- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Two superstars entered Major League Baseball free agency together. Each started last season for a team in the Baltimore-Washington corridor, each of them is just 26 years young and each was anticipated to command a record-breaking contract.

Manny Machado finally has a new team. Bryce Harper is still out there.

Machado agreed to sign a 10-year, $300 million deal with the San Diego Padres on Tuesday, according to multiple reports. The deal ended a months-long free agency for the former Baltimore Orioles third baseman and shortstop.

When the infielder officially signs, it will be the largest free agent contract in the history of North American team sports. Only one player — Yankees outfielder Giancarlo Stanton — earns a higher total dollar value, at $325 million over 13 years. But he signed that deal as an extension with his old team, the Miami Marlins, in 2014.

Many analysts expected Harper to sign first and topple the Machado domino. Instead, Machado was the first to sign — for the same salary and contract length that Harper reportedly rejected from the Washington Nationals in September.

Harper remained unsigned as of Tuesday afternoon, but the Machado deal will affect the outfielder’s market. Baseball insiders reported that three teams were pursuing both Harper and Machado — the Padres, the Philadelphia Phillies and the Chicago White Sox.

The Phillies, long seen as the favorites to land Harper, entered the offseason with their owner saying they wanted to spend “a little bit stupid” in free agency. If they sign neither Machado nor Harper, many Phillies fans might see the offseason as a lost opportunity.

Machado signing elsewhere puts Philadelphia in a Harper-or-bust position, which could give Harper leverage to raise his asking price.

Reporters in Chicago said that the White Sox thought they gave Machado his highest offer, and executive vice president Kenny Williams told the press, “I’m wearing my shades so you can’t see the shock in my eyes.”

Williams added Chicago could not match or outdo the Padres‘ $300 million offer — which likely signifies the White Sox won’t be able to land Harper, either.

The San Francisco Giants might also be in on the Harper sweepstakes after it was reported they met with the star outfielder around Feb. 6.

Meanwhile, Machado joins a rebuilding Padres team that went 66-96 last season and have not reached the National League playoffs since 2006, the third-longest active postseason drought in the major leagues.

Machado spent almost seven seasons with the Orioles before Baltimore traded him to the Los Angeles Dodgers last July. He hit 37 home runs and had a .297 batting average in 2018.

Machado’s agreement includes a player opt-out clause after 2023, the fifth year.

The San Diego news broke on the same day the Padres‘ positional players had their first workout of spring training, a reminder that it took all winter for one of the best players in baseball to find the right team and negotiate a contract.

For Harper, the wait continues, but Machado’s deal could be the domino that finally helps him move next.

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