As you may have noticed, neither Manny Machado nor Bryce Harper have signed anywhere yet. Las Vegas might think a union between Harper and the Phillies is inevitable, but until we see a signature on the dotted line, there’s no reason to feel confident.
While there is still hope that both players sign with the Phillies, it is much more realistic to expect that at least one of the two will end up with another team, and that’s going to make a lot of fans upset. But there are degrees of upset, and not every alternative Macharper destination is going to cause the same amount of angst.
I’m going to examine the teams that Harper or Machado are most likely to sign with and judge the level of angst each one would cause. They will be ranked on a scale of one to five Tommy Hunters. (Because nobody caused as much angst for Phillies fans in 2018 as Tommy Hunter.)
The Braves aren’t rumored to be in the mix for either Harper or Machado (but there’s always #mysteryteam), and really, that doesn’t make sense. With Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna already on the roster, the Braves could add another young superstar to their lineup and be prepared to mash National League East pitching into oblivion for the next ten years.
Fortunately for us, the Braves are stupid, because this would likely be the worst possible scenario for the Phillies.
Angst level: 5 Hunters
The White Sox have been known pursuers of Macharper, and may be the Phillies’ biggest competitors in the “We are willing to spend top dollar to get these guys” category. (Although according to rumors, their offers have been less than overwhelming.)
If the Phillies don’t sign either player, and one ends up with the White Sox, there are going to be a lot of angry fans. The Sox are thought to be further from contention than the Phillies, and have less potential money to spend. If they beat out the Phillies, that is likely a sign that the Phillies didn’t truly make their best effort.
Angst level: 4 Hunters
Despite trading substantial assets for Manny Machado last July, they haven’t seemed all that inclined to make sure he sticks around for the long haul. (This seems like a bit of a red flag, doesn’t it?) Instead, they have wooed Harper, who doesn’t seem opposed to the prospect of playing in Los Angeles.
It seems likely that if neither player gets the kind of offer he’s looking for, they might see the Dodgers as a perfectly fine fallback option, possibly on a shorter deal. While you can’t fault anyone for choosing to spend their time in the pleasant Souther California climate, and hobnobbing with movie stars, it would make Phillies fans question why the Phillies didn’t overcome those factors with more money.
Angst level: 2 Hunters
It seems that if both players had their druthers, they would like to join the Yankees. There was a time when if the Yankees wanted a player, they would simply outbid all competitors to make sure that happened. But these days, even the Yankees exhibit some measure of fiscal restraint.
They already owe Giancarlo Stanton a lot of money over the next few years, and have apparently decided that one mega-contract in the outfield is enough, so they are thought to be out on Harper. As for Machado, they are interested, but the fact that he hasn’t already signed a huge contract in New York is telling.
If either player signs with the Yankees, it will likely be because he (or perhaps his wife) really wants to play in New York. Which is fine, except then all those Yankees fans who spout crap like, “Why would anyone want to play in Philadelphia when they could play in New York for the Yankees?” would feel justified, and New York fans would somehow become even more unbearable.
Angst level: 3 Hunters
Now that February is upon us and both players remain unsigned, it’s only natural that other teams might be saying to themselves, “Maybe these guys aren’t going to be as expensive as we thought.” The Padres appear to be the first team to decide that having Machado or Harper on their roster at a less-than-expected cost wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
While San Diego is a really nice place to live, there is no reason either player should choose the Padres over the Phillies. (Unless the Padres switch back to their 90’s style blue and orange uniforms. I loved those uniforms, and I wouldn’t blame anyone for wanting to wear them.) The Padres play in a pitcher-friendly park, and have never shown much inclination for spending a lot of money. If the Phillies lose out to them, it will likely be because they didn’t make a good enough offer.
Angst level: 4 Hunters
Manny Machado has not been linked to the Nationals in any way, so it would be a huge shock if he ended up there. As for Harper, I originally assumed that he was going to stay in Washington. Scott Boras has always had a good working relationship with their front office, and I figured they wouldn’t want their supposed franchise player to leave.
However, the Nats don’t seem all that concerned with retaining Harper. They reportedly offered him a large deal, but not one large enough that he would say, “You know what? We don’t have to do that whole testing the market thing.” Instead, they signed pitcher Patrick Corbin to an expensive deal, and with some good young outfielders already on the roster, they seem perfectly fine if Harper leaves.
It seems like the only way Harper stays in DC is if none of the other teams offers him what he’s looking for. At that point, he might think that since he’s not getting what he wants, he might as well stay in a place where he’s comfortable. Of course this would mean that the Phillies underwhelmed him with their offer, making us question just how much they really wanted him.
Angst level: 3 Hunters
There’s always the threat of a #mysteryteam out there that could sweep in and sign these guys. Maybe this team makes some sort of insane offer that blows the players away, and makes us say, “Wow, I wanted the Phillies to sign them, but that’s a ridiculous deal.” If that happens, we’ll probably be okay waiting for Nolan Arenado (or Mike Trout???), but we’ll still question why the Phillies didn’t take care of business earlier in the process.
Angst level: 1 Hunter