Major League Baseball’s free agent period officially began on Saturday. Experts have billed this year’s class of free agents as the most talented pool of players ever and the Philadelphia Phillies are expected to be major players in the market.
Some teams have spent years budgeting and waiting for this year’s free agent class to come around, but none are more motivated than the Philadelphia Phillies – who according to Bovada are planning to spend a lot of money shopping this winter.
The two prized jewels of this year’s class are young sluggers Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, both boasting extensive MLB resumes at just 26 years old.
According to Bovada, the Phillies have the best odds to land both young superstars. Philadelphia’s chances to sign Harper are EVEN and their odds to sign Machado are +150, according to the online sportsbook.
Harper’s New Home?
Harper, the 2015 National League MVP, is set to hit the market for the first time after spending his first seven season with the Washington Nationals. Machado spent the first six and a half years of his career as a Baltimore Oriole before the Los Angeles Dodgers traded for him midseason – helping the Dodgers win their second consecutive NL pennant.
Bovada has Harper’s odds of remaining in the nation’s capital at +400. Unfortunately for Nats fans, that puts them third – behind two NL rivals.The Phillies are followed by the Chicago Cubs, second on the list at +300.
Odds to secure Harper’s services drop off after those three leading suitors. His odds to sign with the San Francisco Giants are +750, followed by the New York Yankees at +800, Dodgers +850, and the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Angels both at +1500.
ESPN’s Buster Olney speculated that the Giants might be going “all-in” on Harper this winter.
Who Will Pay Manny’s Money?
The list of Machado’s likely landing spots looks awfully similar to Harper’s. Initially, Bovada listed the Dodgers after the Phillies on the list with +225 odds to retain Machado. However, just days later he appeared to bid farewell to the city in an Instagram post.
“I’d like to thank the Los Angeles Dodgers organization for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to play for a World Series title. Wearing that iconic Dodger Blue everyday was truly an honor…To the Dodger Faithful…Thank you for making my experience as a Dodger, one I will cherish forever,” Machado wrote.
The Dodgers lost to the Red Sox in five games in this year’s World Series.
If the Dodgers slide down the list, the New York Yankees, at +300 odds, have also been closely linked to Machado. After those three teams, a sharp dropoff. The odds of a Machado homecoming in Miami, where he grew up, to play for the Marlins is at +800. After that the Angels (+900), and Atlanta Braves and Nationals (both +1400) round out the most likely buyers.
Ironically, Philadelphia has the best odds to sign both players despite being the only team among their likely landing spots whose 2018 payroll did not rank among the top 10 in the MLB. Of the 30 teams, the Phillies had the 23rd highest payroll in baseball last season, and enter free agency with the 19th highest payroll, at just under $69 million.
Both players will likely command contracts worth above $30 million annually. Angels outfielder Mike Trout was the highest paid position player in baseball last year with a $32.3 million salary.
One of the biggest names of this year’s free agent class never made it there. Dodgers left-handed pitcher Clayton Kershaw could have become a free agent by exercising an opt-out clause in his contract, but instead he chose to remain with the Dodgers through 2021 at an annual average salary of $31 million per season.
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