Manny Machado will head to Philadelphia for an in-person visit with the Phillies next week, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today, and George A. King III of the New York Post suggests that a similar visit to Yankee Stadium could be lined up for next week as well. The Yankees and Phillies are two of the reported four teams set to be aligning visits with the polarizing Machado, along with the White Sox and the ever-popular “mystery team.” For the Phillies, the acquisition of Jean Segura makes Machado a likelier fit at third base despite the infielder’s clear preference to play shortstop. Machado’s former third base coach in Baltimore, Bobby Dickerson, tells Scott Lauber of the Philadelphia Inquirer that he believes Machado would move to third base if an offer to do so was the clear best offer he received in free agency. Perhaps more interestingly, Dickerson talks with Lauber about Machado’s personality, his preternatural defensive aptitude at third base and, in reference to Machado’s October villainy, his belief that Machado “is fine with being the bad boy.”

With the Winter Meetings now in the rear-view mirror, here’s a bit more on Machado and the market’s other top free agent…

  • White Sox GM Rick Hahn somewhat indirectly acknowledged his interest in both Machado and Bryce Harper on Thursday, as Bruce Levine writes for 670 The Score FM“We are excited to be discussing impactful moves for the long term,” said Hahn of his team’s reported interest in the market’s top two free agents. “It’s good to have a seat at the table for some long impactful moves. This work does not mean anything is going to come together. … Even if we are able to convert on something big, there is a lot of work to do behind it to get us where we want to be (as an organization).” Levine suggests that an opt-out provision after three or four years would be a “significant draw” for Harper, though that much has been more or less expected for some time. Top free agents have increasingly gravitated toward the inclusion of such contracts, and several recent free-agent signings have included multiple opportunities to re-enter free agency (e.g. Jason Heyward, J.D. Martinez).
  • Also via Nightengale, agent Scott Boras implied in characteristically colorful fashion that he’s not concerned about early indications that some potential suitors (e.g. Yankees, Cardinals) have limited interest or trepidation when it comes to a legitimate pursuit of Harper. “When the nurse walks in the room with the thermometer, the issue is not what the thermometer says that day,” said Boras. “The issue is what’s the health of the patient when they’re ready to leave the hospital.” The Phillies and White Sox both remain in the mix on Harper, per the report, and Nightengale speculatively suggests that the Dodgers, who are reportedly trying to move Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig, shouldn’t be ruled out. Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM, though, tweets that the Dodgers aren’t interested in pushing talks to 10 years on Harper. Nor, for that matter, are the Angels or Giants, each of whom has been previously mentioned as a potential dark horse.
  • ESPN’s Buster Olney writes that executives from other clubs and agents throughout the industry find it increasingly possible that the Phillies, long the presumptive favorite to sign one of Harper or Machado, could instead come away with neither in hand. Olney, too, suggests that the Dodgers’ efforts to move Kemp, Puig and other notable salaries could eventually result in the capacity to submit a winning offer to Harper. While there’s doubt that the Dodgers would offer the longest-term contract, Olney suggests perhaps a front-loaded deal with a substantial annual value from a team that has appeared in consecutive World Series would prove enticing. Meanwhile, the Yankees still present a viable threat to the Phillies for Machado as they look to close ground on the World Champion Red Sox.
  • There’s no indication that anything has changed for the Cubs, per Patrick Mooney of The Athletic (subscription required), who writes that the team is “close to maxing out” its baseball operations budget for the 2019 season. Rather than acknowledge a need for any sort of augmentation to the roster, manager Joe Maddon suggested that the greater issue for the Cubs is to extract better performance from the talent already in house. Along those same lines, GM Jed Hoyer spoke of the promising signs he’s seen in Kris Bryant as he looks to rehab from 2018 shoulder woes.

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