Bryce Harper's decision could come down to Giants vs. Dodgers

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Teams that had seemingly fallen out of the Bryce Harper competition are creeping back in, which is what happens when it’s late February and the biggest free agent left on the market has yet to pick a team. The latest team to reenter the fray is the San Francisco Giants. The Mercury News reported on Wednesday that Giants CEO Larry Baer and president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi recently met with Harper, several weeks after their first meeting in early February.

But a meeting is just the tip of the iceberg. Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports San Francisco reported the Giants have discussed a 10-year deal that would match the contract Manny Machado recently got from the San Diego Padres. That’s a far cry from the short-term deal the Giants were reportedly interested in a few weeks ago.

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This is all bad news for the Philadelphia Phillies. A week ago they were considered the favorites to land Harper, but things seem to have taken a turn in the last few days.


What this means: If the Phillies really are out of it, Harper’s decision could come down to Giants vs. Dodgers. The Dodgers recently met with Harper and are reportedly interested in a short-term deal. With the Dodgers, Harper would likely have to take a shorter deal, but he’d have a major chance at getting to his first World Series. With the Giants and their bottom-rung farm system, Harper would have the security he wants, but his chances of winning would be greatly reduced.

Of course, the Phillies could swoop in at any moment, offering Harper both a chance to win and a long-term deal.

(Yahoo Sports)
(Yahoo Sports)

Feb 25: Dodgers back in on Harper for short-term deal

Just when you thought the Bryce Harper free agency sweepstakes extravaganza was nearing the finish line, someone throws a wrench into the gears. That wrench is the Los Angeles Dodgers, who haven’t been mentioned in connection with Harper for months. But that changed in the wee small hours of Monday morning, when MLB.com reporter Jesse Sanchez reported that the Dodgers were interested in Harper once again, and had been seen in Las Vegas this weekend. ESPN reported that the Dodgers are interested in Harper on a short-term deal.

What this means: As teams jump on and off of the Harper contract carousel, one thing hasn’t changed: Harper and his agent Scott Boras are looking for a long-term deal. And that is not what the Dodgers are reportedly offering.

A short-term deal with the Dodgers has more benefits than one with the San Francisco Giants, though. The Dodgers’ competitive window is still open, while the Giants’ is closed. With the Dodgers, Harper would join a young, talented team that’s been to the World Series two years in a row. The Philadelphia Phillies still seem like an inevitability, especially with owner John Middleton reportedly flying to Vegas to meet with Harper over the weekend, but if there was a short-term deal that could tempt Harper, the Dodgers would be the team to offer it.

Feb 24: Harper reportedly could have deal with Phillies by Tuesday

The latest word on Bryce Harper’s free agency suggests he could have a deal in place with the Philadelphia Phillies within the next 48 hours.

According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Phillies have remained confident despite owner John Middleton leaving Las Vegas late Saturday without an agreement in place. The feeling is that even with the negotiations potentially reaching a crossroads, talks could be resolved by Tuesday.

The Philadelphia Inquirer adds:

His (Middleton) departure from Vegas on Saturday evening, a source said, was not an indication that talks had snagged. Middleton had to be back in Palm Beach for a scheduled event. The Phillies, as they have for the last several days, remain confident they will sign Harper. The momentum is moving toward a deal being agreed upon before the end of February.

It was the second time in six weeks that Middleton boarded his jet to meet Harper in Vegas as the owner is driven to end this offseason with a superstar on his roster. Middleton was accompanied in January by general manager Matt Klentak, manager Gabe Kapler, and other members of the front office. But this time, he went alone.

What this means: We’ll let you know Tuesday. At this point, the only thing that will truly convince us a deal is near done or done is seeing Harper putting pen to paper. There have been so many false starts and misdirections that there’s always a sense that another shift will come at any moment.

With that being said, the Phillies have been the one constant in terms of teams in the thick of the Harper sweepstakes. They’ve clearly been the most aggressive in attempting to close the deal. Now we wait to see if Harper is satisfied with their sales pitch, or has his sights set elsewhere.

Feb 22: Bryce Harper meets with Phillies owner in Las Vegas

Bryce Harper met with Philadelphia Phillies owner John Middleton Friday night in Las Vegas, according to multiple reports. But before baseball fans get too excited about a potential deal being finalized, those same reports suggest no agreement is imminent.

NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury was the first to report that Middleton’s plane had been spotted in Las Vegas.


Middleton was involved when the Phillies closed their deal with free agent Jake Arrieta last winter. That fueled speculation that he might be ready to close the deal with Harper on Friday night.

For now, the meeting is being labeled as a “meet-and-greet,” with no signs of a deal being finalized Friday night.



What this means: It means we’re getting closer, no doubt about that. It might not be Friday night, but Middleton’s involvement seems like a clear indication Harper is nearing his decision.

It also doesn’t necessarily mean the Phillies are the favorites. Middleton could be making a last ditch effort to sway Harper away from another team. Yet the prevailing feeling is Harper will eventually sign with Philadelphia. It’s just a matter of how much money he’ll make and what other perks might be included.

Our suggestion, especially to Phillies fans, is to not stray too far from your preferred sources of information this weekend.

Feb 22: Nationals haven’t heard from Bryce Harper in two months

The Bryce Harper rumor mill continues to grind, and each new tidbit we get makes us question every single thing we’ve heard before. The latest comes from Washington Nationals owner Mark Lerner, who told NBC Sports Nationals that not only have the Nats moved on from Harper, but they haven’t heard from Harper or his agent Scott Boras in “months.”


What this means: It’s hard to know who or what to believe anymore. For every rumor, there seems to be a counter rumor. We’ve been hearing for awhile that the Nats were still considering Harper, but Lerner says that they haven’t connected with either Harper or Boras for months. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re out on him, but Lerner certainly wants people to think they are.

If it’s true that the Nationals are out on Harper, that leaves an even smaller pool of teams for the outfielder to choose from: only the Philadelphia Phillies and the San Diego Padres. The Padres just signed Manny Machado, but have thus far refused to say that they’re definitively out on Harper. The Phillies have the money and can completely focus on Harper now that Machado’s off the market, but that doesn’t mean they’re a lock to sign him. But if not the Phillies or Padres, then who? It doesn’t seem like we’re going to find out for awhile yet.

