A little eyebrow-raising rumor on your Winter Meetings Monday:
Not surprising at all, but the Phillies and Team Boras are working out a time to meet here in Vegas. Phillies maintain interest in Zach Britton and Bryce Harper, though at the moment seem to be more on Manny Machado than Harper
— Jim Salisbury (@JSalisburyNBCS) December 10, 2018
You’ve gotta play the misdirection-smokescreen-misdirection game, obviously, but this is a connected Phillies reporter indicating that the team is currently more interested in Machado than Harper. Obviously, given the Phillies’ presence as the boogeyman of spending on the market right now, that would be wildly interesting. Especially since I think most folks would currently bet on Harper to the Phillies as an eventual thing. (Me, for the record, I really fear it’s going to be the Dodgers.)
If the Phillies wind up the team for Machado, then Harper’s market becomes a group of huge market teams that are allowing rumors to flow that they AREN’T going to spend on him (Dodgers, Yankees, and Cubs), his former team who say they’re out, and the White Sox. As slim as the Cubs’ chances might be on Harper, having Machado go to the Phillies wouldn’t hurt.
Keep in mind, the Phillies have already added a middle infielder this offseason in Jean Segura, and have already jettisoned Carlos Santana so that they can move Rhys Hoskins in from the outfield. It sure *seems* like their maneuvering more easily contemplates a Harper addition than a Machado addition. But if Machado were open to returning to third base, where he demonstrated nearly historic proficiency, then there’s clearly a spot available for him (the Phillies have been trying to move Maikel Franco for years). Alternatively, there are rumors that the Phillies are willing to trade second baseman Cesar Hernandez, and, if they aren’t otherwise sold on locking Scott Kingery into second base, then Segura could slide there and open up shortstop for Machado.
That is all to say that if the Phillies legitimately prefer Machado to Harper, there is no roster-related reason for them to do anything but pursue Machado more aggressively.
HOWEVA, given that earlier maneuvering, and given how widespread the duh-the-Phillies-are-gonna-go-nuts-on-Harper chatter has been, combined with their big-money miss on Patrick Corbin, I wouldn’t be counting the Phillies out on Harper any time soon.