Around this time last year, rumor and speculation had it that Chicago Cubs were totally gonna Bryce Harper this offseason, while their corner-turning, South-side neighbors, the White Sox, were expected to seriously pursue Manny Machado. Both players fit well into each team’s core, and both teams were supposed to have the money.
Well, a lot can change in a year. Maybe.
About 365 turns of the Earth later, and rumors have it that the Cubs will be restricted in their offseason spending, and the White Sox may have pivoted off of Manny Machado. But unlike the Cubs, the White Sox might not be moving off Machado for financial reasons. Itstead, it seems as though their hearts may simply be set elsewhere at the moment.
A picture has been circulating around the internet, turning some heads, and creating some real intrigue:
That is Bryce Harper’s name, Bryce Harper’s uniform number, and a White Sox logo illuminating the LED banner at the United Center here in Chicago. Now, before you misunderstand the significance of this: I am very confident that no signing has taken place or is imminent. That feels obvious at this point, but I just want to get ahead of that. This is not a SURPRISE IT’S DONE situation.
So what does it mean?
Well, in case you’re unaware, the United Center plays host to the Chicago Bulls, a professional hoopsie ball team owned by Jerry Reinsdorf, who also happens to own the Chicago White Sox. So that’s the “how” of the connection, but what we still need to uncover is the “Why?”
Well, given the picture above, I think it’s fairly easy (and accurate) to guess that this was/will be used as part of a promotional video to try to entice Harper to come to the Sox*. Join our team, and you’re an instant star across the city – with our other teams, too! These sort of tactics have grown increasingly common over the past few years, but we rarely (for obvious reasons) get to see them.
So what’s the takeaway? That’s easy: unless this is some kind of prank or technician having fun (possible, I suppose), the White Sox are probably preparing to seriously pursue Bryce Harper. And knowing that he reportedly turned down something in the 10-year/$300M range already (from a team and city he admittedly loves, no less), it’s fair to surmise the White Sox are willing to commit to a deal far beyond anything they’ve ever done before.
And why not? For all the reasons Manny Machado made sense for the White Sox, Harper could, as well. They’re both young, they’re both stars, they can both instantly transform an offense and jumpstart a team from on-the-verge rebuilder to contender. We can argue whether one fits better positionally, but there are reasons to like both. The only notable distinction I can muster is that Machado may cost a lot less than Harper, but the White Sox have plenty of unused payroll space and a glaring need for that cornerstone piece to pair with a very young crop of talent. I always thought that guy would be Machado, but maybe not.
Wait, let me try that ending again, I came up with something better.
I always thought Harper would end up in Chicago, and maybe he still will.
Wait, wait, one more time.
Eat at Arby’s.
*White Sox Pitcher Michael Kopech wears #34 and recently posted this ballad about how his number is “more than just a number” on his Instagram page, and how much it means to him. That post has since been deleted, but it’s not hard to imagine the White Sox approaching him to see if he’d accept a number change in order to offer that number to Bryce Harper.
I know it was deleted but that United Center graphic that was posted with the ticker showing "Bryce Harper #34" and a Sox logo gets more interesting to me in light of Kopech's Instagram caption. My guess: The Sox approached Kopech for permission to offer #34 to Bryce. pic.twitter.com/RuXTHlzIYr
— Patrick Nolan (@SoxMach_pnoles) November 8, 2018