The Philadelphia Phillies never seemed especially serious about trading for Giancarlo Stanton, who reports say will be traded to the New York Yankees. But the weekend's major trade may have given the Philadelphia Phillies an even better chance to lure one of Bryce Harper or Manny Machado to Philadelphia next offseason.
It's easy enough to say that there's 30 teams that would gladly employ Harper or Machado. There's very few that could afford the record salary that both are likely to command. Matt Klentak and the Phillies are one of those teams. In the last 48 hours, the list of teams capable (or capable and likely) of signing one of the two has gotten even smaller.
By acquiring Stanton - and reportedly taking on over $250 million of what is left on his contract - the Yankees assured they are not going to be a contender for Harper next offseason. Aaron Judge and Stanton, at least for the time being, will occupy the two corner outfield spots, where Harper plays. The DH spot, technically, could be used to house one of Stanton or Judge, but the Yankees may want to keep that spot open for Gary Sanchez.
In any event, if the Yankees make another financial commitment in the next calendar year, it's not going to be in the outfield. That knocks out the team that has long been viewed as the odds-on favorite to sign Harper next offseason, assuming he reaches free-agency, which feels like a lock.
That doesn't mean that the Phillies will be unopposed if they choose to make a serious run at Harper. Whether the Washington Nationals are able to retain him or not, they're going to put up a fight. Harper seems to have forged a friendship with fellow Las Vegas native and Chicago Cubs superstar Kris Bryant. The Cubs, no doubt, will have something to say about where Harper lands, as may the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Harper is a Boras client, which may mean he will end up going to the highest bidder. While all the aforementioned teams could make signing someone like Harper work financially, the Phillies have an insane amount of financial flexibility over the next five years, which may serve as an advantage in free-agency. The Phillies could sell Harper on not only signing him, but multiple star free-agents next offseason. The only other team realistically capable of doing that would have been the Yankees, but that option (and any potential Yankees interest in Harper) is probably gone now that the team is set to acquire Stanton.
From a position perspective, acquiring Stanton doesn't take the Yankees entirely out of the the Machado sweepstakes. But this isn't fantasy baseball. Their top prospect, Gleyber Torres, can play third base and shortstop, like Machado. Their No. 5 prospect Miguel Andujar is either a third baseman of DH. Both are major-league ready. Sure, Brian Cashman probably could sign Machado next offseason. But it feels like if the Yankees make another big investment next offseason, it will be in their starting rotation, as they attempt to build a complete team.
The best part about a potential Machado free-agency is that his current team, the Baltimore Orioles, would stand next-to-no-chance to re-sign him on the open market. With this in mind, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports says team have begun to make trade inquiries on Machado. As much as trading Machado might be the right thing for the Orioles to do, the team's general manager, Dan Duquette, sounded much more interested in attempting to contend for one more season in a recent interview. Dan Connolly of BaltimoreBaseball.com went as far as saying that even if the team parted with some key pieces at the trade deadline, he doesn't think managing partner Peter Angelos would agree to trade Machado.
As crazy as it may be, it feels more likely than not that Harper and Machado, both of whom will be just 26, will reach free-agency next offseason. The Yankees appear less likely to sign Machado now, and out on Harper entirely. Any thought of the Los Angeles Angels attempting to sign either is probably gone now as well, after they landed two-way Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani Friday.
One of Harper or Machado isn't going to be handed to the Phillies - they are both Hall of Fame talents. But if you haven't already, it's time to start taking the Phillies seriously in terms of their chances to land one of the two. Things couldn't be lining up much better for them.