Last night, Bruce Levine wrote, “A future marriage between superstar outfielder Bryce Harper and the Cubs seems inevitable.”
That was how Levine introduced an article about how a fit between the club and the free agent makes sense, and in which revealed an expectation that the sought bidding for Harper will begin at 10 years and $350 million. Given how important the contract will be in this kind of pursuit – it’s not as if wanting the player, in isolation, is in question – that’s where I focused my attention last night, and then we dove deeper into the Cubs’ payroll situation today.
The line about the “inevitable” marriage between Harper and the Cubs, well, I took it mostly as atmospherics.
But that’s not to say Levine writes these things out of whole cloth, a point he reiterated on the radio with 670’s Laurence Holmes, in an interview you can listen to right here.
“I talk to a lot of people … and I try not to make things up,” Levine told Holmes of his article. “I try to write off of the perception, knowledge, and background that other people give me. So I’m not saying that anybody from the Cubs told me flat-out that they’re going after Bryce Harper, but I can tell you that everything that you can look at right now points to the fact that Bryce Harper would be the perfect guy to add to the Cubs team and that offense going into next year.”
In other words, while Levine is careful not to say he’s reporting a direct indication of intent from the Cubs … he’s heard what he’s heard. Given the logical fit, the obvious need for an impact bat on offense, and everything that Theo Epstein said at his season-ending press conference, it would be a totally reasonable guess to make that the Cubs are going to pursue Harper. But I don’t get the sense from Levine that this is simply guesswork.
Levine went on to point out that he doesn’t see a financial issue for the Cubs in pursuing Harper thanks to the creativity of the front office and the coming TV network deal, the Cubs will have “enough resources to pull off this and other things down the road.”
You should listen to the whole interview for Levine’s perspective on why Harper makes so much sense for the Cubs, not only because of the need on offense but also because of the “WWE” entertainment value he could provide for the new Cubs network. There really isn’t any hedging on the question of whether Harper is a guy the Cubs will legitimately pursue.
I also want to remind folks of something Theo Epstein said after the Cubs signed Yu Darvish to his monster deal, and Epstein was asked about how limiting that might be for the club going forward: “If you look at our needs, knock on wood if we can stay healthy and productive for the most part through our roster, everybody’s back and for the next few years. We shouldn’t have tremendous needs. But we have some work to do to make sure we’re in position to be able to pounce if 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.”
Was Epstein explicitly talking about Harper (or Manny Machado) at that time? Maybe not. But there’s little doubt that he was talking about players and opportunities like Harper (or Machado).
We can’t tell you as we sit here today that the Cubs will definitely ultimately land Bryce Harper, and our look at the payroll situation should underscore for you that it will take some creativity to make it happen in any case. But I think it’s clear at this point, if it wasn’t already, that these are conversations that are going to be had. This is one of those things that is almost certainly going to become an Obsessive Watch. It’s real.