Multiple rival executives suggested they believe it’s quite possible the Phillies land not one – but both – superstar free agents this winter. Of the more than 10 executives contacted this week, though the question was about who’d get the bigger deal between outfielder Bryce Harper and infielder Manny Machado, a few volunteered that they believed Philly could sign both players. They have been connected to both players in recent years, and despite a few free agent signings last winter, they still have a relatively small amount of money committed to future contracts, which seems to position them for a potentially monster winter.
But there are more specific reasons Philly is among the early favorites for both players.
1) The Phillies have huge revenue after signing a lucrative 10-figure TV contract;
2) Their payroll is still low for their market even after signing Jake Arrieta and Carlos Santana last winter;
3) They showed a willingness to be a big bidder last winter, signing several free agents (they spent more than almost anyone once you throw in Tommy Hunter and Pat Neshek) and weren’t shy about paying top dollar to try to win — and the results were pretty good, as they moved into contention from the bottom;
4) They know they aren’t as good as the Braves, who appear headed for the NL East title. If you match up the teams player by player, a case could be made that the Braves are better at all eight positions (though it’s close at four, or perhaps five). Anyway, the Phillies have to know this;
5) Their owner John Middleton is said by people in the game to be eager to win after a few lean years (plus this one in which they showed potential);
6) In Machado’s case, there are personal connections, as Phillies execs Andy MacPhail, Matt Klentak, Ned Rice, Scott Proefrock and others were all in Baltimore when the O’s selected Machado with the No. 3 overall pick.
The rival execs are convinced that the they could get both superstars, but that one or the other is almost a fait accompli. That in itself would be a game-changer for a Phillies organization that found itself leading the division in 2018 earlier than many expected.
Jon Heyman is Fancred's baseball
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