Feb 21: White Sox out on Harper

As the Bryce Harper sweepstakes rolls into the final week of February, one potential suitor is reportedly backing out of the race.

According to Bruce Levine of 670 The Score in Chicago, the White Sox will not be making a bid to sign the free-agent outfielder.

The White Sox are still reeling after missing out on their primary target, Manny Machado. But Levine’s sources say that won’t be enough to motivate Chicago’s front office to up the ante on Harper. He cited the team’s confidence in their up-and-coming outfield prospects as part of their reason for not going hard after Harper.

The White Sox feel strongly about their young outfielders in the farm system such as Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Micker Adolfo and Luis Basabe. The White Sox haven’t ruled out adding another veteran outfielder in a move on the free-agent or trade market for 2019 as a bridge to the future.

What this means: If Levine’s sources are correct, it mainly confirms what we’ve known for the last week: Harper’s market is down to the Phillies and Nationals as the primary favorites. The White Sox and Padres were believed to be on the fringe, but at this point it’s difficult to imagine either team matching Harper’s needs.

Unfortunately, the White Sox being out isn’t necessarily a sign that the process is nearing the end. It just means their pursuit is over.

Feb 19: Bryce Harper has reportedly turned down multiple $300M offers in recent weeks

With our sights shifted solely to Bryce Harper now that Manny Machado has signed his $300 million deal, it’s looking like Harper’s camp is trying to blow $300 million out of the water.

According to Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports, the Harper market has been busier lately than you might expect. Heyman reports that Harper has “turned down multiple offers over $300M” in recent weeks. Heyman also says the Giants may be more interested in a long-term deal than has been previously reported.



As it pertains to the Phillies, who are publicly looked at as the favorite these days, SNY’s Andy Martino reported Wednesday that they have a “tough road to get it done.”


What it means: The games are still going on. While the Harper sweepstakes should be winding down, it’s certainly not looking like he saw Machado’s deal and was inclined to sign right away.

These recent rumors make it sound like anybody could still have Bryce, and that’s probably the point.

Keep in mind — as we’ve said dozens of times throughout this tracker — that any information that’s getting reported is information that someone has a motive to leak. In this case, it sure seems like Harper’s camp is trying to whip up one last bit of excitement before picking a team, trying to entice those suitors to raise their offers one last time. If it can drive up that final contract figure, then mission accomplished.

Feb 17: Philadelphia might have offered the magic number

All winter long the common refrain around Bryce Harper and Manny Machado has been that they’re looking for deals in the 10-year, $300 million range. Well, depending on how much you trust a guy who recently helped run the Miami Marlins, the Phillies may have just said those magic words to Harper.



 

WHAT THIS MEANS: Ok, there’s a decent amount to parse here. For starters, David P. Samson — the Marlins president from 2002-2017 who now works at CBS Sports — isn’t the most reliable of sources. He was most recently caught up in a Twitter spat with one of his former players, MVP Christian Yelich, about the state of baseball free agency. He’s also the same guy who mocked Marlins fans to their faces about getting the city of Miami to fork over $1.2 billion for a new stadium. So he isn’t exactly beloved on either side of the aisle here. What is noteworthy, however, is the dollar figures he’s throwing out. Harper reportedly passed on the chance to stay with the Nationals for $300 million over 10 years back before free agency opened. Would an extra $10 million be enough to attract him to Philadelphia? And if that’s the case, could the Nationals try to top that offer?

The same Jim Bowden who yesterday reported that the Phillies and Harper were ’rounding third’ to get a deal done said that the Nationals had offered Harper “much more” than $300 million back in January. Make of that what you will, but keep in mind where the latest rumors are coming from.

Feb 16: Phillies closing in on Harper (again)?

The Bryce Harper sweepstakes might be nearing its conclusion, according to former MLB general manager and current CBS Sports analyst Jim Bowden.

Speaking on Saturday, Bowden said he keeps “hearing there’s a lot of momentum and traction on Bryce Harper signing with the Philadelphia Phillies.” Adding that a deal “could be rounding third and heading home shortly.”


In a video clip you can watch here, Bowden says that Harper’s final choices appear to be the Phillies and Nationals. He says Harper will not entertain a short-term deal like the one reportedly offered by the San Francisco Giants, and every indication Bowden has received points to Harper landing the 10-year, $300 million contract he’s been seeking if he signs with Philadelphia.

WHAT THIS MEANS: At this stage in the surprisingly lengthy process we’ve learned to take every rumor with a grain of salt. With that said, Bowden’s comments do qualify as the most confident we’ve heard in connecting Harper to a specific suitor, so perhaps there’s more smoke here than past rumors. 

There have also been rumblings over the last 24 hours that Harper is in a celebratory mood. Some have read those rumors as an indication his decision has been made. An Instagram response to Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins further fueled those rumors.


Perhaps Harper’s finally ready to sign the dotted line. Perhaps he’s not. If nothing else, now seems like a good time to start paying attention again.

Feb 14: Manny Machado held second meeting with Padres in Miami

The San Diego Padres’ pursuit of Manny Machado continued with a reported face-to-face meeting earlier this week in Miami.

According to Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune, Padres general manager A.J. Preller made the cross-country flight to Miami to meet with Machado and his wife. It’s the second meeting the Padres and Machado have had this offseason, but this one clearly has a more personal feel. Acee termed the meeting “a step that indicates the sides continue to work toward a possible agreement.”

The Padres’ interest in Machado has gradually increased the longer he’s remained available. San Diego has also been a late entry into the Bryce Harper sweepstakes. Members of the Padres front office recently flew to Harper’s hometown of Las Vegas to meet with the free agent and his representation.

No formal Padres offers have been reported, but Acee’s sources say that Machado and Harper are “aware of the Padres’ level of interest.”

WHAT THIS MEANS: It means the Padres are still hopeful. It also means Machado hasn’t yet closed the door on San Diego. Considering how far along the process should be at this point, those should be viewed as significant developments.

