Phillies reportedly willing to meet Bryce Harper's price tag

Phillies reportedly willing to meet Bryce Harper's price tag

MESA, Ariz. — We may finally be nearing a resolution in the Bryce Harper free agency saga at just the right time.

Spring training begins in earnest Monday with position players officially reporting around the league and Harper may not be far behind.

USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale reported Sunday evening the Philadelphia Phillies are reportedly willing to meet Harper's price tag and give him more than the $300 million, 10-year deal the Washington Nationals offered before the season ended:

Keep in mind, Nightengale is not reporting a done deal and the key word is Harper "appears" to have found a team willing to meet his price tag in the Phillies.

But this is one of those "big, if true" situations that portends a potential conclusion to Harper's 3.5-month free agency tour.

The Cubs ruled themselves out of the Harper Sweepstakes back at the very beginning of the offseason due to a bloated payroll for 2019 and a budget that doesn't have the room for the salary Harper is about to make.

The Phillies have been rumored to be in on Harper from Day 1 and owner John Middleton famously said his team may spend "stupid" money this winter. They've been very aggressive this offseason trying to build around a young core and improve upon thhe 80 wins they put up a season ago.

The Phillies have already signed Andrew McCutchen and David Robertson and traded for Jean Segura and J.T. Realmuto in the last couple months while also giving ace Aaron Nola a long-term extension.

Adding Harper to the mix would be a huge boost to the Phillies' chances in what is shaping up to be a very competitive National League East.

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Talks between Harper, Phillies 'intensifying' as Padres reportedly try to challenge White Sox for Machado

Talks between Harper, Phillies 'intensifying' as Padres reportedly try to challenge White Sox for Machado

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Manny Machado hasn't shown up at Camelback Ranch. Neither has Bryce Harper.

The White Sox first full-squad workout comes Monday. Will there be a surprise appearance from one of the two biggest names on the free-agent market?

The South Siders have been in pursuit of both 26-year-old superstars for months as their free agency has dragged into spring training. So what's the latest?

Well, apparently things are "heating up" between Harper and the Philadelphia Phillies, the White Sox main competition for both of these guys all offseason long. The Phillies have been described as the most likely landing spot for Harper since November, and now talks between the two sides are "intensifying," according to MLB Network's Jon Heyman.

USA Today's Bob Nightengale was even more definitive.

What that actually means in terms of when a deal could be done, who knows? That's how this offseason has gone. According to the information from Heyman, the White Sox aren't out yet. For those who think there's no chance that Harper comes to the South Side, at least know that the White Sox are in on the free-agent superstar until they aren't. They reportedly met with him twice in the final months of 2018, though various reports indicated they never made a formal offer.

Of course, the info from Nightengale, who has been saying Harper was going to the Phillies since the GM Meetings in November, makes it look like it's the Phillies' game to lose.

But here's the good news for White Sox fans: If Harper ends up in Philly, that could dramatically increase the chances Machado comes to Chicago. While the Phillies have proclaimed a desire to "maybe be a little stupid" with their free-agent spending this offseason, adding both Harper and Machado on massive deals on top of the free-agent contracts handed out to Andrew McCutchen and David Robertson seems unlikely.

While the White Sox don't exactly need either player and the franchise's rebuilding plans wouldn't be negatively affected should they both opt to play somewhere else, there was a bit of a nightmare scenario forming in where Harper would've been wooed to the West Coast by the San Francisco Giants and the Phillies could've sent all their stupid money Machado's way, leaving the White Sox empty handed. With Harper perhaps on the verge of landing in Philly, that scenario no longer exists, and the White Sox could still be favorites for Machado.

That being said, there was more news Sunday, with Nightengale throwing some Machado-related info in a tweet about Mike Moustakas going back to the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Padres emerged as a late entry in the Machado derby and have reportedly met with him. They, like the White Sox, can pitch a loaded farm system and a rebuild on the cusp of producing a perennial contender.

