LAS VEGAS — The White Sox reported pursuit of Bryce Harper might be aggressive enough that it's made them the front runner to land baseball's biggest free agent.
According to CBS Sports baseball analyst Jim Bowden, the White Sox are leading the pack right now, potentially the team willing to offer the longest and richest contract to the top name on this winter's free-agent market.
As discussed in recent days at the Winter Meetings, the White Sox are beginning to look like a more and more realistic fit for Harper as other teams seem to be dropping out. The New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals insist they're not interested in Harper, and the Cubs have been discussing their financial constraints all offseason. The Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies were mentioned along with the White Sox as potential finalists earlier this week, with the caveat that the Dodgers would have to do a lot to clear room for Harper. The Phillies, meanwhile, have vowed to spend "stupid" and seem to have the same amount of financial ability to land Harper as the White Sox, who have almost no long-term financial commitments to speak of.
Bowden addressed all of that in his breakdown of the situation for CBS Sports.
Wait, did he say “Front Runner”?!?! pic.twitter.com/zKXeLe7rmn— White Sox Talk (@NBCSWhiteSox) December 12, 2018
Bowden declaring the White Sox the front runners comes in the wake of a pair of reports describing the White Sox as less than confident that they'll end up winning the derby, so the situation seems to be a fluid one.
Bowden also mentioned that the White Sox have intrigued Harper with their plans for the future and their loaded farm system that boasts some of the highest-rated prospects in the game. Eloy Jimenez, the No. 3 prospect in baseball, should be up early on in the 2019 campaign. Michael Kopech, one of the highest-ranked pitching prospects in baseball, will be back from Tommy John surgery for the 2020 season. Dylan Cease, who was good enough in 2018 to earn MLB Pipeline's minor league pitcher of the year honors, could arrive in 2019, too.
Add Harper to that mix, and while it might not even mean a playoff berth in 2019, it could mean a perennial championship contender not long after.
Whether or not Bowden is right about the White Sox holding the lead in this race, it's yet another confirmation of their aggressiveness and their commitment to taking advantage of an opportunity to add one of the best players in the game to their long-term vision. Harper meshes perfectly with all those prospects, and should he choose to play his home games on the South Side, they'd arrive to build a contender around him.
A lot can change between now and when Harper makes his final decision, but maybe Rick Hahn's future-focused sales pitch is working.
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