Of course, the circumstances here are unlike any we’ve seen in free agency. It’s mid-February. Teams are holding spring training workouts. Yet there’s still no real feel for which way Machado or Harper are leaning, or what the best offer for each might be.

That said, it still seems unlikely San Diego would be the team to make the best offer. After all this time, it’s still going to be about the money and that’s not an area where San Diego can usually compete. But until we hear about a breakthrough meeting with the Phillies, White Sox, Yankees or some other team involved, the Padres chances will hold steady.

Feb 12: Bryce Harper reportedly not interested in short-term deals

Bryce Harper may not know what team he wants to play for yet, but he reportedly knows what kind of contract he wants to accept: a long one. Jon Heyman of Fancred tweeted that Harper has zero interest in any short-term deals.


There were more hearts to break on Tuesday, though. Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post reported that Harper has unfollowed nearly all of the Washington Capitals players he’d been following on Twitter.

WHAT THIS MEANS: The Harper sweepstakes has gone on longer than anyone imagined, and teams have continued dip their toes into the waters of Lake Bryce to see how they’ll be received. USA Today had reported that the San Francisco Giants were prepared to offer Harper a “lucrative” short-term deal, but if what Heyman tweeted is true, Harper won’t be headed to San Francisco. He’s apparently holding out for something longer than just a few years, which is what we’ve known all along. Sorry, Giants fans.

As for Harper unfollowing all those Caps players on social media, he might just be doing a Marie Kondo-inspired pruning of his Twitter follows. Or he may be leaving Washington forever, never to return. Just like with nearly everything else about this free agent saga, we have no way of knowing for sure.

Feb 10: Giants planning to offer Bryce Harper a ‘lucrative’ short-term deal

The San Francisco Giants are prepared to make free agent Bryce Harper an offer, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported Sunday.

Specific details were not included, but Nightengale confidently says it won’t be the long-term deal Harper’s camp has been looking for all winter. Instead, it will be a lucrative short-term offer.

From USA Today:

The Philadelphia Phillies, who have been the favorites to land free-agent outfielder Bryce Harper all winter, suddenly have serious competition in the San Francisco Giants.

One high-ranking rival executive boldly predicts the Giants will ultimately sign the 26-year star.

The Giants indeed plan to offer Harper a lucrative short-term deal, but have no desire to provide a long-term contract approaching the 10-year, $300 million contract Harper rejected from the Washington Nationals in September.

WHAT THIS MEANS: This could be an indication that Harper is preparing to change gears and accept a shorter term contract with a higher average salary. The Giants were the last known team to meet with Harper and his representation this week in Las Vegas, so they should have a good feel for where the process is now and where it might be headed.

The possibility of a short-term deal has been suggested many times, but never seemed all that realistic given the high bars that both Harper and Manny Machado have set. Now though, with spring training just days away, all bets might be off as baseball’s two biggest free agents try to make sense of their options and prepare for their future.

Feb 9: Manny Machado, Yankees may have discussed $220 million deal

The New York Yankees might be back in the running for Manny Machado. At least that was the initial impression given by former New York Mets general manager Jim Duquette.

In an article posted to SNY’s website, Duquette says he’s heard talk that the Yankees and Machado have had discussions about a contract that would be worth around $220 million.

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“What I was told here recently was the Yankees’ offer — these aren’t out there not necessarily in writing, but hypothetical — was somewhere in that seven-year, eight-year range for $220 million.”

Duquette later took to Twitter to clarify that the money figure he mentioned was speculation, not an official report.


Nonetheless it indicates there’s been some talk between the Yankees and Machado we weren’t previously aware of.

This follows Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner’s Thursday claim that he believed New York was still in the running to sign either Machado or Bryce Harper. While the Yankees had never formally been counted out, prior reports had them on the fringe at best because they were never interested in matching either player’s lofty target price.

Machado was reportedly aiming for a $300 million contract when the offseason started, but it’s starting to look like it will fall much closer to $200 million.

WHAT THIS MEANS: If there’s a kernel of truth to the $220 million figure, it means the Yankees will be strong players for Machado unless another team ups the ante.

Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman is seemingly convinced the speculated offer would be enough to lure Machado back to the AL East. Here’s what he tweeted shortly after Duquette’s comments were published.


We’ve been burned several times before, but maybe we’re finally entering an interesting time in Machado’s free agency.

Feb 7: Yankees could still sign Bryce Harper or Manny Machado

Don’t count out the New York Yankees on Bryce Harper or Manny Machado just yet. Owner Hal Steinbrenner said Thursday that the Yankees aren’t necessarily out on baseball’s two biggest free agents.

Steinbrenner, speaking to Newsday, said:

“Look, if somebody comes – I haven’t changed – I mean if somebody comes to me with a suggestion or a proposal, I’m going to seriously consider it right up until Opening Day or after. That’s part of my leave-no-stone-unturned [policy], right? But I’m excited about the roster. I think we’ve definitely got a better club Opening Day than we did Opening Day last year, particularly in pitching, which was my biggest area of concern.”

“Fans should keep an open mind that I’m never done until I’m done, and that’s not usually until Opening Day,” Steinbrenner said. “Proposals come to me every day with these guys, between the analytics guys and the pro scouting guys, and I’m going to consider every single one of them. But I have to look at the big picture and it is my responsibility that my family expects and my partners expect not just to look at the present, but to look at the future, too. Three, four, five years from now, we’ve got a lot of homegrown kids that we love, our fans love, that are going to be coming up for free agency and that’s something I’ve got to keep in mind as well. This is why I take a long time and aggravate some people in my decision-making. But if I’ve got the time I’m going to take it and I’m going to use it. I’ve got to think about everything. I just see that as my job. Present and future and whatever’s in between.”

The Yankees were assumed before this offseason — for quite a few years, actually — to get either Harper or Machado in free agency, given their reputation as MLB’s biggest spenders. Recent reports, however, have the team not particularly engaged in either of them.

WHAT IT MEANS: It means what you already should know: Never count out the Yankees. They’re not the favorite for either Harper or Machado after this, but it should always be known that the Yankees could swoop in at the last moment and sign anybody they want.

The question, in this case, is whether they want to. GM Brian Cashman seems to have backed away from the types of deals that Machado and Harper are seeking — 10 years and $300 million, so there’s a good chance he never even goes to the boss with such an ask.

