LAS VEGAS — How about this for the first day of the Winter Meetings?
According to a tweet from NBC LA's Michael Duarte, the Bryce Harper sweepstakes might already be down to just three teams. And the White Sox are one of them.
The White Sox, Phillies and Dodgers have been mentioned as possible landing spots for Harper for a while now. The White Sox have the financial flexibility and seeming willingness to offer what's expected to be the biggest contract in baseball history to a guy who would mesh perfectly with their rebuilding plans. The Phillies have vowed to "spend stupid" and have been pegged as perhaps the favorite for more than a month. And the Dodgers are a high-spending club who have reportedly already pitched Harper on starring in Southern California. The White Sox, for what it's worth, have also reportedly made their pitch, one featuring Hall of Famer Jim Thome.
Harper — who once saw enough pitches to walk 13 times during a four-game weekend set with the Cubs — has reportedly been hearing quite a lot of pitches this week with all 30 teams in his hometown of Las Vegas.
But the perhaps most interesting tidbit of Duarte's tweet is that the Dodgers might find themselves out of the running if they're not able to move other pieces around or not willing to meet the requests of Harper's agent, Scott Boras.
Also on Day 1 of the Winter Meetings, the New York Yankees pretty much bowed out of the Harper derby, and the St. Louis Cardinals did the same thing.
So where does this leave the White Sox? Well, it leaves them, apparently, as one of the teams with the best chances to land the biggest fish in this winter's free-agent pond.
If there truly are three finalists, a number that could of course still grow and shrink as the week (and offseason) goes on, and the Dodgers aren't looking like a very solid one, then the White Sox would figure to be in an excellent position. The Yankees bowing out took a team coming off a 100-win season with a championship-caliber roster off the board. The Dodgers boast similar recent success as the back-to-back NL champs, but if they're potentially not long for this sweepstakes, either, then the rebuilding White Sox don't have to pitch against that kind of immediate success. The Phillies made great strides in their rebuilding process last season, but there wouldn't be as much separation between the White Sox and the Phillies, when it comes to selling the ability to win championships, as there would be between the White Sox and the Dodgers or Yankees.
Harper would be a no-brainer fit with the White Sox future-focused long-term plan. Adding him to the collection of highly touted prospects could make the White Sox a contender for years to come, even if it doesn't even make them a playoff team right away in 2019. It's the kind of big-time opportunity the White Sox have been talking about taking advantage of to align with their ongoing development of a perennial contender.
"It’s very important for us to remain very diligent where we are in this," Hahn said Monday night. "We’re entering Year 3 of a rebuild, and although I think there’s some potential skepticism that it might be a year too soon, perhaps be pushing it, we’re very mindful of that. And we also want to balance the fact there is some unique opportunities out there in the market, and we wouldn’t be doing our job — even if it is perhaps a year too early — not doing our job if we didn’t fully vet those opportunities.
"It doesn’t mean we’re going to just look for any way to make some sort of splash. It has to fit with the long-term vision of what we’re trying to accomplish. Traditionally, the third year of a rebuild isn’t always the time where you push those chips in, so to speak, but when unique opportunities present themselves you have to respond."
The White Sox seem to be responding. Will Harper respond favorably to their pursuit?
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