Manny Machado is finally off the market after the shortstop agreed a $300 million deal with the San Diego Padres on Tuesday and now all the focus has shifted on Bryce Harper – the other sought-after free agent this offseason.

Harper was always spoken off as the most sought-after among the two players with the Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago White Sox, Padres, San Francisco Giants and the Washington Nationals said to be interested in signing the outfielder. And a number of baseball experts and MLB insiders had predicted Harper will command a record-setting deal and even now multiple reports claim he will come away with a contract more than $325 million – the current record – held by Giancarlo Stanton, who signed a 13-year deal with the Miami Marlins in 2014.

However, despite many expecting interested teams to top the Machado deal when it comes to signing Harper, some signs are pointing toward the six-time All-Star being in danger of missing out on a record contract this offseason. While the Padres’ deal for Machado expected teams to be scrambling for Harper’s signature by initiating a bidding war, it has been anything but that. The White Sox, who thought they were favorites for the shortstop, have now revealed that $300 million guaranteed was beyond their means, effectively putting them out of the race Harper.

Fancred’s Jon Heyman reported Wednesday that the outfielder had turned down multiple offers of over $300 million, but no details were given about where the deals originated. The Nationals are known to have offered that figure for over 10 years before Harper entered free agency in 2018 – but it was rejected by the player.

The Washington franchise is now said to be exiting the race for Harper with MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reporting that they are unwilling to offer a “mega-deal” on the same terms as Machado. Moreover, from their initial offer roughly $100 million would have been deferred money, which would have further reduced the value of the deal.

Bryce Harper
Bryce Harper remains the biggest free agent yet to sign a deal ahead of the new season. In this picture, Harper of the Washington Nationals and National League hits his final home run to win the T-Mobile Home Run Derby at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., July 16, 2018. Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo spoke Sunday about the team being satisfied with their work in the offseason admitting they had filled all the gaps that needed to be filled – but the usual “never say never” quote was part of his briefing leaving the door ajar.

“I really like the roster that we've constructed so far," Rizzo said, as quoted on MLB.com. "I think we've filled all the gaps that we needed to fill. You never say never. You never say you're done, but we're really satisfied at this particular time in Spring Training with where we're at and the roster we have."

So that leaves two teams in the running for Harper – one being the Phillies and the other being the Giants. The latter was a recent entrant into the sweepstakes, but their willingness to offer only a short-term deal makes them outsiders leaving the former as the only true contenders.

A recent report claimed the Phillies had made an offer of $310 million for the 2015 MVP, and MLB’s Feinsand, Todd Zolecki, and Jamal Collier are expecting the Philadelphia franchise to land the outfielder. But have warned caution with the team said to be wary of bidding against themselves and paying over the odds.

Phillies owner John Middleton revealed in November the team was willing to spend "stupid money" to land their preferred targets but general manager Matt Klentak has now changed tack by admitting they will not be forced to make a move at all costs.

“I think very similar to the way we approached the Manny discussions,” Klentak said. “We will continue to proceed with other free agents that make sense for this franchise. We have to remember that there will be other free agents after this offseason."

“There will be plenty of opportunities in the future to spend money and to make our team better. We cannot allow ourselves to be put in a position where we have to do something at all costs. There’s a significant cost that we’re willing to pay to add, but we have to be willing to walk away at some point,” he added.

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