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Does it even make sense for Harper and Machado to wait?

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As Phillies fans are trolled by a video game, the wait continues. But is waiting going to help Macharper?

Washington Nationals v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

With just a few weeks before pitchers and catchers report to spring training, the sport’s two biggest free agents are still on the market.

If these guys were cuts of meat, the butcher in the back would have scribbled out the expiration date two or three times already.

Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are not on the Phillies yet, nor are they on anyone else’s team. And while the first part is certainly frustrating for Phils fans, the second part is the most important.

The Phillies are still in the driver’s seat to land either player, whichever one they want. That’s really good news.

So what’s the hold up? Why are we being trolled by a video game?

Why are we all hunting the internet for any clues that may indicate where Harper or Machado are going to sign?

Clearly we’ve all been driven to madness by the delay.

Why do we still not know which of these players (and it’s all but certain one of these players will be a Phillie before the team breaks camp) is going to be in Clearwater next month?

Obviously, a second straight ridiculously slow market is factoring into things. Just take a look at the players yet to sign as of this writing.

Harper and Machado clearly haven’t gotten the $300+ offers they were seeking at the start of the off-season, and are waiting out the market. Slugger J.D. Martinez did the same thing last year, coming off a 45-home run season in which he received NL MVP votes despite playing just one-third of a season for the Diamondbacks. He waited until February 18 before signing with the Boston Red Sox.

Granted, Martinez was essentially limited to the American League as a DH because of his inability to field a corner outfield position adequately enough. The Red Sox were the only team that had the need, money and payroll flexibility to sign him, and they knew it. They refused to bid against themselves and, at the end of the day, signed Martinez to a relatively team-friendly, five-year $110 million deal.

Which begs the question... does it really make sense for Harper and Machado to continue waiting?

Now, here’s a big difference. While Martinez’ market was limited because he was essentially on a DH, and because he was on the wrong side of 30, his future has less upside than those of Machado or Harper, both of whom are in their mid-20s and just now entering their prime. One would think every team would make a payroll exception and be all over these guys.

But alas, the deeper the off-season goes, the less likely it is they’re going to get the mega contract they want. The only reason teams like the San Diego Padres are suddenly sniffing around Machado’s camp is because they think there’s a possibility they can get him on a cheaper deal. If Machado truly is the Phils’ top priority, they could out-bid the Padres in a hot second.

So far, they haven’t needed to.

The Chicago White Sox appear to be the other main suitor for Machado, but they obviously haven’t offered enough to whet Machado’s whistle. Are they likely to increase their bid the deeper they go into spring training, or lessen it?

As for Harper, the Phils appear to be the only real game in town. The signing of A.J. Pollock all but assures that the Dodgers are out of the picture. The Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees have never really been involved in the Harper conversation, the Washington Nationals’ reported 10-year, $300 million deal no longer appears to be viable given the other moves they’ve made this winter, and teams like the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants have been absent from the conversation. Are any of them gonna step up at the last minute with a $300+ deal?

Look, the Phillies are going to get one of these guys, but if you’re Harper or Machado, it just doesn’t seem likely that the price for either is going to go up. Just like Jake Arrieta had to settle for a three-year $75 million deal last season with Philadelphia, Harper and Machado aren’t going to get what they should.

It’s a real shame that players aren’t getting paid what they’re worth, and it’s a real shame most owners in baseball are intent on saving money for no real reason rather than spending it on their roster. The Phils are one of the few teams that have said they want to spend a lot of money, but so far, they haven’t gone crazy. Why should they outbid anyone else by $100 million for Machado or Harper? That’s money they could use to sign Aaron Nola or Rhys Hoskins to extensions, or save for Nolan Arenado or Anthony Rendon, or sign Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel, or, sign both of Harper and Machado!

It’s understandable why Harper and Machado are waiting things out. They’re hoping another team will jump into the mix and either force the Phillies to up their offer or to sign with a team for more money than they’re seeing now.

Machado and Harper should be getting better offers, and they’re well within their rights to wait as long as they want. But if last year is any indication, they’re going to have better luck waiting for Godot than waiting for a $350 million contract.

And as a result, we’re all waiting with them.

On Episode 252 of Hittin’ Season, hosts John Stolnis, Justin Klugh and Liz Roscher talk about the interminable wait for Harper or Machado, why many teams are making up reasons why they shouldn’t be in on Macharper, and the terrible decision by ESPN to eliminate Baseball Tonight from their network.

***UPDATE***

One thing I neglected to mention is the staring contest going on between Harper and Machado themselves, as Jeff Passan depressingly tells us in this video from his latest appearance on SportsCenter.