Still, agents for both Harper and Machado are probably happy to hear this.

Feb. 6: Giants are in on Bryce Harper

The most recent rumblings in Bryce Harper’s free agency have included more teams reportedly being interested in the free-agent slugger — and now we know at least one of them.

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The San Francisco Giants have met with Harper, according to Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area:


WHAT IT MEANS: We’ve talked a lot lately about “due diligence” with these Harper meetings — teams  at least thinking about whether to sign the former NL MVP (see: Padres, San Diego) — and that’s happened a little more lately, as his market has opened up beyond the Washington Nationals, Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago White Sox.

This could be due diligence by the Giants, or it could be something larger.

The Giants make a lot of sense in that they lack a true power bat in the outfield. If we’re being honest, they haven’t had one since Barry Bonds. The question is whether the rebuilding Giants would want to commit that much money to Harper while they’re still tearing things down. In theory, they don’t need him right now, but in two or three years, he could be a big help.

It will probably come down to how much Harper and agent Scott Boras are willing to accept. It would be a surprise, though, if the Giants spent $300 million on Harper as he is reportedly seeking.

Feb. 5: Aaron Judge is willing to change positions to play with Bryce Harper

Aaron Judge has a bold idea to help the New York Yankees sign Bryce Harper, and it would involve a pretty significant sacrifice on his end.

It an interview with TMZ Sports this week, Judge said he’d be willing to change positions in order to make room for Harper in the Yankees crowded outfield.

“Harper has got more speed than me,” Judge says in the video interview. “Wherever he wants to play, we’ll make it work.”

Both Judge and Harper have primarily played right field in their MLB careers. Judge played one game in center field in 2018, tying the MLB record for the tallest center fielder on record. Harper, on the other hand, made 63 appearances in center field last season alone. He would seemingly be a better fit in that position, but Judge’s proposed move would be predicated on Harper’s preferences, not the Yankees.

“Any time you can add an MVP to a team, it’s going to make it better,” Judge added. “So, it just all depends on where he wants to go. Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, any of them.”

WHAT THIS MEANS: It means Aaron Judge is a team player, but it’s not likely to change much of anything in regards to Bryce Harper’s free agency.

What would change it is the Yankees being willing to up their offer closer to the $300 million range. At this point, there’s no indication the Yankees would even go past $200 million on a long-term deal.

In the Yankees case at least, there’s a good reason for that. In addition to Judge, the Yankees have Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks and Clint Frazier as outfield options. Though he was primarily a designated hitter in 2019, Giancarlo Stanton is in that mix too. In other words, while it would certainly be dramatic, adding Harper isn’t exactly essential.

For now, we’ll continue to consider the Yankees as fringe suitors at best for Harper, with the Phillies, White Sox and even the Padres still looking like better bets to sign the six-time All-Star.

Feb 4: A mystery team is making a run at Bryce Harper

The Super Bowl is over and Bryce Harper still doesn’t have a job with a Major League Baseball team.

Things are likely getting serious soon for the top free agent on the market, as spring training starts for teams next week. The latest tidbit, via Jim Bowden of The Athletic and CBS, says there’s a mystery team in the running for Harper. And there may even be more than one. Problem is, Bowden can’t figure out who it is.


The teams that we know for sure to be in on Harper are the Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago White Sox, Washington Nationals and, most recently, the San Diego Padres. The New York Yankees and Chicago Cubs have been linked to Harper in a broader sense, as big money spenders, but both have reportedly been tepid about their interest in Harper.

WHAT IT MEANS: Like most rumors, we should start analyzing this one with the questions of where it’s coming from and who does it serve? If Bowden doesn’t know which team, then it’s a good bet it’s coming from an agent.

That could mean Scott Boras and his camp are trying to rev up interest among other teams by leaking that there’s new interest in Harper. It could also mean that one or more teams have seen the market for Harper and thought, “Hey, maybe we should inquire.” That seems to be what the Padres did last week. And, if perhaps Harper will take less than the 10 years and ~$300 million we’ve been expecting all offseason, it makes sense that other teams would drop in for some due diligence.

Jan. 31: Padres interested in Harper

Bryce Harper has a new suitor: The San Diego Padres.

According to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, the Pads are setting up a meeting with Harper in Las Vegas on Thursday. Publicly at least, this is a new pursuit for the Padres, who have also been linked to Manny Machado.


WHAT IT MEANS: This could be a couple of things, actually. First, it could mean that Harper and agent Scott Boras aren’t satisfied with any of the offers out there and are hoping the Padres — who have a bright future and money to spend — might up the ante. Second, it could mean that Harper’s camp is using a San Diego meeting for more leverage, to get a team that they like to drive up their price.

At the very least, this represents another team being interested in Harper. Reports have the Phillies and Nationals as the frontrunners at this point. The White Sox continue to be in too, according to MLB.com’s Jon Morosi and there’s at least one more team on the periphery, which we have to assume is either the Yankees or the Cubs.

If you’re hoping perpetually that “today is the day” that Harper signs, it sounds like you still have a while to wait.

Jan. 29: Despite Philly rumors, Harper and Machado no closer to decision

There was plenty of smoke surrounding Bryce Harper’s free agency on Tuesday. But there’s still no sign of fire.

In fact, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, both Harper and fellow elite free agent Manny Machado were no closer to signing a contract on Tuesday than they were on Nov. 1.

Speculation ran rampant after the video game franchise “MLB: The Show” teased a revelation on social media. The anticipation grew in the early morning hours after rumblings of a Harper union with the Philadelphia Phillies surfaced. Even the Philadelphia police got in on the speculation with a spoof tweet.


Alas, there was no deal, or even any movement for that matter. While the Phillies can’t be ruled out, neither can any of the other teams reportedly chasing the All-Star outfielder.

WHAT THIS MEANS: It means we’re roughly two weeks away from spring training and it’s now conceivable that Harper, Machado or both won’t be under contract when those respective dates for all 30 teams arrive. Imagine someone even suggesting that was possible a year or two ago and the response it would get. They’d be called crazy.

