One of the latest Cubs rumors is the perfect holiday gift for fans. The team reportedly sat down with Bryce Harper at this month’s Winter Meetings.
After Cubs rumors took center stage in discussions of Bryce Harper’s free agency in recent years, Chicago has mostly slid into the background of the chase recently. Teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago White Sox have become the frontrunners for the star outfielder heading into 2019.
But according to Sunday’s report from Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times, the front office may not have entirely ruled out the possibility of making a late push for Harper.
Wittenmyer reported that the Cubs front office met with Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, at the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas early this month. He added that some accounts indicated the meeting lasted as long as three hours.
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According to Wittenmyer’s report, Theo Epstein asked that Boras and his camp check in with them before accepting an offer from another team so the Cubs could try to move some money and check with ownership one last time.
Outlook any different?
Wittenmyer’s report undoubtedly gives the Cubs fanbase some hope. With the National League Central improving by the day and speculation indicating it’s more likely Harper ends up on the South Side than the North Side, hope has been scarce this offseason.
Despite these latest Cubs rumors, though, a push for Harper would still be complicated for the Cubs. With the current contracts on the books, they would almost certainly have to pay the competitive balance tax if they were to sign Harper. And at this point, it seems other teams like the Phillies and White Sox are simply willing to pay more for Harper.
So the Cubs’ pursuit of Harper isn’t exactly realistic. But the report should still improve Cubs’ fans outlook slightly. It’s clear now that the front office isn’t simply staying put. Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer appear to be making an effort to improve the team in the increasingly competitive NL Central. However difficult it could be due to the budget they’ve been given, Epstein and Hoyer want to do whatever they can to improve the team.
So, how could the Cubs make a Harper signing happen? Look to the Dodgers’ recent move for an idea.
At the end of last week, Los Angeles made a major major payroll dump move, trading outfielders Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp, pitcher Alex Wood and catcher Kyle Farmer to the Cincinnati Reds. The main goal of the trade was to get several expensive contracts off the books and, as many speculated, clear space in the budget for Harper or an array of other additions.
If the Cubs wanted to make a move for Harper at the last minute, it would likely require a big payroll dump like this one. That trade could include anyone from Ben Zobrist to Jason Heyward to Tyler Chatwood. But because of Heyward and Chatwood’s struggles, it’d be difficult to get anyone to take on those contracts. So a money dump trade could still be a long shot for the Cubs.
The Cubs’ reported meeting with Boras doesn’t change much about the team’s hopes of signing Harper. It would still require some payroll adjustments, and other teams probably have a better shot at signing him. But if nothing else, the reports show the front office is at least making an effort to get a big move done to drastically improve the team for 2019.