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November 08, 2018

What they're saying: Bryce Harper to the Phillies is a sure thing, probably

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073118_Harper-Bryce_usat Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports

Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper pours water in his face during the fourth inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park.

Warning: The following article will get your hopes up.

It seems like the entire baseball-writing world is on board with the Phillies being the leaders, and according to some, the inevitable employers of slugging former MVP outfielder Bryce Harper as he looks for a new home as a free agent this fall. 

One thing is for sure, as you prepare to read the collected reports and pontifications that project Harper in red pinstripes — he wants to get paid.

“Certainly, ‘Harper’s Bazaar’ has begun,” Harper's agent Scott Boras told the media this week. “It’s fashionable. It’s historical. It’s elite. Global, certainly. And certainly, it has inspirations that deal with great shoes and great hair, inspirations on the part of Bryce.”

Boras sure seems certain of a lot of things. Harper-to-Philly is far from certainty right now, but if you read enough news it sounds like destiny. Here's what they're saying about Harper and the Phillies:

Alone again, Nationally

We kick things off with a big ESPN report from Wednesday, revealing that the Nationals have already made a monster offer to Harper, which he turned down.

Bryce Harper rejected the Washington Nationals' offer of approximately $300 million over 10 years late last season, according to multiple reports. Washington tried to lock up Harper with one of the richest deals in baseball history before he became a free agent, but he opted to test the market. According to reports, the Nats' offer is now off the table, but the team is still open to a deal.  [ESPN]

Bank on it

Bob Nightengale is basically talking dirty to Phillies fans. 

In an article that appeared in USA TODAY, the baseball insider seemed pretty darn convinced that Harper would play in Philadelphia next season. He didn't really provide much hard evidence, but it's hard to argue with his passion. Take the time to read this long excerpt from the story:

The free agent outfielder, touted to be more popular than the Liberty Bell, looks to be headed to Philadelphia, the city of Brotherly Love. It appeared all along that Harper would remain in Washington, where he has spent his entire career. But that was before word leaked Tuesday that he flatly rejected a 10-year, $300 million contract in September. You can eliminate the rest of the suitors, too. The Chicago Cubs don’t want to spend the money unless someone takes Jason Heyward or Yu Darvish off their hands. The Los Angeles Dodgers don’t have interest. The St. Louis Cardinals don’t have bright lights. The San Francisco Giants are changing course. It leaves one team for Harper, which won’t mind giving him at least $400 million. The Phillies are the most desperate team to land a star, and with Machado wanting to go to the New York Yankees, and the Yankees having the greatest need for him, Philadelphia is the logical destination for Harper.  He will be standing in right field with the Phillies on March 28 at Citizens Bank Park when they open the season against the defending NL East champion Atlanta Braves. Bank on it.  [USA TODAY]

The reporter appeared on both WIP and 975 sports radio this morning, and doubled down on his prediction:

Not his kind of town

Let's pause and talk about Chicago for a second. It's a National League team that is trying to win now, has an offensive need and big market money to spend. But with another former MVP, Kris Bryant, coming back from an injury, the Cubs are reportedly seeming satisfied with the slugger they have — if he is at full strength.

The Harper-to-Chicago buzz was fun while it lasted, but the biggest difference for the 2019 Cubs might be a healthy Bryant. That idea doesn’t move the needle on Twitter, but Epstein’s broken offense might’ve already been fixed if left shoulder inflammation hadn’t limited Bryant to 102 games last season.  [The Athletic]

Blank check

ESPN took a look at each of the teams potentially interested in Harper (and Manny Machado) and broke down some tidbits that could help determine if they make an offer to the slugging outfielder. Eddie Matz cites the Phillies' financials, which have the big market team (flushed with cash after a recent big TV deal) as a big reason they could likely be major contenders for him:

Over the next five years, the Phillies have a grand total of $152 million committed to players who are already on the team. Compared to some of the other clubs that are expected to be involved in Manny-mania and Harper-rama this winter, that's not a whole lot. In fact, it's about half as much as the Yankees ($295M) or Dodgers ($284M) and almost $200 million less than the Cubs ($368M). In other words, president Andy MacPhail and GM Matt Klentak seem to be in possession of a blank check with owner John Middleton's John Hancock on it.  [ESPN]

More Manny

We have one more take on Harper's free agency, but it has more to do with fellow free agent target Machado. R.J. Anderson takes a look at several reasons why he believes Machado is actually the better catch this offseason. According to the CBS baseball writer, the infielder's superior hitting, defense, durability and potential value make him somehow underrated right now. Here are his final thoughts on the matter:

To be clear: we're not saying Machado should be valued more than Harper -- just that there ought to be more talk about the possibility than there seems to be so far this offseason. Maybe the preference for Harper has to do with his perceived offensive upside, or the fact there are fewer recent concerns about his makeup (Machado had a controversial October and was once suspended for throwing his bat at an opposing player, so it's understandable if that's influencing the industry). Even so, Machado is and has been a tremendous player throughout his career -- to the extent that anyone who deems him the top available free agent is being fair with the designation.  [CBS Sports]


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