Both free agents and their representatives continue to exercise patience as they seek the best possible deal. Nothing has suggested either player will be willing to budge. At the same time, the teams involved clearly aren’t budging either. The lack of a resolution is definitely testing the patience of baseball fans, and quite honestly feels like it’s hurting the usually palpable buzz that accompanies the calendar nearing February.

Jan 28: Would Bryce Harper reveal his choice on a video game cover?

We’ve reached the state of baseball’s free-agent freeze where Bryce Harper rolling into a Las Vegas casino during the winter meetings and announcing his free-agent destination in a grand spectacle seems like something that could only happen in a dream.

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Many in baseball hoped for that sort of thing. Instead, we’re going on two months of waiting while teams think about opening up their wallets for Harper and fellow free-agent star Manny Machado.

This is also to say that we’re eager for any slight clue about where they might sign that we’re reading cryptic tweets and sleuthing out scenarios why they make sense. Such as this one from the “MLB The Show” Twitter account, which has us thinking that maybe a grand spectacle could happen after all.


WHAT THIS MEANS: Most likely, nothing. Most likely, it just means that “MLB The Show” is just rolling out an announcement about a game it’s launching in a couple of months.

But we’re so starved for action these days, let’s think about what it could mean. It could mean that “MLB The Show” is going to unveil Harper in the uniform of whichever team he’s choosing to sign with, on a new cover of the game. (You’ll recall that Sony announced Harper as its cover athlete without a team represented).

It could mean that Harper is making a free-agency announcement unlike any we’ve ever seen. You want a 2019 way to break Sports Twitter? Make the announcement on a video-game cover. That would be remembered for years and years to come. It would be like LeBron’s “Decision” for the video-game age — a type of move that would send shockwaves around not only baseball but sports and pop culture in general. If Bryce Harper really wants to be a baseball superstar, this is what he would do.

Alas, this probably just a video-game announcement.

Jan. 26: Padres trying to set meeting with Machado

The San Diego Padres have taken the next step in their pursuit of Manny Machado. The team is reportedly trying to set up a face-to-face meeting with Machado, according to Dennis Lin of The Athletic.

After sitting out the process for most of the offseason, the Padres have become late entrants into the Machado sweepstakes. While early Machado suitors — like the Chicago White Sox and Philadelphia Phillies — have already met with the 26-year-old superstar, the Padres haven’t gotten that far yet.

WHAT THIS MEANS: It’s probably time to start taking the Padres seriously as contenders for Machado. While the team isn’t known for flashy free-agent moves, it did sign Eric Hosmer to a $144 million deal last winter.

Given that Machado hasn’t signed yet, it’s clear the star infielder is waiting until a team is willing to meet his demands. The Padres could steal Machado away from those other teams if they are willing to exceed every other offer. Either that, or the Padres’ involvement will compel the White Sox or Phillies get more aggressive about their pursuit of Machado.

Jan 25: Padres taking closer look at Manny Machado

The San Diego Padres are no longer a “mystery team” for Manny Machado. The Padres are reportedly serious suitors for the 26-year-old superstar, according to Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The Padres were inspired to take a look at Machado after rumors leaked that the Chicago White Sox had offered Machado a seven-year, $175 million deal. That rumor was debunked by Machado’s agent, who implored reporters to stop fabricating news.

If Machado signs with San Diego, he would mostly play third base, according to Acee. The team had initially planned to fill that position via trade, but changed course and is looking at the free-agent market now.

WHAT THIS MEANS: It sounds like the Padres are willing to wade into the Machado market after his rumored offers were lower than the Padres expected. After cautiously waiting out free agency most of the winter, it’s unclear whether the Padres will suddenly make a grand offer for Machado, but it’s not like any other team has stepped up thus far.

While Machado has expressed a desire to play shortstop, he reportedly told the White Sox he would play anywhere, so the Padres putting him at third might not be a deterrent if they are willing to pay Machado.

Jan 24: Machado tells White Sox he’ll play anywhere on the field

Chicago White Sox manager Rick Renteria provided some insight into his club’s meeting with Manny Machado last month.

Most notably, Renteria revealed that Machado informed the White Sox he’d be willing to play anywhere the team needed him if he chooses to sign there.

“This young man has said that he will play wherever we need him to play to help us win,” Renteria told NBC Sports Chicago. “So I’m not worried about where he’s going to play. He knows the makeup of the roster, he knows who we have on the field. I’ll just leave it at that and say that this kid wants to be a participant and will do whatever it takes to help a major league ball club win championships.”

After moving to third base to begin his MLB career, Machado primarily played his original position, shortstop, for the Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers last season. There were not-so-subtle indications that Machado preferred to remain at shortstop for his next stop, but apparently he’s softened that stance.

WHAT THIS MEANS: It’s particularly notable news for the White Sox. The rebuilding club has few long-term players in place, but young shortstop Tim Anderson is certainly one of them. If Machado is willing to be flexible for them, that removes a major hurdle.

We’ve heard past reports that Machado would also forego playing shortstop to play for the Yankees, but they had been the only known exception to date. It would be interesting to know if he’s telling the same thing to the Phillies and other potential suitors. If so, it could open up more possibilities for Machado. But as we’ve seen so far, the primary factor is still the money.

Jan 23: Surprising team checks in on Harper and Machado

This week’s Hall of Fame announcement has taken some attention away from the Bryce Harper and Manny Machado sweepstakes. Not that much has actually changed.

While neither player seems all that close to making a decision, we did learn Wednesday that a surprising new team might be considering a long shot run at Harper, Machado and some other big name free agents still available.

That team? The San Diego Padres.


WHAT THIS MEANS: It means teams are paying attention to the market and are gauging whether it makes sense to jump in the ring.

As Fancred’s Jon Heyman noted, the Padres rebuild has been geared more for the 2020 season, but that doesn’t mean they can’t make another surprising splash like when they signed Eric Hosmer last winter. Whether Harper or Machado want to play there, and whether the Padres can ultimately afford them, is a different story. But it doesn’t hurt to make the phone call.

If nothing else, we should probably take the Padres more seriously when it comes to the next tier of free agents. This could be a prime time for San Diego to strike on a Mike Moustakas or Marwin Gonzalez to help them gain ground in 2019.

