While Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are the headliners of free agency this winter, the market has moved rather slowly for the 26-year-olds. It isn’t necessarily an indictment on either player but rather a continuum from the previous free agency period.
Teams are no longer as willing to dole out the type of mega contract Harper and Machado are seeking, but that’s not to suggest there hasn’t been strong interest in them. In the cases of the Chicago White Sox and Philadelphia Phillies, they have been linked to both free agents.
In terms of only Harper, it can be reasoned the Washington Nationals have been the most aggressive as they look to re-sign the All-Star outfielder. They offered Harper a 10-year, $300 million contract extension to the 2018 season concluding, which he rejected.
The Nationals were then said to have increased their contract offer in free agency. Now, it appears progress is being made toward a reunion between Harper and the Nationals, while the Phillies are becoming more aggressive with Machado, per Mark Feinsand of MLB.com
According to a source, there is momentum building toward Harper’s return to Washington, while the Phillies — who are set to meet with Harper this week in Las Vegas — appear to be turning up their pursuit of Machado.
If Harper is to re-sign with the Nationals, it would end any whispers of the Los Angeles Dodgers potentially making a stunning signing. They have been loosely linked to Harper, with indications pointing to the Dodgers preferring a short-term contract with a higher average annual value.
As for Machado, his return to Los Angeles was never considered likely. The Dodgers reportedly had early contact with him at the outset of free agency but have not held discussions since then.
Their need at shortstop isn’t nearly as pressing as it is in the outfield given Corey Seager is expected to make a full recovery from Tommy John and hip surgeries.