The New Year has arrived and the Phillies remain one of at least three teams serious about signing free-agent infielder Manny Machado.
Machado visited with the White Sox, Yankees and Phillies before Christmas. Those clubs - and any mystery teams - were told to submit offers before the New Year. Given the way the negotiating game goes, those were probably preliminary offers with the bidding now ramping up as Machado focuses on a decision that is expected to come in the next week or two.
Even while they negotiate with Machado, the Phillies remain interested in outfielder Bryce Harper, the other megastar on this winter's free-agent market. In fact, a person close to the player tells NBC Sports Philadelphia that a face-to-face meeting between Harper and Phillies officials is being planned for "the next week or so," in Harper's hometown of Las Vegas. Phillies officials met with Harper's representative, Scott Boras, at the winter meetings in Las Vegas last month. The player was not in attendance at that meeting.
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Machado remains the Phillies' primary focus, but competition for him is stern. The Yankees are high on Machado and he is high on playing for them - he has been for a long time. The Yanks could even offer Machado a chance to play shortstop, his favorite position, for a good chunk of the coming season as Didi Gregorius recovers from elbow surgery. The Yanks have signed veteran infielder Troy Tulowitzki. The signing is seen as inexpensive insurance should the team fail to sign Machado. It also could be a negotiating signal to Machado that the Yankees won't wait forever.
The Phillies like the idea of using Machado at third base and would probably have to significantly outbid the Yankees to land him. The Phillies have been gearing for this offseason for years and have the resources to do just that - if Machado would say yes to their offer.
The Phillies remain interested in adding a top reliever to the back end of their bullpen - they have interest in Zach Britton, another Boras client - and a left-handed starting pitcher. But at the moment, their focus is Machado - with Harper, as evidenced by the planned face-to-face meeting, beginning to enter the picture.
Stay tuned. The New Year has dawned and this thing is heating up.
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