Jan 18: Manny Machado’s father weighs in on free agency

Manuel Machado, the father of free agent Manny Machado, might know something we don’t know.

According to Hector Gomez of ZDeportes, Mr. Machado is dropping hints that his son could end up signing with a team that fans and reporters aren’t necessarily thinking about.


That would be seem to be bad news for the Chicago White Sox and Philadelphia Phillies.

Making matters worse for them is this report of two potential mystery teams from SNY’s Andy Martino.


WHAT THIS MEANS: It means we’ve heard from everyone that’s close to or directly involved in the process except for Bryce Harper and Manny Machado themselves.

Machado’s father would seem to be as good a source as anyone. And the fact that two reporters are supporting the idea of mystery team(s) lends it even more credence. But we always have to be aware of agents and camps creating spin to better position their interests.

What we’ve probably really learned here is that we’re still a long ways from Machado making a decision, and that it’s possible he’s waiting for one or two teams in particular to get involved.

Jan 17: Could Phillies pair Mike Trout with Harper or Machado?

The Philadelphia Phillies are reportedly dreaming big in regards to their future lineup, and those dreams extend well beyond this offseason.

According to Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci, the Phillies are envisioning a future lineup that will include one of either Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, to go along with Mike Trout.

Philadelphia began this offseason keeping Trout in mind. According to a baseball source with direct knowledge of their shopping plans, the Phillies have enough spending money to sign both Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, but would like to sign just one of them to leave room in the budget in case Trout reaches free agency in two years. In one dream scenario, the Phillies would field an all-MVP outfield in 2021: Trout, Harper and Andrew McCutchen.

Trout, who’s a New Jersey native and a Philadelphia Eagles fanatic, will be a free agent following the 2020 season.

WHAT THIS MEANS: We’re probably getting a little too far ahead of ourselves here, but given the lack of activity one can’t blame our minds for wandering.

A Harper signing would be the next step in building the aforementioned dream outfield that would also include Andrew McCutchen. One-third of that outfield is already in place after the team inked McCutchen to a three-year, $50 million contract this winter. As noted, Trout would come at least two years down the road. Though it’s possible the Phillies could test the trade waters in hopes of making this scenario a reality sooner than later.

If the Phillies have the money now to sign both Harper and Machado, then they should definitely be players for Trout. But the bigger question is will Trout even be available? It’s entirely possible he signs an extension with Los Angeles, which could leave the Phillies regretting not going harder after both Harper and Machado.

Aside from Trout’s availability, a lot can and probably will change over the next two years. The Phillies might find success without Trout, or discover they have bigger needs to address. The market landscape could change, which could lead more teams to getting involved on Trout. It’s even possible, though far from likely, that Trout’s value will decline.

Whatever the case, it is clear that Trout’s future availability is having a notable impact on Harper and Machado’s market.

Jan 16: Could Bryce Harper-Gabe Kapler bromance help the Phillies?

The days keep rolling by and there’s still no definite movement on a contract for either Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. But as the world waits for their decisions, FanCred’s Jon Heyman released a delectable nugget of information on Wednesday about Bryce Harper and Philadelphia Phillies manager Gabe Kapler, and what happened when they met in Las Vegas last week.


They didn’t just become friends, they reportedly “really hit it off.” Is anyone else imagining them riding around Philadelphia on tandem bikes?

There was a little news on the Machado front as well, with ESPN’s Buster Olney reporting more details about the offer the Chicago White Sox made a few weeks ago.


WHAT THIS MEANS: If Heyman’s report is true, that’s good news for both the Phillies and Harper. As Heyman said, Kapler is an intense guy, but his managerial style isn’t for everyone. If Harper had been put off by Kapler’s intensity and his near-relentless focus on positivity, that could be the end of any interest he had in signing with Philadelphia. For the Phillies, they could be feeling much better about offering Harper a massive, multi-year contract if they saw their possible new star hit it off with their handpicked manager.

As for Machado, while we knew a seven (or eight) year deal had been offered by the White Sox, the figure of $175 million is new. If that’s indeed the highest offer Machado has received, it’s no wonder he hasn’t signed yet. It’s far below what he’s looking for, and with an annual value of just over $21 million a year, it’s an offer that nearly every single MLB team could beat. Now we just have to wait and see of one will.

Jan. 15: Phillies still in on Harper and Machado, but won’t sign both

The Philadelphia Phillies remain the most fascinating team in the sweepstakes for Bryce Harper and Manny Machado because they’ve said they’re going to spend “stupid money” this offseason and, as far as we know, are in on both Machado and Harper.

But now there’s this: They’re making it clear they won’t sign Machado and Harper.

That’s from The Athletic’s Matt Gelb, who dug into the Phillies’ ongoing dance with baseball’s two biggest free agents. He says the Phils prefer Machado and they’re confident they’ll get one of them, but they’re not trying to get both. Gelb writes:

The Phillies are believed to prefer Machado over Harper because he is an elite hitter and defender, but conflicting information has spread from team to team and agent to agent. That, of course, is by design. The Phillies do not benefit from broadcasting their preference. League sources insisted the Phillies have made this much clear during negotiations: They will not sign both players.

WHAT IT MEANS: The Phillies remain in the best place — lots of money, lots of use for a top-flight free agent and an improving young team to build around. They’re a good destination for either Harper or Machado, and while Phillies fans might have held a sliver of hope that both would end up with them, that was never too realistic of a dream. Stupid money is one thing — spending close to $600 million on both Machado and Harper would require many more adjectives. Still, it remains a pretty good bet that one of these guys will be playing in Philly next year.

Jan. 13: White Sox reportedly offer Machado eight years

The Chicago White Sox have offered Manny Machado an eight-year deal, while the prized free agent remains engaged with the Philadelphia Phillies, according to a Sunday report from ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

Passan also reports that the Phillies remain focused on Bryce Harper, which jibes with earlier reports that his weekend visit with the team in Las Vegas has changed the tides of baseball’s biggest offseason story.

The meeting appears to have shifted the landscape of both Harper and Machado’s free agency, according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale and MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki.

