Source: Cubs ‘Met’ with Bryce Harper Friday, Deal Not Believed Imminent (Updated)

Listen, I’m not one to tell you how to flavor your food, so you can feel free to apply as much salt to what follows as you see fit. This all started when I got a text from CI staffer Michael Canter, father of The Rundown, that had some relatively interesting information about a certain huge free agent. It was intentionally vague and he said he’d be digging for more, so I teased a Twitter crowd hungry for any confirmation that the Cubs might still be in on Bryce Harper.

After a little more clarification, Canter posted a thread with more specifics. According to his source, a member of the Brewers’ front office, the Cubs met with Harper Friday as the superstar’s negotiations seem to be amping up a little bit. We’d heard earlier in the week that the Padres had entered the fray and that Harper had taken second and third meetings with some teams. In addition to the four known suitors — Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Padres — it was reported that at least one team lurked on the periphery.

Some very reasonable assumptions led us to the belief that the Cubs were that team, or were at least among a group of teams loitering at the fringe. That squares with earlier reports that the Cubs had told Harper and Scott Boras to come back to them once they had an offer in hand. Despite the discussion of their budget shortcomings, there’s been a thought that a last-second approval for a big expenditure could serve as some sort of deus ex machina to land Harper.

Rather than this being a matter of the Cubs presenting Harper with an offer, it seems that any meeting — if one did actually occur — would be more about due diligence and Boras circling back. In a way, it’s the reverse of Theo Epstein calling Boras, who also represents Jake Arrieta, prior to signing Yu Darvish last winter. That fits with the next bit of info Canter shared, which is that the Cubs have maintained regular contact with Boras (obviously, since he also represents Kris Bryant and Addison Russell).

Given how close we’re getting to spring training, some of these players might be itching to ink deals. People like to think agents control the entire process, and that’s largely true with Boras, but even the biggest agents operate at the behest of the players they represent. So if Harper or any other free agent really wants to get something done, they could make it happen.

One more interesting bit of info here is that, while we’ve heard for some time that the Cubs would need to move money to sign Harper, the source doesn’t believe that is necessarily the case. The Cubs would have to clear roster space, but the thought is that they don’t want to pull off a lopsided trade just to cut payroll. If they were to get Harper, it’d be the result of a budget increase and a subsequent even-value trade of one of their outfielders.

Again, I’m not going to tell you whether or how much of this to believe. I am getting it through more or less the same channels you are and cannot personally vouch for the credibility of the source. I can, however, vouch for Canter, who I’ve known for several years now and don’t see as someone who’d reach around to pull info from his rear end.

And when you look at what’s being said here, none of it falls out of line with what has been previously rumored or reported. So what does that mean for the Cubs? Maybe nothing. If we’re to believe all of this, the likely scenario is that Harper does have another legitimate offer on the table that he’s willing to accept. It’s also likely that the Cubs are not prepared to match it sans a significant change of heart. Or budget.

Stay tuned for more, I guess.

Ed. note: Theo Epstein is in Boston for Hot Stove Cool Music and Jed Hoyer is in Arizona, so when, who, and where a meeting could have occurred is in question.

Update #1: Update: According to Patrick Mooney of The Athletic, no meeting between Cubs and Harper’s camp took place.

Ah, but such is the world of sourced info and rampant rumors. It’s still entirely possible there’s been some level of communication, but there was apparently not an actual meeting (which was already a distinct possibility based on note below).

Update #2: Several hours after this post was initially published, another source reached out with information from someone in Boras’s camp. This person confirmed that the agent had indeed called the Cubs to check back on their stance on Harper and their financial situation. So while it does appear no physical meeting took place, the situation laid out above is still quite plausible.


  1. As readers come to comment, and I am sure they will have tons of questions, I pretty much posted everything I know. Lots of private messages on Twitter asking if Harper will sign with the Cubs or if I think he will. The answer is I don’t know. I don’ think my buddy knows. We all hear things at work about our companies or our competitors and he just relayed things he’s heard. I believe it started because there was some interest by the Brewers in Gonzalez and Keuchel who are kind of forced to wait on Harper.

