The Cubs had serious offensive problems in the second half this year, you say? The offense “broke” at some point, you say? Change is needed to address the problems, you say?
Even if it weren’t for the public toying last year, and heck, even if it weren’t for the offensive problems the Cubs faced this season, I would still be sitting here telling you at this moment that it makes all the sense in the world for the Cubs to take a serious run at free agent Bryce Harper.
Harper turns just 26 years old later this month, and has already demonstrated the kind of offensive ability that is utterly transformative for a lineup. The opportunity to get a player like that at that age for only money – albeit lots and lots of money – comes along maybe once in a decade (or twice, if it just so happens that a guy like Manny Machado hits the market the same year). An organization like the Chicago Cubs should always, always be in on a player like that.
But a lot of teams should be in on a player like that, and surely the Cubs are no more a favorite than the deeper-pocketed Dodgers, the primed-to-strike Phillies or Braves, or the why-would-you-ever-count-them-out Yankees, right?
Or are they:
Updated odds for which team Bryce Harper will be on for the first game of 2019 (@BovadaOfficial):
— OddsShark (@OddsShark) October 4, 2018
WOW. Those odds make the Cubs a very, very strong favorite in the eyes of Bovada. For those among you who are not gamblers (I am not, myself, so I had to ask a friend), even means if you bet $100 on the Cubs signing Harper, you’d win $100 if they did. By contrast, the NEXT CLOSEST TEAM would net you $600 on that $100 bet! The odds are more or less saying the Cubs signing Harper is a coin flip right now.
To be sure, betting odds do NOT tell you everything about what the underlying likeliness of an event is, let alone tell you what is actually going to happen. But the market does have a distilling effect, because, as much as we might think Cubs fans skew these odds with their bets, there tends to be a LOT of money involved in the betting … and gamblers don’t like to lose on stupid bets.
At a minimum, these odds are telling us that the marketplace of opinions on Harper right now views the Cubs as a very serious favorite relative to other teams.
I won’t go that far, myself, because it’s still very early and there are so many other teams involved, but I will reiterate that I’ve always thought the Cubs would at least seriously explore this possibility of signing Harper, given his age and impact potential, given their resources, and given where they are in their competitive window. Even when the Cubs signed Yu Darvish to a huge deal this year, there was an explicit reservation by Theo Epstein that the signing did not foreclose the Cubs from another big signing this offseason if, in his words, “a certain great fit or just the right special player happens to become available, or somebody wants to be in Chicago and something becomes too good to turn down, too impactful or too good to deal would mean too much to the team, we just have to work hard to get in position to do that. Rosters are flexible, payrolls are flexible.”
We’ll have much more on Harper’s expected contract, his performance in 2018 and before, and his fit with the Cubs, very soon. It, uh, is kinda gonna be an important part of this offseason – like it or lump it.