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When will Bryce Harper, Manny Machado sign?

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Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that Manny Machado will meet with the Phillies’ brass in Philadelphia next week. George King of the New York Post, meanwhile, says that he may very well meet with the Yankees next week as well, in what is apparently an east coast tour. Beyond those two teams, the White Sox have expressed an interest in Machado and are expected to meet with him as well.

The other big star free agent is Bryce Harper, or course. He reportedly held court in a hotel suite a bit father north up the Las Vegas Strip from the Winter Meetings with his agent, taking meetings with officials from various teams. Proof, I guess, that meetings are not an immediate precursor to a signing.

At this point one wonders if the top two talents on the market will sign before Christmas. If they don’t, it’ll be fairly unusual. Not unheard-of, of course. Last year’s infamously slow free agent market meant that its top two players — Yu Darvish and J.D. Martinez — waited until February to ink deals. One other in recent years — Max Scherzer — did not sign until January.

For the most part, however, we’re at about the time the big free agents sign. See, for example, the signing dates of the top two free agents, per MLB Trade Rumors’ ratings, over the past six offseasons:

December 15 is a popular date! Last year that was on the Friday after the Winter Meetings, in fact, which is . . . today!

Any chance you wanna cancel those meetings for next week and cut to the chase, Manny?

Ketel Marte shut down with back injury

Ketel Marte
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With just over a week left in the regular season, the Diamondbacks have elected to shut down infielder/outfielder Ketel Marte. Marte has been dealing with some lower back inflammation and stiffness over the last few days; on Friday, the team revealed that he was diagnosed with a stress reaction as well.

It doesn’t look as though the injury will compromise Marte’s 2020 campaign, but as Craig noted on Wednesday, his absence will likely have some effect on his NL MVP candidacy. The 25-year-old will wrap his first All-Star season with a .329/.389/.592 batting line, 32 home runs, a .981 OPS, and a staggering, career-best 7.1 fWAR through 628 plate appearances.

Marte told reporters Thursday that the back pain had been an issue “for the past two months,” though he didn’t comment on the severity of the injury. Despite his ability to play through the pain since July, the issue has clearly escalated in the last week or so. Although the loss of their most valuable contributor may have a negative impact on the D-backs’ chances of competing in the postseason, it’s undeniably a wise move to let Marte recuperate rather than pushing him to play for another week and running the risk of further injury.

Entering Friday’s series against the Padres — their last road series of the regular season — Arizona still has a sizable gap to close in order to earn one of two NL wild card spots. They’re five games out of postseason contention, with the Nationals, Brewers, Cubs, Mets, and Phillies ahead of them.