Cubs

Bryce Harper is flirting with Chicago

Bryce Harper is flirting with Chicago

Bryce Harper's flirtation with Chicago and his bff Kris Bryant is growing.

Case in point:

TUESDAY: The superstar slugger was spotted at a Blackhawks game Tuesday night sitting center stage in his hometown of Las Vegas, notably NOT wearing any Golden Knights gear.

MONDAY: Bryce Harper took a photo with fans while wearing a Bulls hat.

ALSO MONDAY: Harper included a snap of his dog on his Instagram story. His dog's name? Wrigley.

Tracking back further

Oct. 11: Harper posts a photo of the Wrigley marquee after Game 4 of the NLDS, stating, "Until next time! Love this place":

August 5: The wives of Harper and Bryant got together to stir the pot themselves, even using the hashtag #HarperToTheCubs, while saying, "Fans want it...& we are more than good with this idea..."

June 27: Harper posted an Instagram photo with Kris Bryant and their wives after a Cubs-Nationals game using the hashtag #Back2BackOneDay

June 4: Peter Gammons really got the ball rolling on the Harper-to-Chicago train when he hopped on the Mully and Hanley Show and said, "I have people tell me that Bryce Harper really would prefer to play for the Cubs."

And then there was that one time in May 2015 when Harper was sporting a Blackhawks T-shirt.

Now the other side:

Let's play Party Pooper and put on our Debbie Downer hats here for a second.

On July 9, Harper told the Washington Post he loves trolling people, like that Instagram hashtag with Bryant:

"I do that to the media because they stir it more than I do. That's why i do the things I do at times, because it's funny to me. It's like, 'Alright, people want to talk about this and talk about that. Why not just throw this out there and make them think about it?'"

Well, he's made us think about it, that's for sure.

Harper and his agent — Scott Boras — have a lot to gain by getting the Cubs involved and with the natural tie-in there with hometown buddy Bryant already, it's a perfect fit to help drive up the price tag.

If Harper and his camp want $400 million, the best way to get that is to get the Cubs involved, even if the chances are incredibly low that he signs there. There are probably several people at Boras Corp. right now whose main focus is helping craft a public image for Harper.

He is the kind of guy who knows any hat he wears or T-shirt he rocks is scrutinized, so he and his people undoubtedly spend a ton of time thinking about that and analyzing those decisions before he even steps foot in public.

From the Cubs' perspective, it will be hard to figure the money out to make Harper-to-Chicago a reality.

Jason Heyward has a player opt-out in his contract after the 2018 season, but right now, it seems there is no way he takes it. He's due $106 million from the start of 2019, including $20 million that season alone and obviously his best position is also right field.

The Cubs also have 2019 money committed to Jon Lester ($22.5 million), Ben Zobrist ($12 million) and Anthony Rizzo ($11 million) plus options on Jose Quintana ($10.5 million) and Pedro Strop ($6.25 million) that are likely to be exercised as of right now. That's $82.25 million committed to just six players (assuming the options are picked up), plus Kris Bryant, Kyle Hendricks and Addison Russell in their second years of arbitration with Javy Baez, Kyle Schwarber and Mike Montgomery in their first years of arbitration.

The money would be really, really difficult to manage if Harper gets $30-$40 million a season, but hey, that's not our problem to figure out.

Bryce Harper: The Cubs' right fielder in 2019...or baseball's biggest troll/flirt?

Content producer Jon Graff contributed to this post.

Tom Ricketts brings the World Series trophy on stage during Pearl Jam concert

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NBC Sports Chicago

Tom Ricketts brings the World Series trophy on stage during Pearl Jam concert

During Saturday night's Pearl Jam concert at Wrigley Field, Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts brought out the 2016 World Series trophy, delighting all Cubs fans in attendance.

The concert was made even more special by Vedder having the highlight of David Bote's pinch-hit grand slam playing in the background during his performance of "Rebel Rebel". 

Anytime Pearl Jam is at Wrigley Field, it's a good time, but it is safe to say that Cubs fans who double as Pearl Jam fans will never forget the special night.

Double the fun: Cole Hamels, Cubs defense make history

Double the fun: Cole Hamels, Cubs defense make history

Cole Hamels' dominant start to his Cubs career continued on Friday in stellar fashion, and with some considerable help from his infield.

The 34-year-old veteran not only pitched seven innings of five-hit ball without allowing a run, but induced five ground ball double plays. The Cubs finished with a staggering seven double plays in a 1-0 win at the Pirates on Friday.

The last time the Cubs turned five double plays was in 1985. 

All five hits Hamels gave up were groundball singles. The 16 groundballs induced is the most for a Cubs pitcher this year.

After Hamels exited after seven innings, the Cubs got double plays in the eighth, on a line drive double play with Jorge De La Rosa on the mound, and ninth, on a groundball induced by Jesse Chavez to end the game.

Hamels was initially brought in to provide depth to a struggling rotation and ease the pain of Yu Darvish being unavailable. But Hamels has now started an honest debate over who should be the Cubs' starter in Game 1 of the postseason. He has been otherworldly since joining the Cubs, with an 0.72 ERA, three wins and one no-decision (the Cubs won and he had nine strikeouts). 

The 1-0 win over the Pirates gives the Cubs more breathing room in the NL Central. The St. Louis Cardinals beat the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday, pushing the Cubs lead to 4.5 games in the division.

And the Hamels hot-streak comes at an excellent time for the North Siders, who took in Jon Lester's gem of an outing on Thursday, where he went six innings with no earned runs and eight strikeouts in a win against the Pirates. The Cubs starting pitching seems to be turning the corner, and with three straight series against sub-.500 teams following their series in Pittsburgh, this could be the beginning of a great run of outings that carries the Cubs confidently into the postseason.