Since falling short in their quest to win the National League Central for a third consecutive year and losing the National League wild-card game, the Chicago Cubs have had an especially quiet offseason. Utility player Daniel Descalso and right-handed starter Kendall Graveman qualify as the team’s biggest additions, and with so much money already committed to the players on their current roster, it appears unlikely the 2016 World Series champions will make another big splash in free agency before spring training.
“There are times to be aggressive and times to be patient, and there are times when you can be aggressive and times where you have to be patient,” Theo Epstein, the Cubs’ president of baseball operations, told the Chicago Tribune earlier this month. “Every offseason is unique. We’re working hard, and there are a lot of things we’re trying to do behind to the scenes to make sure we have a successful season next year. I know thus far we haven’t added the big names that get the fans excited. I understand that’s part of the expectations in the offseason.”
Speaking at the Union League Boys & Girls Club in Chicago on Tuesday, Cubs Manager Joe Maddon all but ruled out his team signing one of the biggest names still available.
“Not going to happen,” Maddon said, via the Chicago Tribune, when asked about the chances of the Cubs signing Bryce Harper. “ . . . We feel as though all the ingredients are in the bowl already. It’s already there. To just go out and purchase guys because some kids had a tough year is probably not good form.”
Fan question to Joe: “What are the chances of Bryce Harper?” Maddon, no pause: “Not going to happen.” Jim Deshaies: “Lets move on”— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) January 16, 2019
Long before Harper actually became a free agent, Chicago was viewed as a potential landing spot for the Washington Nationals outfielder given his close friendship with Cubs third baseman and fellow Las Vegas native Kris Bryant.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported that the Cubs met with Harper and his agent, Scott Boras, for as long as three hours at the winter meetings in Las Vegas in December. During his annual meeting with reporters at the event, Boras, who also represents Bryant, downplayed the idea that Harper and Bryant’s friendship had an effect on their chances of becoming teammates.
“KB and Harp have a great personal and professional relationship,” Boras said. “I think a lot of their conversations are about hitting, to be honest with you. Really about hitting. I think they enjoy one another, but I think they also understand that these decisions and what owners do, this is all really independent on their relationship and they don’t have a lot of control over it.”
With a month to go before spring training, the Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies appear to be the favorites to sign Harper, though the Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees lurk as contenders. Harper turned down a 10-year, $300 million deal from the Nationals in late September, but he and Boras met with Nationals owner Ted Lerner for five hours in late December, according to a person with direct knowledge of the situation.
Harper met with a contingent from the Phillies on Saturday in Las Vegas, and the meeting reportedly went well. It’s unclear if Philadelphia, which is also in hot pursuit of free agent Manny Machado, has made a formal offer to Harper. The Athletic’s Matt Gelb reports that the Phillies are increasingly confident that they will sign either Harper or Machado, but have made it clear that they will not sign both players. If you take Maddon at his word, they won’t face any competition from the Cubs to land Harper.
As seen below, there are potential risks to the Phillies playing the waiting game with Bryce Harper or Manny Machado.— The Athletic (@TheAthleticPHI) January 16, 2019
And yet, the team's confidence grows by the day that they'll end up with a new superstar, reports @MattGelb. https://t.co/aAvYwnHax9 pic.twitter.com/63kJAvzVj9
Felt like Machado was Phils’ top choice at one time. Now it seems like it’s even or maybe a lean toward Harper. That 4/5 hour, 2 video meeting in Las Vegas sounds like it went great for Harper and the Phillies, who are expected to make offer to him soon, if they haven’t by now.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 15, 2019
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