Of course, neither the White Sox nor the Padres are the New York Yankees, Machado's supposed preferred landing spot. The Bronx Bombers have a loaded infield and appear to be preseason World Series contenders without him, but the longer he waits, the longer the historically deep-pocketed franchise has to get back in the mix. Most likely, however, Machado is waiting for the biggest possible contract. The numbers that have been associated with reported offers have not been anywhere near the gigantic total he was expected to receive at the beginning of the offseason.

The White Sox are still in both derbies, and both players remain undecided. So nothing new there. But if Harper and the Phillies are moving toward something, that could bring this interminable wait to a conclusion.

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Cole Hamels explains the pitfalls of 'winning young' and how the Cubs can get back to the promised land

Cole Hamels explains the pitfalls of 'winning young' and how the Cubs can get back to the promised land

MESA, Ariz. — It's hard to believe Cole Hamels has actually only spent two months of game action in a Cubs uniform.

It feels like he's been around a lot longer than that, largely due to how seamless his transition was into the Cubs clubhouse and how quickly the fanbase embraced him late last summer. (It certainly helps when you put up a 1.00 ERA in your first 7 starts with a new team in the midst of a heated pennant race.)

The 13-year pro believes he fit in so well with this Cubs team because they've had similar experiences of "winning young." Hamels got his first taste of the playoffs during his first full MLB season (2007) with the Philadelphia Phillies, then won a World Series in 2008 and made it back to the Fall Classic in 2009, where the Phillies lost to the Yankees. Two months before his 25th birthday, he was hoisting a championship trophy and accepting World Series MVP honors.

This Cubs core had a very similar experience. Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora Jr. and Willson Contreras have not spent a single day in the big leagues where the Cubs were not in contention for the playoffs.

Bryant and Contreras were 24 when they won it all, while Schwarber and Javy Baez were 23 and Almora was only 22 years old. Anthony Rizzo and Jason Heyward had just turned 27 a couple months prior.

Call it an excuse if you want, but the reality is last fall's early exit was a true eye-opener for the young core of position players. It might not be popular, but it's understandable why the Cubs felt like they'd be OK in the end and everything would work itself out and the Cubs would wind up in the NLDS because that's the only reality they've ever known at the major-league level.

"The craziest part about when you win young is I don't think you understand what you just accomplished," Hamels said. "Yeah, it's all great and yeah you've won probably ever since you were in Little League or high school or college and then you win in the big leagues, it's just kind of a normal thing.

"When you don't win for a while, then I think you try to grasp the importance of what it really meant and how to actually go about trying to do it again. I think that's what was probably a good thing about the way the season ended — it really was a gut punch and a check to a lot of guys in really realizing how difficult this game can be and not taking things for granted."

It may have been a very quiet offseason for the Cubs in terms of transactions, but one thing is for sure: All the younger guys have a new perspective. 

"Obviously it hurt [losing last year]," Schwarber said. "I don't think that's how anyone envisioned us going out after 163 and then that [Wild-Card] game. It wasn't ideal, but it is what it is. Obviously it stung, but for us coming into this year knowing what we have in [the clubhouse] and not take that for granted and go out there and play every day like we know that we can."

There's also added weight here with this core because of how they took home their title. When Hamels won with the Phillies, it was just another World Series. When Bryant, Rizzo and Co. won it all, it was the end of the greatest quest in American sports history — the final chapter of a story we will never see again.

Because of that, this group has a connection to the Cubs fanbase unlike any team in any sport has ever had with their fans.

"At the end of the day, doing everything you possibly can to get everything out of yourself and out of your teammates to go out and win," Hamels said. "Because that's really what it's about. We love to win for each other, but there's a really good focus on knowing we can win for an amazing organization, an incredible city. They're the ones that show up, they're the ones that watch us, they travel. 

"There's an appreciation that we're fortunate enough to play the game of baseball, but it's because they want to watch us play baseball. I think that's something we can enjoy, because it doesn't last forever."

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