Earlier Sunday, Nightengale reported that optimism is high following the Saturday meeting that included Harper, his wife Kayla, his agent Scott Boras and other members of his representation. Zolecki dove a little deeper, reporting that the meeting in Harper’s hometown of Las Vegas went so well, the Phillies’ primary focus may have shifted from signing Manny Machado to signing Harper.

Two sources told MLB.com on Sunday that the Phillies’ presentation and meeting went well. So well, in fact, that the Phillies might be shifting their focus from Manny Machado to Harper, although it is unknown if the club made a formal contract offer to Harper before leaving town. The Phillies’ contingent consisted of managing partner John Middleton, president Andy MacPhail, general manager Matt Klentak, manager Gabe Kapler and assistant general manager Ned Rice. The same group, plus others, made a similar pitch to Machado late last month at Citizens Bank Park.

While USA Today paints the Phillies as the favorites to land Harper, ESPN maintains that the Nationals “remain a possible landing spot” for the outfielder.

WHAT THIS MEANS: The reported five-hour meeting has thrown another wrench into what we thought we knew about Bryce Harper and Manny Machado’s free agency.

Entering the weekend, the Washington Nationals were the apparent favorites to retain Harper, while the Phillies and Chicago White Sox were leading the Machado chase. If Harper’s weekend meeting really had the impact on Philadelphia that’s been reported, then Machado’s market may be played out, while Harper’s could be on the verge of blossoming again.

As always, we have to be aware of certain Hot Stove caveats. This could be just a case of who spoke to who last. Or it could be more jockeying for position. Or it could be something that’s true today and forgotten by tomorrow. The situation remains fluid, and probably won’t be truly settled until there’s ink on paper.

Jan 12: Bryce Harper leaves meeting with Phillies without a contract

Bryce Harper met with the Phillies on Saturday for the first time since he faced them at Citizens Bank Park in September, and although he didn’t come away with a contract, Philadelphia remains confident. According to a report from Philly.com’s Matt Breen, the Phillies believe they will have the largest contract offers for Harper and Manny Machado.

With Harper reportedly wanting to play for the Dodgers and Machado potentially interested in playing alongside his brother-in-law and workout buddy with the White Sox, it’s certainly possible that the Phillies will not wind up with both players. But given owner John Middleton’s willingness to spend “stupid” money, it seems unlikely they would whiff on both if they do indeed have the largest offers.

WHAT THIS MEANS: As the Nationals look like they’re back in the running for Harper and mystery teams enter the fray for Machado, it’s important to remember the Phillies have plenty of money to swing around and plenty of incentive to land a superstar this offseason.

The Phillies seem to prefer Machado on their team, but a flirtation with Harper carries the added benefit of putting pressure on the Nationals to prevent him from leaving for a division rival. The free agent market might be glacially slow right now, but the Phillies remain serious contenders for both players and probably this offseason’s most intriguing team as far as spending potential goes.

Jan 11: Is a mystery team in on Machado?

The Manny Machado sweepstakes has taken a couple interesting turns over the last few hours.

Early on Friday, the New York Yankees all but confirmed they’re out of the running for Machado’s services by signing free agent DJ LeMahieu to a two-year, $24 million contract. Now comes word that a mystery team has joined the pursuit alongside the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago White Sox.


WHAT THIS MEANS: There are no two words more dreaded during Hot Stove season than “mystery team.” Sometimes these reports prove valid. Other times it’s an agent simply blowing smoke to create leverage. But every single time it causes reporters and fans alike to lose sleep.

If there really is a mystery team in the race, the possibilities would have to be limited. That is, unless Machado has decided to lower his demands or is now looking for a shorter-term deal. The latter might make sense if Machado’s camp thinks a stronger market could develop a year or two down the road.

The Phillies and White Sox reportedly haven’t come close to meeting Machado’s $300 million asking price, and at this point it doesn’t seem like anyone else will either.

Jan 9: Are the Yankees out of the running for Manny Machado?

As the Manny Machado sweepstakes presumably nears the finish line, at least one report suggests the New York Yankees are on the outside looking in.

That report comes from ZDeportes baseball reporter Hector Gomez. According to Gomez, the race to sign Machado is now down to two teams: the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago White Sox.


For what it’s worth, and it’s probably worth a lot, Fancred’s Jon Heyman didn’t seem to be buying that report. While he didn’t outright dismiss Gomez, he insisted the Yankees haven’t been informed they’re out of the running for Machado.


That comes on the heels of Heyman reporting the Phillies and White Sox haven’t come close to Machado’s $300 million asking price, and that the Yankees haven’t officially made an offer.


WHAT THIS MEANS: It means the more information we get, the less we seem to know.

At this point, it seems unlikely Machado would have dismissed any of his main suitors. That is, of course, unless the Yankees have informed him no offer is coming. That, too, seems unlikely, especially based on Heyman’s report that the Yankees believe they’re still in the running.

The Yankees have long been described as Machado’s preferred destination. Until the Phillies, White Sox or perhaps a mystery team emerges with the $300 million offer that Machado’s camp is reportedly seeking, it seems safe to assume the Yankees will remain firmly in the mix.

Jan 9: Bryce Harper’s destination may be becoming more clear

Despite a meeting on the horizon with the Philadelphia Phillies, the latest chatter on Bryce Harper’s free agency is that a reunion with the Washington Nationals is looking most likely. Meanwhile, Manny Machado, this winter’s other marquee free agent, is reportedly firm in seeking $300 million and no team is close yet.

MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reports that the Nationals have the “momentum” in re-signing Harper, which would make sense since we know they’ve already shown a willingness to give him $300 million. That could also mean the Phillies would turn their attention to Machado.

Here’s what Feinsand wrote:

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.

“It’s heating up,” the source said.

WHAT IT MEANS: The Nats and Harper continue to seem like a good match, if only for the fact that we know they’ll give him $300 million. They made that offer at the end of the regular season and have reportedly offered “much more” since then.

As for Machado, don’t put too much stock into who has and hasn’t made an official offer — looking at you here, Yankees fans. As we’ve said before in this space, an “official” offer is more of a formality, and a team with no official offer can just as easily sign someone any day of the week. That said, the bigger worry for Machado is whether someone will go as high as $300 million. Or if the Yankees will get close enough to whomever does, if that’s really who he prefers.

