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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?

Pirates hire Ben Cherington as their new general manager

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The Pittsburgh Pirates have hired Ben Cherington as the team’s new general manager. They do so after the general manager meetings ended, but better late than never.

Cherington served as GM of the Boston Red Sox for four years, winning the World Series in 2013, but resigned during the 2015 season after Dave Dombrowski was named Boston’s new president of baseball operations. Which was a defacto demotionn for Cherington who, until then, had the final say in baseball decisions. Dombrowski, of course, was fired late in the season this year. Cherington went on to work for the Toronto Blue Jays as a vice president, but was seen as biding his time for another GM position. Now he has one.

Cherington takes over in Pittsburgh for executive vice president and general manager Neal Huntington, who was fired after a 12 years at the helm. Also fired was team president Frank Coonelly. Travis Williams replaced Coonelly recently. While the Pirates experienced a few years of contention under Huntington and Coonelly, they have slid out of contention in recent years as the club has traded away promising players for little return, all while cutting payroll. There’s a very big rebuilding job ahead of Cherington.

The first move he’ll have to make: hire a manager, as the team still hasn’t replaced Clint Hurdle since he was dismissed in the final weekend of the regular season.