Mid-January is approaching, the Cubs just announced their spring training report date (Feb. 13) and yet Bryce Harper remains without a team for 2019 or beyond.
The market for Harper will make your head spin, as any interested teams have public holdups and front office executives around the game are spending a lot more time shooting down rumors than stoking the flames.
His former team, the Washington Nationals, were once considered to be out of the Harper Sweepstakes, but now appear to be back in the mix. Meanwhile, the Nats have continued to make the rest of their roster better, including the signing of free agent second baseman Brian Dozier Thursday.
In talking about where the Nationals' financials stand after the Dozier deal and whether they can even afford Harper, The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal mentioned the other teams in the mix for the superstar and wrote:
The Cubs would love a shot at Harper, though ownership approval continues to appear unlikely, sources say.
Now, this is essentially a non-update update. We know Theo Epstein's front office has had their eyes set on Harper for a while, they clearly appreciate his skillset and he would be an immediate fit on a team that could absolutely use an offensive upgrade.
But Epstein has been touting the Cubs' budget issues since the first week of November, pointing to how much money the Cubs already have committed to the 2019 roster. Barring a crazy turn of events, the Cubs are projected to fly by the $206 million luxury tax threshold this season.
The key word in Rosenthal's sentence is "continues" as it represents no deviation from the status quo that the Ricketts family does not want to push the payroll to astronomical proportions in 2019.
Maybe all the talk of the budget is just posturing by Epstein and Co. to keep their cards close to their chest, but if so, they're doing a damn good job of selling it. To date, the only addition the Cubs have made to their big-league roster this winter is a $5 million deal for Daniel Descalso, and only $1.5 million of that is owed in 2019. (They also picked up the $20 million option for Cole Hamels, but traded away Drew Smyly and his $7 million salary to create room for Hamels.)
The Cubs' 2019 Opening Day luxury tax payroll is projected at north of $228 million (Roster Resource); the previous record for Opening Day payroll in franchise history was $182 million set last season.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Cubs easily on your device.