The Phillies, who said they’d spend “stupid money” this winter, can certainly offer him $300 million. And would seemingly be more likely to do so if Harper opts to return to D.C.

Jan. 8: Harper, Phillies set Vegas meeting

Don’t count out the Philadelphia Phillies just yet.

Despite recent reports suggesting free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado aren’t enamored with the city of Philadelphia and may prefer to play elsewhere, the franchise that’s willing to spend “stupid money” to make a splash this winter isn’t close to giving up their pursuit.

As Heyman confirmed Tuesday, the Phillies have scheduled a face-to-face meeting with Harper and agent Scott Boras this weekend in Las Vegas.


WHAT THIS MEANS: It’s getting to be crunch time and the Phillies know it.

Philadelphia will be the fourth team Harper has met with directly. The Washington Nationals, New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox are the other teams to have landed a meeting. Not surprisingly, they’re also the teams believed to have the best shot at signing Harper. The Phillies did meet with Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, at the winter meetings. If they hope to be serious contenders, though, they have to get on the same page with Harper.

On the surface, this feels like it could be a turning point in the process. If Harper seems interested, we might see just how much money the Phillies are willing to spend. If the Phillies leave Las Vegas feeling like a long shot to sign Harper, it could be time for them to move on and someone else to step up.

Jan 7: Manny Machado’s wife is reportedly “enamored” with New York City

You know the old saying: Happy wife, happy life.

According to the latest report on Manny Machado’s free agency, the happiness of his wife Yainee may lead to happy fans in one MLB city. According to the New York Daily News’ Wallace Matthews, Yainee Machado is “enamored” with New York City and has a “strong influence” on the decision.

From The Daily News:

According to another source, who knows Machado well, there is a wild-card to this negotiation who might tip the balance toward the Bronx: Machado’s wife, Yainee.

According to the source, Yainee Machado – who is the sister of Yonder Alonso, the first baseman recently traded to the Chicago White Sox, one of the teams Machado visited on his sales tour – is enamored of New York City and very much would like to live here. The same source says Yainee has a very strong influence on her husband’s decision-making.

WHAT THIS MEANS: This means we’re still in the “looking for clues” portion of the Machado sweepstakes. There’s nothing terribly substantive happening in his free agency (or Bryce Harper’s, for that matter) so we’re still playing the game of “a person close to him thinks x-y-z.”

That being said, it’s completely logical — and expected, really — that Machado’s wife would be a strong influence on his free agency decision. After all, we’re not talking about something that would just be a two-year deal. Machado is reportedly seeking a deal for 10 years or close to it. Yainee should be part of the decision, which is why she’s accompanied him on his team visits.

We’ll end this passage with the requisite warning that this rumor also qualifies as “NYC newspaper says Machado prefers NYC.” So take solace in that, Philly.

Jan. 4: Harper reportedly offered ‘much more than’ $300M

We knew that Washingon Nationals made an offer to keep Bryce Harper before the end of the season. It was reportedly worth $300 million and Harper turned it down. The latest Harper rumor would seem to suggest we ain’t seen nothing yet.

Jim Bowden, the ex-GM and current analyst for The Athletic, reports that the Nationals have upped their offer to Harper to “much more than $300 million.” And just like that, folks, let’s really start the Bryce Harper sweepstakes.


WHAT IT MEANS: Let’s give this the usual Hot Stove warning — this is all an act to some degree. That quote came from somewhere, whether it’s an agent trying to drive up the price for Harper or the Nationals trying to make other teams pay more. The first scenario seems more likely. Regardless, just know that there’s always a bit of posturing going on in these matters.

Will Bryce Harper get more than $300 million? It’s entirely possible, if a team wants to go 10 years. Might the Nats be willing to pay more than $300 million for him? Sure.

We do know Nats ownership has met with Harper and his agent Scott Boras recently, so that would seem to suggest there could be new offers on the table too.

Jan. 3: Machado reportedly has offer from White Sox

Manny Machado has an offer on the table from the Chicago White Sox, according to the latest from USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. There are no details on the offer in terms of money or years, but it’s reportedly out there.

Nightengale also says the White Sox have not made an official offer to Bryce Harper yet, though the two sides have been in “constant contact.”

If you’re doubting the Machado/White Sox report, consider this: Stadium also tweeted a mocked-up picture of Machado in a White Sox uniform saying an offer has been made. As the Chicago Tribune notes, White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf is one of the owners of Stadium.


WHAT IT MEANS: First off, it means Machado could up and decide to join the White Sox anytime he wants if there’s an offer on the table. Beyond that, this shouldn’t necessarily be read as the White Sox being the favorites to sign Machado. It’s mostly a formality, part of the process. But there’s nothing to say Machado also couldn’t decide to sign just as easily with another team — say the Yankees or the Phillies — who haven’t made a formal offer but have been in touch with him. To that point, Phillies GM Matt Klentak said Thursday that he expects their dialogue to continue with Machado.

Jan. 2: Will they get 10-year deals?

It’s anybody’s guess when Bryce Harper will make a decision on his next contract, but when he does he’ll reportedly have at least two, and possibly three, 10-year contracts to consider.

According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, Harper’s former team, the Washington Nationals, along with the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago White Sox, are all believed to be willing to lock Harper up for the next decade. However, there is one contrasting report from 670 The Score’s Bruce Levine. The longtime Chicago baseball reporter says any talk of the White Sox going to 10 years with Harper is “without any substance and flat out wrong” according to his high-ranking sources.

WHAT IT MEANS: Welcome to the Hot Stove, where every report is almost immediately met with a counter report. The White Sox not going to 10 years though would be consistent with most reports we’ve heard this winter. That also applies to their pursuit of Manny Machado. The White Sox will reportedly not go above seven years on any deal.

Perhaps the most interesting tidbit from Wednesday’s rumor mill is how involved the Nationals remain despite owner Mark Lerner seemingly dismissing a reunion before the winter meetings. If Harper isn’t really enamored with Philadelphia as reports last week suggested, and both the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees aren’t going all-in, perhaps the Nationals have a real chance to get back in the sweepstakes.

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