Could it be a sign of things to come for the Chicago Cubs? In December 2015, two exceptionally gifted ballplayers celebrated their achievements together.
On that day some two-plus years ago, Las Vegas mayor Carolyn Goodman presented then-Chicago Cubs rookie Kris Bryant and Washington Nationals slugger Bryce Harper with keys to the city to honor the pair for their baseball exploits.
Fans came from near and far to cheer on two of the game’s most promising young superstars in this rare moment standing side-by-side. Stars of this magnitude are rarely in the same place at the same time. When they are, they are typically knee-deep in spirited competition with one another. Seeing the two on the same team for a change was a treat for all lovers of the game.
The history of Bryant and Harper
As short-lived as that “treat” was, there is a growing sentiment that baseball fans may see Bryant and Harper together on a permanent basis. Imagine the two – one lefty, one righty – batting back-to-back and holding court in side-by-side lockers after each game. The last time the two played together – in 2006 for the Southern Nevada Bulldogs travel team – the results were predictable. They won. A lot.
"“The real question is how did I ever lose a game with both those guys?” said Matt Lawrence, the coach of that team. “We had 12 kids on a travel team and Bryce and Kris were the elite of that group. I’m not into rankings, but we were third nationally.”"
Handicapping the Field
Is it possible the two will once again see their names written in the same lineup (well, apart from All-Star Games, of course)? Their hometown certainly thinks so. Vegas odds maker BetDSI has set Chicago as the most likely landing spot for Harper in 2019. Where the Cubs are a +150, Harper’s current team, the Nationals, sit in second place at +250. Here are the full odds for the teams considered favorites to be in the Harper sweepstakes:
Red Sox +750
Rest of Field +225
For those who aren’t into betting lingo, let me explain. An “even bet” – one considered as likely to happen as not to happen – would be presented as “+100” on this scale (known as “American Odds”). If you see a plus sign, it represents how much money one would win if they bet $100 on the winner. So, using the Cubs/Nationals odds above, one would win $150 dollars if they bet on Harper to Cubs, whereas a Harper to Nats bet would net a $250 windfall. Advantage Cubs.
While it may be surprising to see that the Cubs are nearly two times as likely to land Harper (according to Vegas), the number that is even more noteworthy is that THE FIELD – which means all other teams not named Cubs, Nats, Dodgers, Giants, Yankees or Red Sox – is a +225. So to put that into terms that are more relatable, the field is more likely to sign Bryce Harper than the Nationals, but the Cubs are considerably more likely to sign him than that same field. Interesting.
Never Say Never
As exciting as this is for Cubs fans, it really shouldn’t be terribly surprising. In mid-2017, none other than the legendary Peter Gammons himself openly stated that Bryant’s “preference” was to play with the Cubs. As for the Cubs position on Harper? As Cubs beat writer Jesse Rogers pointed out in a tweet during the most recent Cubs Convention, Theo and Company are okay letting theories and conjecture carry the day.
Hopefully, Bryant can continue to successfully convince his childhood compadre that the Windy City is the place for them both (and maybe start working on having Lester give up his #34 jersey). But for now, it’s time to celebrate the Cubs chances for 2018 glory, which clearly won’t include Harper. Odds are, that math will change in the not-so-distant future.