Some new info trickled out on the Bryce Harper front Wednesday, with ESPN's Jeff Passan writing that the White Sox are willing to guarantee a 10-year deal to the biggest name on the free-agent market.
Or maybe not.
Hours later, The Score's Bruce Levine followed that up with a report of his own, one saying the White Sox won't go past seven years with either Harper or fellow mega free agent Manny Machado.
Reports of the White Sox offering ten plus years for Manny Machado or Bryce Harper are ”Without any substance and flat out wrong “ according to high ranking industry sources . Wh Sox will not be giving offer of more than 7 years for either player.— Bruce Levine (@MLBBruceLevine) January 2, 2019
This ping-ponging might have the initial smack of negotiating through the media, but there's reasons to believe either could be true.
After all, the financially flexible White Sox have the ability to offer a gargantuan contract like a 10-year deal. And with challenges on either or both the Harper and Machado fronts from the 100-win New York Yankees, NL-champion Los Angeles Dodgers and "spend stupid" Philadelphia Phillies, their ability to potentially offer more than any other team — they currently have almost no long-term financial commitments to speak of — could give them an edge. Heck, it might be the only way to get an edge.
But the White Sox also don't need either of these guys for 2019, or really at all. While a swath of the fan base has declared that the offseason will be a failure if neither Harper nor Machado come to the South Side, the White Sox rebuilding plans will not at all be negatively impacted should these guys go elsewhere. Eloy Jimenez could end up providing a similar kind of impact addition. Same goes for Michael Kopech, Dylan Cease and Luis Robert. And then there's next winter's absolutely loaded free-agent class, which the closer-to-contending White Sox could take better advantage of — and still with all this financial flexibility to put to use.
The lack of a real need of these specific players could very well convince the White Sox to not hand out some kind of record-breaking decade-long deal.
Then there's the timing factor, with Jimenez under team control for seven seasons once he hits the big leagues in April. Why spend a ridiculous sum on three more years of Harper or Machado if those teams, potentially without Jimenez, Kopech or whichever other young players, aren't at the same level of contention as the ones over the next seven seasons?
There's a lot of factors here, and so it is easy to see why either of these possibilities could be true. And then there's that idea of negotiating through the media, or simply conflicting parties presenting differing information to different reporters. Remember during the Winter Meetings when in the span of just a few hours we heard the White Sox didn't see themselves as favorites in the Harper and Machado derbies and also that they were the front runners for Harper?
The point being, things change quickly this time of year, if not in reality at least for those of us not sitting at the negotiating table. Stay tuned.