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How Manny's megadeal impacts Bryce, others

Is Harper set to top Machado's record-setting contract?
@feinsand
February 19, 2019

Manny Machado is set to become the richest free agent in the history of American team sports, agreeing to a 10-year, $300 million contract on Tuesday with the Padres. How long will that record last?

Manny Machado is set to become the richest free agent in the history of American team sports, agreeing to a 10-year, $300 million contract on Tuesday with the Padres.

How long will that record last?

The Machado news had barely been digested when all eyes immediately turned to Bryce Harper, who remains available on the free-agent market. The consensus in the industry is that Harper will sign for more than the $300 million Machado got from San Diego, but will it be the Phillies, White Sox, Giants or Nationals -- or another team altogether? -- that step up to sign the 2015 National League MVP Award winner?

Harper's future remains the primary topic around the game, but there are some other high-profile free agents still looking for deals. With Machado off the board, the uncertainty surrounding the remaining stars should begin to sort itself out before too long. Here's a look at what may happen next for the four biggest names on the free-agent market. (Ages listed are as of Opening Day 2019.)

Bryce Harper, OF, age 26

The floor for a Harper deal is now $300,000,001, as the player and his agent, Scott Boras, entered the offseason looking to establish a record for the biggest free-agent contract in history. In truth, the magic number is probably $325,000,001, which would eclipse Giancarlo Stanton's 13-year extension as the biggest overall contract ever, but Stanton was not a free agent when he signed it.

Latest Harper free-agent rumors

Will the Phillies be the team to show Harper the money? Philadelphia has made no secret of its desire to sign either Machado or Harper, though general manager Matt Klentak said the final Machado deal "will exceed our valuation and sometimes you have to be willing to walk away." Are the Phillies comfortable paying Harper more than $300 million? If not, they will likely watch him sign elsewhere.

Then again, the White Sox said they were unable to go to $300 million for Machado, which could take them out on Harper, too. The Giants seem unlikely to offer a deal of that magnitude, but might the Nationals swoop back in and bring the long-time face of the franchise back to Washington? They reportedly had a $300 million offer on the table for Harper when the offseason started, so don't count them out.

Dallas Keuchel, LHP, age 31
Once thought to be the cream of the free-agent pitching crop, Keuchel watched Patrick Corbin land a six-year, $140 million deal from the Nationals in early December, a deal many thought would set a market for the former American League Cy Young Award winner.
More than two months later, the 31-year-old remains unsigned, with no clear market having formed for his services. The Phillies remain the most sensible match, though until Harper's situation is resolved, it's unlikely Philadelphia would turn its attention to Keuchel or any other available players.
If the Phillies don't make a push for the left-hander, the Astros could move to bring him back on a short-term deal. Aside from Houston, several teams including the Braves, Brewers and Rangers have been attached to Keuchel at some point, though none seem inclined to shell out a lengthy contract in the high eight figures.

Craig Kimbrel, RHP, age 30
Like Keuchel, Kimbrel came into the offseason looking for a nine-figure deal, so even when relievers including Andrew Miller, Zack Britton, David Robertson and Adam Ottavino came off the board, it had little impact on Kimbrel's situation.
Kimbrel's dream of a six-year, $100 million deal is in the rearview mirror, as is the hope to exceed Aroldis Chapman's closer-record deal of $86 million (over five years). Unless the Phillies miss out on Harper and decide to pivot to the other top free agents -- a scenario that sources believe is unlikely -- Kimbrel's best landing spots appear to be the Braves or Red Sox.
Boston's luxury tax situation makes a reunion tricky, as the Sox would be paying hefty penalties on top of whatever deal Kimbrel gets, while Atlanta has been hesitant to shell out big money since its early signing of Josh Donaldson. At this point, anything is on the table, and Kimbrel's deal could be a creative one. Perhaps Kimbrel could get a deal similar to Yoenis Céspedes' first big pact with the Mets, which was a three-year contract with an opt-out after one year, which Cespedes exercised and parlayed into a four-year, $110 million deal.

Marwin Gonzalez, IF/OF, age 30
One of the most interesting -- and versatile -- free agents this year is Gonzalez, who plays every position on the field aside from pitcher and catcher. Like Keuchel, Gonzalez would be an ideal candidate to return to the Astros, where manager AJ Hinch has had the luxury of using the flexible soon-to-be 30-year-old all over the diamond.
Of course, the Machado and Harper situations should not have been standing in the way of such a reunion, so it's likely been Gonzalez's contract requests that have been the biggest obstacle. Gonzalez -- another Boras client -- was reportedly seeking a deal similar to the four-year, $56 million contract Ben Zobrist signed with the Cubs in December 2015. That money hasn't really been there for anybody, as only one position player -- Machado -- has signed a deal worth at least $56 million.
Finding a fit for Gonzalez shouldn't be difficult; contending teams such as the Braves, Athletics and Rockies would all improve immediately with him on the roster. Finding a team to pay him what he's looking for seems to be the biggest problem for Gonzalez. Once Harper signs, perhaps the teams that miss out will give Gonzalez another look.

Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001.