Headlines that makes you go hmmmmmmm …
I was at a wedding on Saturday night, when news broke that the Cubs had met with Bryce Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, for up to three hours at the Winter Meetings and I was actually pretty surprised (and excited) to hear it.
I wasn’t as shocked at the other part of the report – Theo Epstein asked Boras and Harper not to sign any dotted lines before checking back in – because I assumed that was the least they’d consider. Still, meeting for three hours … that’s a thing. That’s notable. That requires prep work and time and planning and execution. You can make a call anytime and say “Hey, let us know before you sign somewhere,” but meeting for several hours? Again, I just think that’s a bigger deal.
The only reason I didn’t really lose my mind is because these reports came just a day after the Dodgers traded away two outfielders opening up roster spots and financial flexibility in the process. I had all but accepted a long-expected fate: Los Angeles just makes so much sense for Harper.
Maybe we shouldn’t give up so easily.
Jon Heyman was on MLB Network earlier today and the vibe of his gut check is Maybe it’s too soon to count the Cubs out:
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) December 26, 2018
I don’t think it’s much of a revelation (on the surface) to say the Cubs odds of landing Harper have increased over the offseason, given the way things have gone with the Nationals (who had their initial offer rebuked by Harper and then made several other, expensive moves), the Phillies (who’ve spent money elsewhere and have brought in outfielder Andrew McCutchen), the Yankees (who strongly prefer Manny Machado over any outfielder, let alone Harper), and the White Sox (who don’t want to hand out any record contracts).
But there’s more to Heyman’s reporting than than that.
It’s easy to look at those other four teams and say the Cubs chances have improved since the start of the offseason, but that’d be ignoring the big blue powerhouse in Los Angeles. So was it just a hot take from Heyman, or even an accidental oversight?
Well, not if you can take him at his word: “At this point, I thought it might be the Dodgers, but I think it might be more likely that it would be the Cubs that would look at Harper.”
Before we get too excited, we have to pump the brakes with a big, familiar caveat: sometimes the media is used to share certain points of view that can help one side or the other gain leverage. In this case, it’s not too difficult to imagine a world where things are getting hot with the Dodgers, but cool everywhere else. So Boras feeds Heyman a line about the Cubs increasing interest to put pressure on L.A. to up their offer. Just as an example.
But it’s not like Heyman doesn’t explain himself, either. In his opinion, the Dodgers’ salary and roster clearing moves don’t necessarily have to do with Harper. He says they’re still looking at a trade for J.T. Realmuto and/or one of the Cleveland starters (which does track with the winter’s rumors), and that could’ve been the impetus for the Reds deal, not Harper.
At the same time, Heyman acknowledges that a trade like that is something the Cubs are still looking to do before they can seriously consider Harper. But he does seem to believe that if they can pull it off – perhaps something with Jason Heyward, like Brett suggested earlier this morning – they’d immediately become the favorites.
EITHER WAY, Heyman ends his bit by reaffirming his earlier point: he’s leaning Cubs over Dodgers for Bryce Harper as of today. And that’s not a bad post-Christmas present, eh?