Although there were warning signs last winter over the direction MLB free agency was trending toward, few could have predicted that Bryce Harper and Manny Machado would remain unsigned with the days ticking down to Spring Training.
Both 26 years old and perennial All-Stars, Harper and Machado each went into the offseason seeking long-term contracts worth a reported $300-plus million. They figured to benefit from big-market clubs such as the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees resetting their luxury tax penalties in 2018.
But the Dodgers haven’t been connected to Machado, presumably related to Corey Seager returning, and they have had tepid interest in Harper. Specifically, only on a short-term contract.
While the Dodgers don’t appear likely to sign either of the two prized free agents, their longtime rival San Francisco Giants have entered the fray for Harper.
According to Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area, there’s a growing belief Harper has a preference to sign with the Giants:
The Giants do not expect Harper to make a decision this weekend, but as everyone prepared to head down to Scottsdale for the start of spring training, there certainly was an increase in optimism.
As players have talked over the past 24 hours, there has been an increased sense among some in the clubhouse that Harper prefers the Giants, a source told NBC Sports Bay Area.
The report comes on the heels of Giants CEO Larry Baer, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi and manager Bruce Bochy flying to Las Vegas to meet with Harper. Zaidi came away from it publicly admitting there was ‘mutual interest’ from both sides.
The Giants signing Harper not only would be a painful reality for the Dodgers, but a shift from the club’s perceived goals this offseason. Upon being hired to lead the Giants front office, Zaidi began exploring means to shed salary from an aging roster.