Tuesday, 18 Dec 2018

Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are still waiting for this winter

Where will Manny Machado end? (Patrick Semansky / Associated Press)

It takes some determination to trade the best player in the history of your franchise, after a season that you contended until mid-September, but that's what the Arizona Diamondbacks did. Wednesday by sending first baseman Paul Goldschmidt to the St. Louis Cardinals. for prospects and projects of choice.

It takes some assurance to secure six years and $ 140 million to a pitcher with a transcendent season to his resume, but that's what the Washington Nationals did by signing left-handed Patrick Corbin on Tuesday.

And it takes a certain suspension of disbelief for a team that finishes in fourth place to dismiss the prospect of their choice from sixth overall six months earlier – while spending $ 63 million on an aging second-base player after a drug suspension – But that's what the New York Mets did in preparing Jarred Kelenic in the deal to land Robinson Cano and Seattle's close Edwin Diaz.

This is the era of bold moves and unusual resolution of baseball, with teams increasingly divided into teams of extreme reenactors and people determined to win at all costs – a pivot since the time when the vast majority teams sitting somewhere in the middle, often too attached to their own perspectives and too paralyzed by the fear of making a huge misstep.

"This organization," Brodie Van Wagenen, former agent turned Mets CEO, said this week after giving up three perspectives for Cano and Diaz, "[will] be relentless and fearless in our quest for greatness. "

But ahead of the Baseball Winter Meetings at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Monday to Thursday, two of the boldest and most daring moves – the biggest tests of organizational determination – remain to be done. Despite intense activity in recent days and weeks, the industry is still waiting for answers to the big questions of this offseason:

Who will sign the free sluggers Bryce Harper and Manny Machado? And will one or the other, or both, break the record – currently held by Giancarlo Stanton, of $ 325 million over 13 years – from the biggest contract in the history of baseball ? Recall, Harper has already refused a bid of $ 300 million over 10 years presented by nationals.

Bryce Harper remains the big domino. (Toni L. Sandys / The Washington Post)

Although nothing indicates that the situation of the players is about to be resolved quickly – and nowadays, many of the biggest recruits are postponed well after the New Year – the atmosphere of Increased media and the nature of winter encounters have consequences of creating sudden, splashy chords, or at least creeping rumors.

This could be especially true for Harper, the 26-year-old who spent his first seven seasons with the Washington Nationals and whose first foray into free investment is the most anticipated since Alex Rodriguez in 2000. Las Vegas, like everything the world surely knows it Now, it's Harper's home town, and his agent, Scott Boras (the same man who negotiated Rodriguez's $ 252 million record with the Texas Rangers in December 2000) , organized meetings next week with interested clubs on an undisclosed opportunity. the location of the site.

Will the meetings end with Harper at a press conference scene, surrounded by Boras, team leaders and a series of Vegas girl singers, wearing a jersey from his new team – the Los Angeles Dodgers? Phillies of Philadelphia? Yankees from New York? – on a suit and a tie? Could it even be the same jersey that it has always worn, that of the Washington Nationals?

The number and magnitude of movements already made in November and the first week of December left the impression that most teams had already done their share of the work for the winter. In the only National League, the Mets traded against Cano and Diaz; the Atlanta Braves hired veterans Josh Donaldson and Brian McCann; Jean Segura, of the Phillies, traded against scorer Jean Segura and the Nationals signed the best starting pitcher on the market, left-handed Patrick Corbin, while adding two catchers and two lifters.

Meanwhile, the Mariners, although they are fighting over a wild card until August, have moved up a gear, having already traded Segura, Cano, Diaz, as James Paxton (to the Yankees), the receiver Mike Zunino (in Tampa Bay) and three relievers.

"This is what a reset looks like," Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto told reporters.

But in reality, an unusual wave of commercial activity in early winter masked an alarming lack of movement on the free agents' front – and probably contributed to it. ESPN's free agent tracker said only 15 of the 153 players available had signed Thursday afternoon, and only five of them were multi-year contracts. Only three of the top 40 free agents, ranked by MLBTradeRumors.com, had been signed: Corbin, Nathan Eovaldi (back to the Red Sox) and Donaldson. And Donaldson, a most valuable former player who has had two trying seasons because of injuries, had to settle for a one-year deal with Atlanta.

There is no doubt that the thriving commercial market has damaged the free agent market – as it did a year ago when the Miami Marlins dropped Stanton, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna – and will continue to provide attractive alternative to teams looking for high-end products. Talent. This is especially true for the launch of the throw, with Madison Bumgarner (San Francisco Giants), Corey Kluber (Cleveland Indians) and Zack Greinke (Diamondbacks) known to be available.

When they finally sign up, Harper and Machado will undoubtedly push back this year's total classroom spending in the stratosphere, but for the bulk of this winter's free agents – the overabundance of strong, usable players looking for 39 a new home – the sinister reality will probably be the same as that of last winter's class, as teams turn away more and more from older and established talents.

At the top of the hierarchy, there is a lingering feeling that the Phillies run the market, a notion they do not even try to hide. Owner John Middleton told USA Today last month that he was willing to spend and could "be a little stupid". Doing it. After rationalizing their alignment in recent years in anticipation of this winter, they seem ready to sign Harper or Machado – their preference remains a well-kept secret – some speculating again that they could play both. (They were also known to covet Corbin, before the nationals got it by offering the sixth year guarantee.)

The Yankees, for their part, are another logical landing point for one of the two popular pairings, and Machado – who can play stop-waiting until Didi Gregorius returns from the operation, then sliding towards the third goal – would seem best suited. But after falling below the luxury tax threshold in 2018, they seem to insist on staying below this threshold in 2019, when the figure has risen from 197 million to 206 million dollars.

Given the Yankees' declared need for another starting pitcher – the southpaw J.A. Happ is a logical target – it's unclear whether they can also add Machado, or even if they want to. It was revealing when Hal Steinbrenner, the Yankees' managing partner, admitted last month that he found Machado's comments "disturbing" in the playoffs, saying he "was not one of a kind to play Johnny Hustle and to spin towards the goal. "

"It's a decision [ownership] in the end, when they will be forced to do so, "Brian Brian Cashman told reporters this week about the decision to move the payroll beyond the threshold. "It's my job to gather as much talent as possible, in a very profitable way, and I hope I can do it without having to [pay] luxury taxes. "

If the Yankees are really out – and let's be honest – who really believes it? – the rest of the landscape for Harper and Machado is less defined. The Chicago Cubs do not seem willing to spend at this level and the Dodgers, at least under Andrew Friedman, have never done it. The giants have not yet announced strategy under the new general manager Farhan Zaidi. The Cardinals seem to have solved the problem of the need for an average bat by trading for Goldschmidt. The Houston Astros attempted to trade their shares against Harper in August, but their needs are greater.

Somewhere, however, is one or more teams ready to take the next bold move in a busy winter. As the Winter Meetings traveled to Bryce Harper's hometown and the number of participants had to climb to a place where only a few teams could compete, it was only a matter of time.

Read more:

Bryce Harper arrived as a massive promise. If he leaves the nationals, what will be his legacy?

Cardinals acquire Paul Goldschmidt of Arizona for three prospects

Ryan Zimmerman: "I do not think it's a secret, I'd like to end my career with the nationals

Koreans agree to deal with double star launcher Patrick Corbin

Red Sox will visit the White House, Alex Cora promising to use the platform "in a good way"


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