Manny machado Dodgers Phillies
Manny Machado #8 of the Los Angeles Dodgers slides safely into third base after hitting a triple in the seventh inning during a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on July 23, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Dodgers won 7-6. Hunter Martin/Getty Images

The race for both Bryce Harper and Manny Machado appears to be heating up with spring training already underway. The Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago White Sox and San Diego Padres are all in play for the two star free agents, meaning at least one of the three teams will fail to sign either player.

Harper will probably end up with the larger contract, possibly one that surpasses the $325 million deal Giancarlo Stanton received a few years ago. Machado might be forced to settled for less than $300 million.

But just because Harper might get paid more money, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s the preferred player among the front offices that are pursuing the 26-year-olds. According to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, the infielder is actually the No.1 choice of all three teams that are in both the Bryce Harper and Manny Machado Sweepstakes.

It’s been well-documented that Machado is Chicago’s No.1 target this offseason. The White Sox have been favored to land the four-time All-Star, but the Padres seem to be a real threat with the recent report San Diego might have offered him as much as $280 million.

At the start of the offseason, the general consensus appeared to be that the Phillies prefered Machado to Harper. Philadelphia has been the favorite to sign Harper since they met with the outfielder a little over a month ago, though that might be the result of ownership hoping to land the biggest name on the market.

There is a debate to be had regarding whether Machado or Harper is the better player. Machado has been a more consistent performer in recent seasons, while Harper’s best year dwarfs Machado’s peak.

What can’t be argued is the difference in star power. Harper is among the most popular players in baseball. As good as Machado is, he isn’t on the same level as the former No.1 overall draft pick.

That could force ownership in Philadelphia and San Diego to make bigger offers for Harper. It’s been reported that the Padres are interested in the marketing opportunities Harper could provide. When Phillies’ owner John Middleton said earlier this offseason the team could be “stupid” about the money the organization spends, he might have had Harper in mind.

Former MLB general manager Jim Bowden recently reported for CBS Sports that the Phillies could be on the verge of signing Harper to the largest contract in history.