PHILADELPHIA -- And we wait.
Manny Machado or Bryce Harper? The front office's choice or the people's choice? The Phillies need just one, but Phillies fans starved for a resolution to the seemingly endless Machado and Harper sweepstakes have taken to the Internet recently to find meaning in cryptic tweets, photos and even place stock in fake Twitter accounts because, well, people just want something to believe.
• Hot Stove Tracker
Eventually, both players will find a home. But unless something dramatic happens in the next three days, this process will carry into February. At this point, it is not a stretch to think the Phillies will have their first pitchers and catchers workout in Clearwater, Fla., on Feb. 13 with players still wondering if Machado or Harper will be their teammate in 2019. (For sanity's sake, let's have everything settled by March 1, OK?) Machado's top contenders seem to be the Phillies, White Sox and Padres. Harper's top contenders still seem to be the Phillies, White Sox and Nationals.
A source recently reiterated that the Phillies will not sign both players, although crazier things have happened.
And at this point, isn't this entire thing pretty crazy?
Are any mystery teams out there? Maybe. That possibility only figures to increase the longer Machado and Harper remain on the market. Will either player score a $300 million contract? Will both of them? Maybe. Nobody other than the teams, players and agents truly know that. Machado's agent, Dan Lozano, made that point a couple of weeks ago, when he denied multiple reports that the White Sox had offered Machado a relatively paltry seven-year, $175 million deal.
Just a couple of days later, reports emerged that Machado had more than one mystery team involved, and that one of those teams had the biggest offer on the table.
Still, the Phillies remain in the strongest position to sign Machado or Harper, mystery teams or not. In fact, they remain optimistic they will. Machado has been the front office's No. 1 choice since the beginning of the offseason because of his combination of offense and defense, but Harper has his fans inside the organization. Harper had a strong showing a couple of weekends ago in Las Vegas, sources said. Phillies manager Gabe Kapler has said a couple of times he enjoyed his time with Harper, for what it's worth.
But Harper's agent, Scott Boras, and Lozano apparently have not seen an offer they can't refuse as they search for record-breaking contracts.
The sooner the Phillies get one of these players into camp the better. If they sign Machado, they are likely to trade third baseman Maikel Franco. If the Phillies sign Harper, they are likely to trade an outfielder like Nick Williams or Odubel Herrera.
The more time the Phillies have to trade one of those players the better.
Plus, once Machado or Harper are signed, the Phillies can evaluate the remaining free-agent landscape. Is left-hander Dallas Keuchel, closer Craig Kimbrel or third baseman Mike Moustakas still available? If so, have their prices dropped? The Phillies are not moving forward with other potential moves until they figure out what's happening with Machado and Harper.
The sooner these two superstars are signed the better it will be for everybody.