SAN FRANCISCO — Farhan Zaidi hinted last month that the Giants could get back in on some of the bigger free agents if prices continued to drop. They’re now targeting the biggest name still out there.
Members of the Giants’ front office met with Bryce Harper this week in Las Vegas, multiple sources told NBC Sports Bay Area on Wednesday.
The Giants sent Zaidi, CEO Larry Baer and manager Bruce Bochy to Las Vegas to meet Tuesday with Harper, his wife Kayla, and agent Scott Boras. Harper, one of the most accomplished free agents in MLB history, still has not found a home with less than a week until pitchers and catchers report for spring training.
One source familiar with discussions said the chase was a “long shot,” but if the Giants have seriously entered the Harper market, they have done so at a time when the former National League MVP appears unhappy with his other options.
Harper reportedly turned down at least $300 million from the Nationals early in the offseason. That’s the type of deal the Giants would like to stay away from moving forward, but it’s also one they can afford, and that was the case even before Oracle promised hundreds of million for naming rights to the team’s ballpark.
The Giants have added just three free agents this offseason, and none were guaranteed even eight figures. Derek Holland, Drew Pomeranz and Pat Venditte add up to about one-third of what Harper would demand per season, but after the Pomeranz deal, Zaidi left the door open for bigger moves.
“As the market evolves, there might be guys that you had kind of questioned or doubted the feasibility of at one point that you now circled back on,” Zaidi said last month. “It’s our job and responsibility to keep tabs on all parts of the market, and we’re continuing to do that. Yeah, I do think things can change and your target list evolves over the course of the offseason.”
The Giants had quietly targeted Harper over the past couple of years, but they underwent a shift in strategy when Zaidi was hired in November. The new plan was to overhaul the roster incrementally and add to the existing core, but Zaidi is known to be opportunistic, and if Harper’s price truly has dropped, the Giants could find a more suitable deal. Although they have been out of the headlines, they never eliminated Harper as an option.
It’s unclear, of course, if the end price ultimately would be any lower than expected. Harper and Boras went into this offseason hoping to set records, but they have found a market lacking big-market suitors. The Phillies and the White Sox have been connected to Harper throughout the offseason, and at several points, it seemed he was close to joining Philadelphia, with the Nationals thought to be always on the periphery.
The Padres were connected to Harper last week, and perhaps that helped jolt the Giants. Bigger spenders such as the Yankees, Dodgers and Cubs have shied away.
Those three are all contenders and have filled their holes in other ways, while the Giants have taken a not-so-subtle step back, preparing to rebuild a bit. Still, even a partial rebuild could include a player like Harper.
At 26, he is young enough to be part of the next contending Giants team, yet also accomplished enough that he would immediately become the lineup's best hitter. Even in what was considered a down year, Harper hit 34 homers in 2018. All of the outfielders currently on the Giants’ roster have combined for 20 career homers.
Randy Miller of NJ Advance Media and Jon Heyman of MLB Network first connected Harper and the Giants on Wednesday morning.