          1. well, it’s more of an inventory issue than a money issue I think. If I follow the timeline backward when they signed Darvish, Epstein said that deal wouldn’t preclude them from signing free agents this year, but I think at the time he probably did not imagine that the roster would have stayed intact. I think that’s part of the issue where people are saying that the FO and/or owners are backpedaling. I can only imagine that they thought they might have moved some of their surplus for pitching at the deadline, but instead they got Hamels for a some magic beans, basically. It was a very shrewd trade that almost won them the division.

            When Hamels pitched so well, they picked up his option for a year, rather than trade from the same surplus for pitching, effectively buying them another year with the guys they drafted.

            So I think you have to take those statements from last season and wash them with the events of t2018 and this winter. I’m sure the Cubs could have walked away from Hamels, forced the Rangers to pay him the $6M or whatever it was, and then trade for a guy like Ivan Nova and have room to sign Harper. A lot of fans would be happy with that but why eff-over Texas, and then sell low on players who haven’t hit their primes, just to have a shot with no guarantee at Harper? That’s one helluva risk and I can see why Epstein chose the path he did.

          2. That’s a darn good analysis of the likely decision tree that led/built up to the current situation. I think it’s sound, and I’m with you for not blaming Theo for staying this path. This is still a darn good roster.

            When I allow myself to think so, I believe that the longer this plays out (with Harper not having signed) – the more potential there is for him to still end up with the Cubs. At this point in the process, even Boras knows that new teams like the Padres are only jumping in with equal or slightly better offers than what may have already been on the table from Washington and Philly, as it doesn’t seem that Harper prefers to play for those teams. He’s (Harper) holding out for something, and it feels like there’s only downward pressure in this market (less years/total $). This all makes where he WANTS to play, of more value in the equation. Not the total value, but it carries more weight the longer this plays out. If this all holds true, I can see Theo justifying a 1-year over-spend to get Harper on what he considers good terms. I say 1 year, because after 2019, they lose $34 million in payroll – just from Zobrist and Hamels.

          3. I think they lose Morrow’s salary next year too if I’m not mistaken, and isn’t Quintana a free agent after this season? Or is it next?

          4. Looks like the Cubs have a team option on both Morrow and Quintana for 2020 – $12 mil for Morrow / $10.5 mil for Quintana. To lose ALL of these contracts is nice savings, but also a LOT of holes to fill.

            I just suspect that when the off-season first started, and Boras was throwing out 10 years at $30-$35 mil per – and the Hamels option (as you point out) became something they just had to pick up – Theo & Co. just weren’t willing to dive into that water. But the longer this drags out, the better the chance it becomes more of a 5-7 year deal, with opt outs, still in that $30-$35 range. Harper thinks “I may as well play where I WANT then”, and Theo thinks “that $35 mil really only hurts for 2019”.

          5. I’m sure that’s part of thinking. And BTW – THANK YOU EVAN FOR UPDATE #2.

            The escalating tax and tiered soft cap will be gone in the next CBA I believe. The players will fight for that and an adjustment will be made. It will probably still favor the owners. The owners will probably concede that players need to get to free agency sooner in their careers so they’ll probably start arbitration a year earlier.

            Whatever, the money really doesn’t mean anything. baseball, like Hollywood, and most professional sports, lives in a financial ecosystem that is different from the rest of us. Maybe we should all get into tournament bowling or tournament fly fishing instead.

          6. I found out far too late that aggregated links to the story didn’t include the updates immediately. In fact, some weren’t corrected until early Sunday morning, at least 12-14 hours after the updates. So when someone called me out for not owning the “mistake,” they may not have seen that I continued to make very clear what the situation was.

