At Least One Person Believes White Sox Lead Bryce Harper Sweepstakes

The Winter Meetings have largely been viewed as a slog, though much of that stems from the lack of big moves being made. Sure, the Phillies landed Andrew McCutchen and the Rays signed Charlie Morton, but the fact that it’s been all sizzle and no steak with Bryce Harper and Manny Machado dampens things a little. The latter player is still set to make team visits, so it’s Harper who continues to drive the headlines.

And while Scott Boras has been playing just as coy as ever with his prized client, there is a little more information leaking around the edges of his otherwise airtight ship. Boras refused to speak about teams’ finances when he addressed the media Wednesday, though he mentioned the Cardinals “sit[ing] of the bank of St. Louis” and how he gets along well with Jerry Reinsdorf of the White Sox.

It’s hard to imagine Boras being on great terms with a guy who’s never handed out more than $68 million to a player, but the two will be best buds if Reinsdorf wants to quintuple that figure for Harper. Ken Rosenthal wrote about that being a distinct possibility and his colleague at The Athletic, Jim Bowden, shared much of the same with CBS Sports Wednesday evening.

“Well, a frontrunner right now, believe it or not, is the Chicago White Sox,” Bowden said. “They’re the team right now with the checkbooks that open, they’re being very aggressive, they have met with Bryce Harper away from this hotel. In fact, they met at the Aria [which he pronounced like “area,” so I’m making an educated guess] resort, and they’ve done a very good job of selling.

“One of the things that they are pointing out is how good their minor league system is. So there’s a possibility the White Sox may end with the best offer — the most years, the most dollars — even though they’re not ready to win.”

I take issue with that last statement, simply because choosing to offer a contract five times larger than any you’ve ever agreed to in the past is a pretty clear signal that you want to win. And the Sox play in one of the worst divisions in baseball, one in which the recent runaway leaders are looking to sell off a ton of talent. So yeah, the Sox are saying they’re ready to win with this move.

That’s something Harper has been asking teams: Are you willing to do whatever it takes to win? Combined with a strong farm system and their lack of a true star, the Sox could present Harper with the bigger opportunity he’s seeking. Boras said his client wants to be the face of a franchise, to be part of a team he can elevate in terms of both revenue and visibility.

And let’s face it, Harper would represent the broadest nationwide marketing appeal the Sox have experienced since NWA was rocking their fitted caps in the early 90’s. So does that make him Eazy-B or Bryce Cube?

Perhaps as much as the ability to satiate Harper’s desire to further his icon status, the race to sign him may come down to attrition. The Phillies were ready to spend stupid money, but signing McCutchen may mean they’re getting smarter. Or it may mean they were made aware that Harper wasn’t going there.

“Now, I’ve said all along the best three teams for Bryce Harper are the Dodgers, the Yankees, and the Cubs,” Bowden continued. “But here’s the problem: The Yankees’ Brian Cashman has made it clear they’re not interested. Theo Epstein and the Cubs aren’t playing, they don’t have the resources to do it. And the Dodgers say they have to move a couple of outfielders before it can get done.

“The Phillies are in like the White Sox with their checkbook and they want to be aggressive. So I think when you look at it, right now we only have three teams that we know of that are willing to bid more than what the Nationals did, which was 10 years, 300 [million]. Now, although I think of the three teams the Dodgers are the best fit, we don’t know if they’re willing to play at the level Chicago is.”

There are some details in here that are a little bit lacking — the Cubs may well be playing and Harper may be waiting on them — and I don’t believe Bowden is exactly right on everything, but it’s not bad enough to make you want to ralph (that’s funnier if you get it). It may not matter if Reinsdorf is really prepared to lap the field and plop down a massive check, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how serious he is about turning the Sox into contenders.

Now if only it was even a question about whether he felt the same way about the Bulls.

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