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Bryce Harper, not Manny Machado, should be Phillies’ top free-agent choice | Extra Innings

If you're picking between Harper and Machado, Machado's week has been troubling enough to make Harper the favorite.

Bryce Harper (left) and Manny Machado, the biggest fish in the soon-to-open free-agent market.
Bryce Harper (left) and Manny Machado, the biggest fish in the soon-to-open free-agent market.Read moreAP

Another Phillies-less postseason rolls along, and the team's high-stakes offseason creeps closer. Before the Phillies try to make a free-agent splash, perhaps you're noticing some of the familiar faces playing in October. Charlie Morton — remember him? —  started for the Astros on Wednesday night. Potential future Phillies shortstop Manny Machado kept his feet to himself and Ryan Madson pitched in the ninth inning for the Dodgers. Oh, and Chase Utley is a win away from ending his career in the World Series. He's not on the Dodgers' postseason roster, but a World Series would still be a neat sendoff.

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If the Phillies have a choice, choose Bryce Harper

The Phillies will open their vault — you can't fit $300 million in a wallet — shortly after the end of the World Series and hope that Bryce Harper or Manny Machado dives in like Scrooge McDuck.

The decision of who dives in will likely not be made by the Phillies, as they'll be happy to have Machado or Harper swimming in their riches and wearing red pinstripes next season. But Machado offered enough concern this week that the Phillies should hope that Harper is the one who takes their offer.

Both are phenomenal talents. Both are superstars. Harper loves hitting in South Philly, ended the season on a tear, and would likely help Rhys Hoskins' case for a return to first base. Machado is a win away from the World Series, has at least 33 homers in each of the last four seasons, and would likely push Scott Kingery back to second base.

Machado and Harper bring obvious benefits. Both would move the needle for a franchise that is desperate for buzz. But if you're determining a preference, it's hard to give Machado $300 million after he said Tuesday that hustling out an infield grounder "is not my cup of tea."

"I'm not the type of player that's going to be Johnny Hustle," Machado said on a pregame interview with Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal.

If you're picking between Harper and Machado, Machado's week has been troubling enough to make Harper the favorite. Machado had a pair of questionable slides into second base, was fined by Major League Baseball for appearing to kick the leg of Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar, and was labeled a "dirty player" by Christian Yelich.

And then he says he's not Johnny Hustle. Imagine him saying next season, while wearing a Phillies hat, that hustling is not his cup of tea. Machado would make Ricky Watters look like Allen Iverson. Harper has also had his battles with hustling, but he never discussed his preference of tea. The Phillies are roughly a month from beginning their quest to make Harper or Machado the highest-paid player in Philadelphia sports history. Machado would be a great catch. But he is shaping up to be a fine consolation to Harper's grand prize.

The rundown

Here's a name to know: Luis Garcia. No, not the barber turned maddening reliever. This Luis Garcia is the Phillies' premier infield prospect. Bob Brookover began his three-part series on the Phillies' minor-league system with a look at the infielders, and Garcia, as one scout told Brooky, is "going to be a player." The 17-year-old shortstop had a .921 OPS in the Gulf Coast League and is the second-biggest international free-agent signing in team history.

If you like history, you'll love this story by Frank Fitzpatrick, as he took us back this week to what might be Philadelphia's first sports bar. Charlie Quinn's Deep Right Field Cafe, located just outside Connie Mack Stadium, was the place to be. The bar was frequented by ballplayers, politicians, scribes, gamblers, and team employees. The owner, as remembered in the Daily News after his death, was "as Irish as a six-pack." Xfinity Live has nothing on the Deep Right Field Cafe.

The Phillies offseason can be boiled down to five crucial questions, which Scott Lauber tried to answer. The most interesting one is: Who's untouchable? Lauber said only Aaron Nola and Rhys Hoskins. That means the 2019 Phillies could look quite different from the 2018 Phillies.

Important dates

Tonight: Red Sox at Astros in ALCS Game 5, 8:09 p.m.
Tomorrow: Dodgers at Brewers in NLCS Game 6, 8:39 p.m.
Oct. 23: World Series begins.
Nov. 6: General managers meetings begin in Carlsbad, Calif.
Dec. 9: Winter meetings begin in Las Vegas.

Stat of the day

Rhys Hoskins joined Alex Bregman, Jose Ramirez, Matt Carpenter, and Paul Goldschmidt as the only players this season to have at least 75 extra-base hits and 85 walks. Hoskins led the majors in pitches per plate appearance with 4.42 and was seventh in walks with 87. The Phillies love Hoskins' ability to stay disciplined and hit for power. And that adoration should lead the Phillies to Harper, who led the majors in walks with 130 and averaged 4.19 pitches per plate appearance. He also stays disciplined and can hit for power.

From the mailbag

Send questions by email or on Twitter @matt_breen.

Question: With the Phillies in need of starting pitching, what are the odds they make a run at [Clayton] Kershaw (if he opts out)? What kind of terms would they offer? — Frank M. via email

Answer: Thanks, Frank. Kershaw has to decide 10 days after the World Series if he wants to opt out of the final two years of his contract, which are worth a combined $65 million. That's a lot of money, and Zack Greinke is the only pitcher to have a higher average annual value than $32.5 million. I think Kershaw will opt in on his deal, but if he does opt out, I can see him signing a new deal with the Dodgers that is longer than two seasons. He has played his entire career in LA, the Dodgers are positioned to win, and they have the money to keep him. The pitcher the Phillies should go heavily after is Diamondbacks lefthander Patrick Corbin. And I think they will.