            It’s funny to me that so many people ran with this as saying the Cubs had met with Harper in order to make an offer, which I very much said was most likely not the case. In fact, I said basically the opposite, that it was Boras checking back in because there were other offers the Cubs were unlikely to match. I then included Mooney’s tweet, which he made me aware of, and then added that additional update from another source.

            And all the criticism really had me second-guessing myself, but then I went back and was like, “Yep, I actually did make it very clear more than once that there are caveats to information like this and you need to take it all with as much salt as you feel necessary.” With the inclusion of the specific circumstances and context of the information, you’d think that’d be enough for people to understand the deal.

            Oh well, I can rest easy knowing that it was all very transparent and that it was framed up well. Most national writers simply hang their info on sources, and then don’t go back to amend or acknowledge it at all when they’re wrong. I can think of three just this winter who’ve been wrong about specifics of deals and who’ve not owned any of it.

          7. People read the parts they want to read because they can connect it easier to their personal beliefs or opinions. Plus, more often than not, people get butt hurt when you are proven right and they’re proven wrong.

          8. I discovered the delay last week when you responded to me in the Brad Brach article that you had updated the story with his contract into. I didn’t see the update appear for a couple days actually.

            Thanks to both of you guys for your coverage on all of this. I’m sure it’s made for a crazy weekend for you, especially on Twitter.

          9. I think we discovered that the issue actually lies with our ad server, which sounds weird. But they apparently cache things separately from our primary host, which can cause issues. So while I could see the updates when viewing in my browser, the cached version showed up if I accessed through Twitter or Bleacher Report. As such, I think some people did not see the updates and were thinking we were just leaving things out there unaddressed.

            There was a particularly nasty exchange with a White Sox fan who had become incensed about us riling up Cubs fans to have hope that Harper would sign with the Cubs. That was particularly fun since I wrote that I thought this was actually a sign that the Cubs wouldn’t sign him, but whatever. What I think people miss when they see this stuff is that we’re passing along what someone said in good faith. It’s not presented as gospel or as the definitive truth in the matter, but it’s there for you to do with as you see fit.

            There aren’t many times I present sourced info, and I don’t do so lightly when it comes up. But the very concept of “sources” gets some people really hyped up, so it’s understandable that social media was weird about it.

  2. Since we are throwing crap against the wall to see what sticks, any chance Harper is pissed off enough with the lack of interest, he signs a one year deal with the Cubs? Could the Cubs make the numbers work with the penalty cost?

    1. There was a post a while back that I referenced for a piece, in which the author posited that a 1-year deal would make sense. I don’t agree and don’t think Harper would ever get to that point, but it’d make even less sense for the Cubs. If the money issues are real, they’d cost themselves a bunch of luxury tax penalties without the long-term commitment to help make it up on the back end with continued performance.

      1. I would love for the cubs the sign Either machado or Harper my preference would be machado. I think he has way more to offer on the field anyway

  3. Bruce Levine just reported on inside the clubhouse. That Theo Epstein is in Boston for his cool music charity. Jed Hoyer is in Arizona. Maybe Bryce Harper’s in Utah

      1. My last line was meant as a joke, Not against you, But to reflect what this whole Cubs off season he has become.

  4. I still believe my friend. I appreciate and remain reverent to the sportswriters locally and nationally, and their sources, and all the work and hustling they do, but we just spoke again and he still believes that what he heard is the truth. Like I said on Twitter, if we were in a court we’d hear “Objection! Heresy!”

    My friend, we’ll call him “Brad” in case anyone from the Brewers org reads this, said the proof will find its way to the headlines this week. So we’ll find out then too. If he’s wrong, he’s wrong. But I trust that he believes he’s right, and I believe him.

    1. Some day, I’m going to stand up in court and say, “Objection! Heresy!” just to see what the judge does.

  5. Could it be possible Boras told Theo give Russell another chance and we will give you a shot at Harper? Just throwing it against the wall lol

  6. Just a thought. Could Boras have said Keep Russell we will give you the last shot at Harper? Throwing it against the wall lol

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