Franco was hurt in September, not benched. (I believe he was already hurt, and then got hurt again/in a different place on that diving play). He was not especially good in August though (he wasn't the only one, of course). You can certainly give him another shot if you don't get Harper but he's no reason not to get Machado. Arguably Williams and Quinn are a more compelling reason not to get Harper over Machado. They offer younger, probably better and cheaper/more controllable talent than Franco does.
And waiting for the next big FA is a risky game. Also, they need to improve the current team and the long-term now. Machado does that w/o the draft pick, and also improves the defense. Harper costs you a draft pick and doesn't significantly improve the defense. Pollock costs you the draft pick and doesn't necessarily improve you that much. And as Andy noted this year's Big Two also don't hurt you five-six years down the line because of their age (though there are other players like Betts and Bogaerts and obviously Trout who will offer that too).
Honestly, I don't know why people feel frustrated or impatient - if they signed Machado and Keuchel tomorrow what would we talk about for the next five weeks? But also, what purpose would a signing deadline actually serve and how would that even work? Unemployed players are no longer eligible to be on a roster after that? A trade deadline involves players who are under contract and artificially manipulating internal league business. The off-season is a (somewhat) free market.
(Also, c'mon, what journalist can seriously suggest that? Shorten the hot stove enough and media outlets wouldn't even have to employ baseball writers for 12 months a year).