Those frisky Friars...
The Padres are set to meet with Bryce Harper Thursday night, according to The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal.
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This comes a week after San Diego's interest in signing Manny Machado became public.
As we wrote then, it's not the end of the world for the Phillies that the Padres are also pursuing the top two free agents. San Diego has never entered a season with a payroll over $110 million. That doesn't mean they never will, but this is not an organization known for handing out enormous contracts.
As of now, the Padres' payroll is at about $94 million.
The richest contract the Padres have ever handed out came last offseason when they signed Eric Hosmer to an eight-year, $144 million deal. That's a big contract but nowhere near the type of money or annual salary it will take to land Harper or Machado.
Hosmer's contract is extremely front-loaded, paying him $100 million in the first five years and $39 million in the last three (with a $5 million signing bonus). Hosmer can opt out after that fifth year.
So, with Hosmer's big contract on their books and not a whole lot of talent surrounding him, it does make sense for the Padres to seek big upgrades. It's why we pointed out in mid-January that they were a team to monitor, even before the Harper-Machado rumblings surfaced.
The weakness of the NL West will only further embolden the Padres to swing for the fences.
Harper's agent, Scott Boras, told Rosenthal that they've met with other teams "in recent days." The identities of those teams are unclear.
But this is the risk the Phillies run. Barring an offer from the Phils that just blows all others out of the water, it behooves Harper and Machado to wait.
It's highly unlikely that two or three weeks from now, the Phils would decrease their offer or take it off the table. However, waiting two or three weeks could bring other teams back into the picture, which increases the bargaining power of Harper and Machado. So, from the Harper-Machado perspective, what's the risk in waiting even longer? Sucks for the fans, but these guys are focused on securing the biggest possible payday.
This also illustrates how tough it can be to close a deal of this magnitude when you are not yet regarded as a "destination." During that Golden Era of Phillies baseball, players wanted to be here. Players gave up more guaranteed money to be here. Roy Halladay, for example, was adamant about being traded to the Phillies.
Right now, the Phillies are a team on the rise but not necessarily a top destination for a superstar. Just keeping it real. If Machado got a huge offer from the Yankees, he'd probably sign there. If Harper got a huge offer from the Dodgers, he'd probably sign there. The absence of those two teams - at least thus far - could wind up helping the Phillies immensely.
That same reason of not yet being a destination also applies to the Padres and White Sox, who are farther behind the Phillies. The appeal of playing and living in San Diego is obvious, though, and it's much closer to Harper's hometown of Las Vegas.
In his 1-on-1 interview with Jim Salisbury on Wednesday, Phillies GM Matt Klentak said that the Phils don't really have a walk-away date in the near future in which they'd break off negotiations with the superstars.
"I don't think the start of spring training, for example, serves as any deadline," Klentak said. "We learned that last year with Jake Arrieta."
Phillies pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 12. The first full team workout is Feb. 18. The first spring training game is Feb. 22.
And this ordeal might not be over by then.