Report: Nationals and Dodgers ‘Definitely Out’ of Harper Race, Giants and Phillies Considered Favorites

With full awareness that Bryce Harper fatigue has long since set it and that your “consider the source” alarms are sounding, we’ve reached the point of no return here. By that I mean the finish line is only steps away and there’s a compulsion to see this thing through to the bitter end.

As such, we bring you the latest from USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, who joined Gary & Larry on KNBR 1050 out of San Francisco to discuss the Giants’ pursuit of Harper. Several different teams have been viewed as favorites to land the outfielder over the last few months, with the Nationals making at least two offers and the Phillies looming as a near certainty just a couple weeks ago.

But with no agreement in place, two West Coast teams have emerged and now are leading the pack. According to Vegas odds posted Tuesday, the Giants were big favorites (1/1) and the Padres were running second (5/2). The Phillies were not far behind (4/1), but the Dodgers (15/2) and Nationals (10/1) had faded.

What’s really wild about the Giants running so hot is that every report says they’re not willing to get anywhere near either the 10 years or $300 million Harper has already turned down. But they may be open to making him the highest-paid player in the game according to AAV and they’ve got the added benefits of playing both their spring and regular-season games relatively close to Las Vegas.

“What their game plan is is they’ll probably offer a 5-6 year deal at good money,” Nightengale said. “Probably $30 million a year or so, or probably more even, to try to get him. And say, ‘You know what, do you want a short-term contract to come to San Francisco, or do you want a long-term contract and go to Philadelphia.’”

Nightengale went on to declare the Nationals and Dodgers “definitely out of it,” though some of his skeptics will surely take that as a sign that Los Angeles is scheduling a press conference for Wednesday.

“Right now I really do think it’s the Giants and the Phillies,” Nightengale continued. “It’s a two-team race here. With the Giants moving in and all the optimism, I do believe it’s a coin flip. I think for the Phillies to get Harper, they’re going to have to grossly outbid the Giants to get him, I really do. I think if it’s close he goes to San Francisco.”

This fits with the idea that Harper doesn’t really want to play in Philly, whether it’s out of some lingering loyalty to his former team or a disdain for the city itself. Or it could simply be that his strong preference is to remain closer to his offseason home, something that’s been surmised since rumors about his pending free agency began two years ago.

What’s interesting here is that Nightengale seems to be dismissing the Padres, who Vegas still likes quite a bit. I’ve got no idea how Harper is weighing various factors, but if I was making my choice based on overall quality of life, I’d rank San Diego at the top of the list.

You may have also noticed that neither Chicago team was mentioned, and for good reason. The White Sox have long seemed much more engaged with Manny Machado, and the Cubs’ professed budgetary restrictions have handcuffed them all winter. Could either swoop in at the last second and shock the world? Sure, but don’t count on it.

I do firmly believe the Cubs and Harper still harbor mutual affection for on another and would ultimately love to make something happen, but the reality of the situation is that it’s just not going to work out. Well, it’s probably not going to work out. Nothing is definitive until Harper’s buttoning up a jersey at his introductory presser.

If you’d like to listen to the full interview with Nightengale, you can do so here:

Ed. note: Brooks Boyer, White Sox SVP of Sales and Marketing, had an interesting conversation with Mully & Haugh Tuesday morning. He sort of paraphrased P.T. Barnum in discussing the possibility that the team would land neither big star, saying something like, “At least people are talking about the White Sox.”

And that’s what he should say, since his purview is selling tickets and promoting the product they have, not signing players and marketing hopes alone. Beyond that, he’s right. The same report of the Giants’ lack of desire to go huge on a contract noted that Jerry Reinsdorf was not willing to set the market. But the mere fact that the Sox have been so actively involved this winter is a boon to their organization as a whole.

I’m sure most CI readers may find that apropos of nothing, but I wanted to find an unobtrusive way to fit it in.

Update: While we don’t exactly know what the definition of “short-term” is — it could be anything less than 8-10 years or, more likely, anything less than 3-5 — Harper isn’t settling for that.


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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  1. Nightengale has no credibilty regarding anything, he spends most of his time posting the wrong things after the real facts have been reported. Followed by backpedaling. He is the last guy Id believe any commentary from

  2. Its beyond lame the Cubs could have got Stanton, Harper or Machado over the past year and couldn’t because they felt the need to give Jason Heyward that big contact when he didn’t even have a lifetime .800 OPS.

    1. So dumb of them not to look into their crystal ball and see that that winter’s most coveted free agent, who was entering his age-26 season, would go from averaging 4.7 fWAR over the previous 4 seasons to 1.25 fWAR over the next three. Or that his average 118 wRC+ and .345 wOBA would drop to 85 and .302.

      But even with those offensive shortcomings, he’s continued to play Gold Glove defense and has been a positive force in the clubhouse and in the community. And he’s doing that at a discount of what Washington and St. Louis offered. Heyward isn’t the reason the Cubs haven’t made other moves.

      1. Heyward had more than one off year before they signed him and many people called that deal blowing up when it happened. He doesn’t like to first, doesn’t have the power to hit in the middle so they paid a ton for defense which took a nosedive in 2018.

        I’m sure Washington and St Louis are happy he took that discount and they aren’t the ones stuck with him for 5 more years with soon to have 10-5 no-trade rights. The Cardinals are already getting MLB help from the Draft pick they got for losing him.

        Theo has some other terrible moves keeping them from spending, but Jason’s deal is a major part of not having money to spend. If they had 23M AAV off the books one of Stanton (22M AAV on NY books), Machado or Harper would be a Cub right now.

        1. If Darvish didn’t get injured, they wouldn’t need Hamels and would have $20M there. It’s all irrelevant. I have no problem with the Heyward signing. He’s well-liked by his teammates, he provides stellar defense, and he isn’t atrocious He’s necessary to this team and he had a better WAR than Harper last year. There is no guarantee Harper is going to be the 5-6 WAR player he is projected to be. I’d be wary of giving that guy $300M.

          This whole Cubs are doomed bullshit is hysterical. If the Cubs signed Harper, Machado or traded for Stanton I’m sure you could find a dozen other things to moan about.

          Hindsight judgment is worthless because you can second guess now but you can’t go back in time to the moment it happened. There was no guarantee any of these guys would be available right now. You address your roster for the season ahead, not the three or four. after that The Cubs would be going into Year 111 without a championship with that kind of mentality.

          It’s folly man. Let it all go.

          1. Theo still had to fill his Chatwood hole so Hamels is still here even with Darvish back.

            Fans thinking everything thing is fine and dandy is hysterical to me, there is a reason why PECTOA projects them 81-81 and tied for 3rd/last. The division got better several of our pitchers got older and will need others to step up just to cover for what Zo and Javy slip.

          2. Because (a) PECOTA has never been wrong and (b) the additions in the division are not worth a 28 game swing (preposterous) and [c] that’s unprecedented regression. But okay Trey.

        2. Theo has a terrible record at signing free agents Going back to his Red Sox days. The Red Sox we’re getting ready to launch before the cubs got him. Theo is good at trades and that about it.

  3. Reports out the later part of yesterday that Harper won’t even go as low as 5 years, and that puts the Giants OUT of the running. But who knows. This in particular, could be posturing. If true, it sure feels like the stars are trying to align for the Phillies to get him. It’s going to look quite bad if they don’t.

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