MLB free agency is always exciting due to the intrigue surrounding each player’s choice and the chance for division races to be completely upended with a signing or two. Combine that with the backdrop of qualifying offers (or lack thereof) and the drama that comes with some of these players (more on that in a bit) and you have one of the more exciting times of the year for baseball fans.
The two biggest names on the free agent market are undoubtedly Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Both are young, incredibly talented, and are among the best position players in the entire league most years (both have had injuries and/or down years for what it is worth). Players like them do not hit free agency often, so when they do, it attracts the attention of most of the league. More importantly, both will get nine figure deals that will be among the highest in baseball history....which normally would limit their market significantly.
However, many organizations have planned their finances in preparation for this offseason as it has been long heralded as one of the better free agent classes we have seen in a while. While some extensions and career downturns did hurt the oomph that this class could have had, there are still a lot of high quality players on the market and, more importantly, plenty of teams with some room to spend.
In fact, there are a couple of teams that not only have the payroll flexibility to add a Machado or a Harper, but could potentially add BOTH of them which is a crazy thought in itself. The Phillies have long been rumored at looking at both players with Machado having connections to several people in Philly’s front office and Harper has played well at Philadelphia. The White Sox have recently been reported as being interested in both players as well. The White Sox certainly have room on their payroll, although it is unclear whether they are ready to make that sort of all-in push given the strength of their roster and the performance of some of their young players. There are other teams that could potentially have the room on their payroll to make such a move, but are far more unlikely.
Then you have the teams that are in play to sign one of the two players. The Yankees, Braves, Mets, Nationals, Giants, Dodgers, Cardinals, Cubs, Angels, and Rangers have all been mentioned as possible destinations for Machado or Harper in recent days with varying degrees of likelihood and interest. That is a healthy mix of big markets teams that have lots of resources and a yearning to compete along with mid-market teams with payroll flexibility.
We may not find out where all the dominos will fall regarding Harper and Machado for a little while with Machado widely expected to be the first of the two to sign. With Machado’s antics in the playoffs being a hot topic of conversation and Harper’s off year and history of being a divisive figure among fans, it will be fascinating to see which teams end up making real plays for these two young phenoms. While both players had things that hurt their overall value in 2018, it is clear that there are still a ton of teams interested in acquiring one (if not both) of them which potentially sets the stage for one of the bigger bidding wars we have ever seen.