Potential for More Mystery Teams with Bryce Harper, Who Apparently Doesn’t Like Philly

Who’d have thought we’d reach a point where the latest update on Bryce Harper would be preferable to just about everything else going on in Cubdom? And maybe we’re not all there yet, but I’m a glutton for punishment and the compulsion to write means I’ve got to find fresh meat somewhere, even if it’s carrion.

As such, I happened upon Jon Heyman’s appearance with Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts on 660 WFAN out of New York. The initial portion of the conversation focused on Manny Machado‘s ongoing tour, which made stops in Chicago and New York before its current engagement in Philly.

“Everything you hear is that he’d like to be a Yankee and play in New York,” Heyman said.

The White Sox, Phillies, Yankees are being viewed as the only teams legitimately in on Machado, with the outside chance of another team swooping in from the periphery. As for Harper, however, the situation is just as murky as Scott Boras promised it would be during the Winter Meetings.

Boras also said he expected only two or three suitors at most, and the respective markets for Harper and Machado seem to overlap almost perfectly. That could start to split out a bit here soon, though.

“Well, that’s more of a mystery at this point,” Heyman said of Harper’s market. “But we know that the Phillies and the White Sox, whoever loses — it could be both of them in this — will be wanting Bryce Harper. I’ve seen people rule out the Phillies. I can’t imagine why you rule out the Phillies, other than the fact that there’s word out there that he doesn’t love Philadelphia. But I think ultimately it’s a matter of the money with most guys and they’re in the ballpark.

“The other team I think that’s kinda laying in the weeds to some degree is the Dodgers, though it has been written that they had a meeting and Magic Johnson was there in Las Vegas. But I’ve determined that Magic Johnson was not at any meeting, and I don’t even think there was a meeting to this point.”

As a point of reference, Johnson himself denied the initial report of a meeting that first appeared in a Yahoo Sports piece. That article was quickly amended to reflect the denial, so it’s odd that Heyman is presenting this as some sort of personal sleuthing, though I suppose it’s possible he was the one who reported the denial and I just missed it. Whatever, let’s move on.

“Now the Dodgers are clearly trying to trade all their outfielders except for (Cody) Bellinger and maybe not (Alex) Verdugo,” Heyman added. “Basically all their outfielders, so is that just to clear money or that to go for Harper? And I think they feel they have an advantage for Harper. He’s from Las Vegas, it is the Dodgers.

“The White Sox and the Phillies have an uphill battle on all these players because they have not won lately and they don’t have the tradition of the Dodgers or the Yankees. So don’t be shocked if the Yankees win one of these players and the Dodgers win the other. It’s very possible. And the White Sox and the Phillies are left holding the bag.”

You’ll note that only one team from Chicago was mentioned in connection with either player, and it wasn’t the Cubs. But our focus here being what it is, I’d be remiss if I didn’t somehow wriggle my way into finding how the Cubs actually do fit in here.

Heyman reiterated that there’s a “sense that Harper doesn’t really wanna go [to Philly],” an idea that gained a good deal of traction when the Phillies opted to sign Andrew McCutchen for $50 million over three years. Even if such a deal doesn’t totally preclude another big deal for a team with “stupid” money to spend, it felt like a reaction to something. Could the Phillies have heard from Harper’s camp that he wouldn’t sign there? Makes sense.

Now we’re left with the Sox and Dodgers, both of who could be good fits for a variety of different reasons that we’re not going to get into here. However, the Dodgers’ apparent need to jettison other outfielders first — and their reported desire to go with a shorter contract — means they can’t simply offer up a deal. The Sox, who might also be weighing which superstar to court more aggressively, are more readily able to throw down a contract.

But if that’s the case and if it was just about the money or having a team show him they cared or whatever, wouldn’t this be a done deal? Probably not.

“With Harper, there is a potential for more mystery teams that we don’t know about,” Heyman said.

Now we come back to the “submarine race,” which is how Boras described the negotiation process for Harper’s services. There could well be teams involved that we don’t even know about yet, maybe that we’ll never know about at all. Despite their public protestations of financial constraints, several rumors and reports have tied the Cubs to a legitimate pursuit of Harper (you can read here, here, and here if you have the time).

It’s entirely possible that all that is true, that the Cubs are avoiding overage penalties and ensuring the family business continues to turn enough of a profit to sustain future generations (and maybe fund a major political campaign). But what better way to remain submerged than to keep pouring buckets of cold water on yourself?

Look, I’m going to keep pimping the Cubs’ possible involvement because it behooves me to do so given the nature of the site. And I really do believe Harper has an affinity for Chicago and for the Cubs in particular, so much so that he does want to see whether they can move enough pieces around to make it work.

But the reality of the situation is that such a scenario doesn’t appear to have a high degree of likelihood at this point. Anything can happen, though, so just keep checking the radar to see if any new blips show up.

Update: Heyman included the following nugget in the Cubs section of his Inside Baseball MLB Notes column Thursday evening:

Some see them as a potential surprise landing spot for Bryce Harper, but there’s no evidence of any involvement yet.

This can mean only one thing: Heyman has been reading Cubs Insider. It could also mean that some see the Cubs as a potential surprise landing spot for Bryce Harper.

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Evan Altman

Evan Altman is the EIC and co-founder of Cubs Insider and has proclaimed himself Central Indiana's foremost Cubs authority. He is a husband, father, homebrewer, and award-winning blogger with entirely too much pop culture knowledge. Evan's greatest accomplishments include scoring 400 points in Magic Johnson's Fast Break, naming all 10 members of the Wu-Tang Clan in under 3.5 seconds, and winning the Meese Literary Award at Hanover College.
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