The past few weeks have featured plenty of leaks and reports regarding the potential suitors for Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, and it is necessary to repeat the old adage that almost every leak is strategically sent out from either the player’s camp or a team, usually for negotiation purposes. Despite the long, grueling nature of this process, the good news for baseball fans is that the leaks have recently been more specific with respect to contract terms, which may suggest that we are past the “who’s in on Machado or Harper?” stage and firmly in the “who has the best offer for Machado or Harper” arena. However, this point is often the most confusing for fans due to conflicting reports, so let’s take a look at some recent leaks and how they can be interpreted.
On Wednesday morning, Jeff Passan, who recently moved to ESPN, published an article in which he wrote that the White Sox would be willing to guarantee Bryce Harper a 10+ year contract. Granted, regardless of how many years the whales end up signing for, the deals will probably end up acting as 3-5 year contracts with high average annual values due to opt-outs, with the back end of the contracts working as an insurance policy in case the player gets injured or underperforms, causing him to forego the opt-out(s). Nevertheless, such a report by Passan, a highly respected reporter who has been proven to have solid sources, is a positive for White Sox fans, as a 10+ year guarantee would at least show serious interest from the team.
Only a few hours later, however, 670 The Score Radio’s Bruce Levine called Passan’s report “flat out wrong”. Soon after, NBC Sports Chicago’s Ryan McGuffey backed Levine up. Since they both are based in Chicago, I would be willing to bet that they each heard this information from somebody connected to the White Sox organization, rather than someone from Harper’s camp. Therefore, I actually think this is a positive development for the White Sox. My interpretation is that the White Sox saw that Passan’s report gained traction, but did not want to be thought of as a team willing to give Harper exactly what he is looking for in a contract (in order to maintain leverage). Seemingly every time a national writer has written something positive regarding the chances of the White Sox landing a whale this offseason, a local reporter has shot it down soon after. I believe that these refutations are coming from the White Sox organization itself.
If my belief is correct, then where are we at with the two elite talents, given that the past two months have been an endless cycle of vague tweets and contradicting leaks? In the previously cited Passan article, it was revealed that the Nationals are still in on Harper. Additionally, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury reported that the Phillies also have an upcoming meeting scheduled with Harper. The timing of these leaks, coupled with Levine’s report, may suggest that Harper’s camp is continuing to expand his market, while the White Sox are firmly involved in the bidding and are essentially negotiating through the media. Perhaps the rejuvenated interest by the Nationals and the new meeting with the Phillies is a subtle message to the White Sox that a better offer may be needed. In any case, the Harper situation is one that will probably not be resolved for weeks, barring major, sudden developments. I still believe, as I always have, that he will not leave guaranteed money on the table, making his most likely suitors the White Sox and Phillies. Other clubs could join the conversation if they are able to move salary.
On the Machado front, it is well known that the entire market for the third baseman is the Yankees, Phillies, and White Sox. Unlike Harper, I get the sense that he is nearing a decision. Due to his noted affinity for the Yankees, I would guess that Machado is far more likely than Harper to leave money on the table, assuming the White Sox and Phillies have better offers. In fact, Bryce Harper is banking on this: if Machado were to sign with the Yankees, the White Sox and Phillies would, in theory, become more motivated to meet Harper’s demands. A situation in which Machado ends up in Philadelphia or Chicago could therefore result in Harper more or less falling into the lap of the other team, given how improbable it is that the team which signs Machado in this scenario will actually be able to outbid the field for Harper as well. Of course, my theory could be completely dismantled if both players end up taking pay cuts to play for certain teams, but this rarely happens for anyone, let alone a 26 year old superstar with a high profile agent.
I feel better about the chances of the White Sox landing a whale now than I did a month ago. The fact that Machado’s market is literally only three teams is already a plus, but throughout all the reports of the offseason, I always come back to the general idea that players do not leave money on the table. I understand how ironic it is that I am concluding an article analyzing leaks and rumors by opining that it’s all about the money, with other factors being far less significant, but it’s the only stance I can take that both makes sense to me and keeps me sane in light of all these conflicting reports. The obvious counter to my logic is that these are unique free agents for which the entire playbook is being re-written, but I believe that their positions make them even more likely to accept the highest money offered. The White Sox are thus in a very good position to capitalize on the market and make a splash.
Featured Photo: NBC Sports