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Why Isn’t Anyone Bidding for Bryce Harper and Manny Machado?


Bryce Harper is among the best players in baseball. Why can’t he get a contract befitting his status?CreditCreditRob Carr/Getty Images


Just for kicks, I listened as Brodie Van Wagenen, the Mets’ general manager, went on about signing the oft-injured 35-year-old second baseman Jed Lowrie and reporters sounded entranced by his jive.
Have you, they asked, thought of bidding on outfielder Bryce Harper or infielder Manny Machado, the two young star free agents who improbably have attracted not much attention this winter?
Van Wagenen, a smooth-talking agent who has become a smooth-talking general manager, smiled genially. “Let’s be candid here,” he said. “The outfield is probably not our top priority at this point.” Jeff McNeil, a career minor leaguer until last July, was going out to the outfield, Van Wagenen said, and “he gives us another really good weapon.”
That the Mets, a little market club hard by Flushing Bay, will play it cheap is a well-established fact. But Van Wagenen speaks the management palaver of choice this parsimonious winter. No one wants to spend money.
The Cubs, the Yankees, the Dodgers, the Giants, the Cardinals, the Braves, the Rangers and the Angels — all have apparently passed on making a bid for Harper and Machado. Each franchise is owned by a wealthy man (or family) in a wealth-laden sport and all could presumably find a place in the lineup for one of these young stars. And yet for the second season in a row, at a time of the off-season when the best free agents typically would have already signed handsome new contracts, most owners have tucked away their wallets and claimed to need no more talent.
Candidly, Van Wagenen’s reasoning for the Mets’ disinterest is good for a giggle. McNeil is a late-blooming minor league second baseman who in a few nice months in the majors hit three home runs and knocked in 19 runs. He’s a career infielder without a career to speak of.
Harper, by way of no comparison, last season hit 34 home runs, walked 130 times, scored 103 runs and knocked in 100. He is a former rookie of the year and league M.V.P., and he’s all of 26. To suggest you will pass on Harper in hopes that McNeil finds his outfield legs is — with no offense intended to the McNeil family — whacked.
Machado and Harper are not the only quality free agents left flapping in the wind. Dallas Keuchel, a good starting pitcher, and Mike Moustakas, a fine third baseman who hit 28 homers last year, have elicited little interest. Craig Kimbrel, that world champion Red Sox closer with 42 saves? Give him a call, he’d probably like to chat. Yasmani Grandal, the best catcher on the market, was expected to command a multiyear contract. He could scrounge up no better than a one-year, $16 million deal with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Manny Machado helped the Dodgers get to the World Series last season. Like Harper, he remains unsigned.CreditRichard Mackson/USA Today Sports, via Reuters
The Major League Baseball Players Association projects at least 12 of baseball’s 32 teams will start 2019 with a “substantially lower payroll” than 2018. Only four or five are expected to show a significant increase. “Players are well past ‘concerned,’” Bruce Meyer, the union’s director of collective bargaining, told me. “At a time when industry revenues and club valuations are growing for the second straight off-season, an alarming number of clubs are declining to compete for the many talented players.”
Source - NYTimes

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