Like any good auctioneer, Scott Boras had a backup plan in place when it appeared as though teams weren’t going to meet his reserve price for Bryce Harper. Rather than sticking at a $300 million floor, he roped in some more teams that might be willing to go lower, thus jump-starting the market and getting it back to both the length and total value he’d initially been aiming for. Or at least closer to both, since he may have been targeting as many as 14 years at up to $40 million per.
The Phillies have long been viewed as favorites for Harper, but, despite Jon Heyman’s best efforts to say otherwise, they seem to have been bidding against themselves ever since Manny Machado signed in San Diego. Owner John Middleton’s “stupid money” boast could end up being a very expensive gaffe, though it sure beats the hell out of telling everyone your team has no more money to spend on players.
So with spring games already underway and the field narrowed to one — unless you count the mystery teams! — Boras may have made a final plea to up the bidding. Middleton was in Las Vegas over the weekend and left Saturday evening without a big score, but only because had had to attend a previously scheduled event the following day
According to Buster Olney, the sides remain engaged and contract talks between Harper and the Phillies “could be resolved by Tuesday.” I don’t think it’s reading too much into the matter to say that putting a specific timeline on it smacks of Boras floating an ultimatum to spur one last round of offers from any teams that might be lurking quietly. Perhaps a team like, I don’t know, the Dodgers?
Thought to have been out of the running for Harper’s services, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reported that a Dodgers contingent including manager Dave Roberts was spotted in Vegas on Sunday. And the thick plottens.
Sources: The Dodgers are back in the mix for Bryce Harper. Club officials, including manager Dave Roberts, were seen in Las Vegas on Sunday. https://t.co/cBRqZx4kOO
— Jesse Sanchez (@JesseSanchezMLB) February 25, 2019
As for other teams, there doesn’t appear to be much movement. The White Sox aren’t going to bid after repeatedly shooting themselves in the foot ($) during Machado negotiations and the Padres are likely done after actually landing him. The Yankees have said they’re out and the Giants seem to have served their purpose after trying to work out a shorter deal for higher AAV.
Then you’ve got the Cubs, who have clung steadfastly to the idea that they don’t have any money left in the baseball budget. And while it’s possible they’re doing what some still inexplicably believe to the be the case and orchestrating the slowest slow-play in history, there is nothing at all to indicate that they’re active. I mean, yeah, they will likely get a last-minute courtesy call, but that’s about it unless Tom Ricketts’ heart grows three sizes.
Remember, this is the team unwilling or unable to bring in Jose Iglesias on a minor league deal or to throw a few million at Martin Maldonado. If the Cubs had the desire to spend more money and had any real designs on Harper, they’d have made it happen a long time ago.
At this point, I just hope it’s anyone but the Dodgers. And for what it’s worth, one pundit is calling a Wednesday press conference in Philly to announce a deal of $330 million over 8-10 years.
Update: Multiple sources, including Ken Rosenthal and Jeff Passan, are reporting that the Dodgers’ interest is in a short-term deal. Team Harper has been adamant about avoiding such an option, but timing and circumstances could change things.