front offices of all three organizations see Machado as a better fit than Harper, though ownership preferences may be a bit different. Perhaps, then, there’s still some room for a late run-up in the bidding. Harper’s ongoing presence, and largely overlapping slate of bidders, makes for another factor in this complicated matchmaking dance.comments powered by Disqus