The heat is on: The biggest ‘hot stove’ rumors for MLB’s winter hibernation

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Picture this — Bryce Harper proudly wearing the historic navy pinstripes of the New York Yankees. Now picture Manny Machado with a white and red jersey and a cursive “W” on his helmet. A trade of team colors, a trade of leagues — player transactions that will go down in history and likely turn the tides of baseball for seasons to come.

Every offseason is marked by a frenzy of trades and free agency rumors, but this year is looking to be particularly tumultuous, with indomitable players and postseason heroes such as the aforementioned big names on the market. Some clubs are looking to rebuild while others are looking to score big by landing free agents with potent skills in all facets of the game.

Machado, after finishing a historic World Series run with the Los Angeles Dodgers and entering into free agency, has just about every sensible team vying for him. There’s a slim chance that he’ll be returning to the Blue Crew, though, and he is most definitely not returning to the Baltimore Orioles, baseball’s equivalent of that one ex you just want to forget about completely.

The Yankees are ready to capitalize on Machado’s bachelor status, but other teams seem poised to do the same — the Philadelphia Phillies are also contenders in what will undoubtedly be a very contentious market.

Machado is expected to earn a paycheck somewhere in the vicinity of $390 million across 10 years for his diverse set of services. But despite his utility, a major concern of many clubs pursuing him is whether or not he will be a good emotional fit for the team.

Machado is a firecracker, and being managed by Gabe Kapler, who had a hell of a time trying to manage the Phillies sans the player known as “El Ministro de Defensa,” would be quite a spectacle — one that could cost the club its integrity.

Both teams from Chicago look like they might be good fits for Machado — the Cubs have an opening at shortstop now that Addison Russell is suspended, and the White Sox are actively rearranging their outfield in order to make some space for Machado.

Each club seems to have the energy to handle Machado, and each could benefit from his skills. The Sox have the cash and the Cubs have more pressing issues, so if Machado is moving to Chi-Town, it’ll likely be to the South Side.

Harper, the slugging star of the Washington Nationals and rightful winner of the 2018 Home Run Derby, on the other hand, could very well return home to Washington despite other lucrative options available to him.

Harper found fame with the Nationals and has only ever played for them in the majors; needless to say, he’s the face of the franchise and a beloved hometown hero for D.C. fans. It’s rumored, however, that the Nationals will only be offering Harper $300 million for 10 years whereas other clubs, such as the Yankees, might bid on him for $350-$400 million for the same amount of time.

The teams in hot pursuit of Harper include the Yankees, the Phillies and the rather unexpected White Sox and San Francisco Giants. While the Giants will likely spend their hefty purse filling positions such as starting pitcher, outfielder and jack-of-all-trades, the White Sox might actually be trading their own players to make room for Harper in the outfield.

The Sox need Harper’s charisma just as much as the Phillies seem to — neither team has a poster child quite like him, but the Phillies seem ready to do whatever it takes to sign the 26-year-old free agent.

The Yankees seem to be playing coy with Harper, claiming that their main interest is also filling other gaps on their current roster. They would, however, likely offer Harper a good deal of money to make the move to New York if they end up acquiring some much-needed pitching help first.

While Harper and Machado are the two high-profile stars on the market, there are dozens of others notable players who might be getting changes of scenery. The Cubs have teased the idea of trading Kris Bryant, and Nathan Eovaldi’s incredible postseason work opened dozens of doors for him, though staying with the recently crowned Red Sox wouldn’t be a bad move, either.

No matter who ends up where and how much money they are paid to go there, the 2019 season seems light years away, and there is plenty of time for attitudes to shift all across the league. One thing is sure, however — whichever lucky teams score Harper and Machado will likely be forces to reckon with come springtime.

Emily Ohman writes for Bear Bytes, the Daily Californian’s sports blog. Contact her at [email protected].