I’m not sure why it took me this long to pull the trigger on calling this an Obsessive Watch, since it’s been obsessive since, like, 2017. I guess it’s because almost as soon as the offseason started, we were flicked in the groin with word that the Cubs were totally not gonna be able to spend significantly. That kinda woulda made being too obsessive a little tone deaf.
But then there was word that, yes, the Cubs are at least staying on the periphery of the Harper hunt, had met with Scott Boras, and had asked that they not sign anything without circling back to the Cubs first, just in case they’ve been able to move a contract or get special permission from ownership.
So, in that world, I think it’s OK for us to stay obsessive on the sliver of a chance that the Cubs turn a corner in this thing and actually emerge as serious bidders. Hey, there was a time last year – around this time, actually – when almost nobody would have bet on the Cubs landing Yu Darvish on a six-year deal.
Thus, a few notable items on Harper to add to today’s earlier mix that (1) the White Sox won’t go above seven years in an offer, and (2) Harper may take his free agency into February.
- About the White Sox, although they won’t go over seven years, Bruce Levine reports they are willing to pay an average annual value that is in line with his “elite” status.
- But the problem for the White Sox – according to Levine – is that Harper does have “offers of double-digit years and record-high average annual value during negotiations with teams recently.” You can parse the language there and come away thinking that it’s multiple offers, but only one of which is at 10 years and only one of which is at record AAVs (Zack Greinke’s $34.4 million is the current record). That is to say, I’m not so sure that’s a bombshell revelation, especially since we already know the Nationals at one time offered 10 years and $300 million.
- Speaking of the Nationals, who’d previously suggested they were mostly out on Harper after he declined that offer (and after they signed, among others, Patrick Corbin to a $140 million deal), they most certainly are not out on Harper. Jeff Passan reports that the team’s reps have had multiple meetings this offseason with Harper, and Chelsea Janes reports that Harper and Scott Boras met with team owner Ted Lerner for five hours before Christmas. That’s how Boras operates – how he’s operated specifically with respect to the Nationals, too – so it bears watching. Given their extreme future payroll commitments thanks to oddly structured contracts, I really tend to doubt the Nationals top the market on Harper. But we’ll see.
- The Phillies, who infamously did not meet with Harper at the Winter Meetings despite their obvious interest, are now planning to have a face-to-face meeting within the next week or so in Las Vegas (NBC). Given that the Phillies are awaiting a decision from Manny Machado, it makes you wonder if they don’t love their chances on that front. (He’s totally signing with the Yankees. I mean, it’s not actually out there yet, but … it’s happening.)
- I’d say that Harper might not like being the Phillies’ back-up plan, but that’s kinda how he and Boras have set up their winter: to be the last guy at the table, letting teams that have missed out on other opportunities build the market.