The Philadelphia Phillies are reportedly setting up a face-to-face meeting with Bryce Harper. The Washington Nationals' owner reportedly sat down with Harper for five hours right before Christmas. And suddenly the White Sox are a "long shot" to win the biggest sweepstakes of the offseason.
That's a nice summation of Jon Heyman's latest check-in on the Harper saga, which doesn't seem to have an end in sight.
phillies are in process of setting up a face to face meeting with bryce harper, as @JSalisburyNBCS 1st reported. rival nats are obviously interested in retaining harper. chisox seem like a long shot for harper at moment, but mystery team(s) always possible.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 4, 2019
The biggest name on the free-agent market has reportedly received multiple 10-year contract offers. Whether those came from multiple teams and whether the White Sox would even consider such an offer seems to be up for debate. Within a span of a few hours on Wednesday, they were reported to be willing to guarantee a 10-year deal to Harper and unwilling to go beyond seven years for either Harper or fellow mega free agent Manny Machado.
But what should we make of this new idea that the White Sox are a "long shot" in the Harper derby?
On one hand, it makes a bit of sense, especially if the team really isn't willing to offer a contract longer than seven years. The Nationals reportedly had their 10-year, $300 million offer rejected, and they've since upped that offer, according to The Athletic's Jim Bowden. A seven-year deal wouldn't be as rich as a 10-year contract, one would assume, even if it potentially carried a higher annual salary.
Harper reportedly prefers the Los Angeles Dodgers, who seemingly angled for a run at him with their big trade with the Cincinnati Reds, clearing players from their crowded outfield and money from their books. And the White Sox have always had the challenge of getting players to buy into plans of future success as opposed to joining up with an immediate contender. The Dodgers fit that description, the winners of the last two National League pennants, as do the Nationals, despite their history of underachieving, much of it with Harper on the roster. The New York Yankees, the supposedly preferred team of Machado, could be the preseason World Series favorite, even without Machado on board.
But on the other hand, the White Sox sudden classification as a "long shot" could also be a reaction to the latest activity.
The Phillies might be planning their face-to-face meeting with Harper, but that's only because they didn't sit down with him, just agent Scott Boras, when in Harper's hometown for the Winter Meetings last month. The Nationals are meeting with Harper with hopes of bringing him back, sure, but they had an initial offer rejected and it was owner Mark Lerner who said this just two weeks before the reported five-hour sit down: "I don’t really expect him to come back at this point. I think they’ve decided to move on." A smokescreen? Perhaps.
But is that recent movement by the Phillies and Nationals all that has boxed the White Sox out of the discussion? After all, why would the White Sox — who are reportedly "more engaged" on Machado than Harper, not all that shocking considering Machado is expected to make his decision first — need to do any more selling after supposedly twice meeting with Harper in Las Vegas? There was the early-in-the-offseason meeting there that reportedly featured Hall of Famer Jim Thome, and there was another one that reportedly took place during the Winter Meetings. Maybe Harper didn't express much interest in being the centerpiece of the final phase of the rebuilding process. Or maybe he liked the idea and has all the information he needs from the South Siders at the moment.
It's not ridiculous to speculate that the White Sox might have done all their work on the Harper front already and that the Phillies, known to be behind schedule a bit, and Nationals, who've already been rejected at least once, are playing catch-up.
But, as we've been reminded of every few hours this offseason, there's a lot of moving parts in both the Harper and Machado sagas. With a new report thrown on top of the last one on a daily basis, it's hard to say that anyone besides Harper, Machado, Boras, Machado's agent Dan Lozano and the teams involved know what's going on.
In other words, stay tuned.