CARLSBAD, Calif. — The White Sox are reportedly interested in bringing Bryce Harper to the South Side. But just two days after one national writer set fans buzzing back in Chicago, another might have dashed their dreams, calling Harper a virtual lock to go to the Philadelphia Phillies.
USA Today’s Bob Nightengale wrote Wednesday from the GM Meetings in Southern California that “it’s hard to find an executive, scout, or rival agent who doesn’t believe that Harper will eventually sign with the Phillies.” He outlined the potential suitors, pointing to the Cubs’ financial situation, the New York Yankees as a better landing spot for Manny Machado, the Los Angeles Dodgers as uninterested, the San Francisco Giants as “changing course” and the St. Louis Cardinals as not a high-profile enough destination.
No, he did not even mention the White Sox.
Nightengale did mention the Washington Nationals, who reportedly had their 10-year, $300 million offer rejected by Harper and Scott Boras, Harper’s agent who spent about an hour talking about how good his client is at hitting a baseball Wednesday. He’s right in that regard, that Harper sure can hit.
But alas, no talk of the White Sox.
If the “changing course” Giants and supposedly low-profile Cardinals have little shot at landing Harper, what shot do the White Sox have? They’re in rebuilding mode and despite their Chicago home rarely have enjoyed the same high profile as all the other teams discussed here, if ESPN’s annual forgetfulness is any indication.
MLB.com’s Jon Morosi was the one who set off this recent rash of “Harper to the White Sox” fever with his report Monday that the South Siders were interested in the guy who’s about to get the biggest contract in baseball history. But his argument for why the White Sox would be a legit candidate hinged almost entirely on their having one of the game’s lowest payrolls. No mention of the high hurdles they’d have to clear to land Harper, like outbidding some of baseball’s biggest spenders and getting Harper to buy into a pitch of planned success over those of win-now guarantees.
Yes, Boras said Wednesday that Harper would be open to hearing from any club, and surely that’s true.
"I think Bryce is open to a lot of opportunities, he's listened to a lot of things," Boras said. "I think owners do a great job in forecasting the benefits of their franchise, and many have done a very good job of talking about what they need to improve on. So as we go through this, I think he's going to hear everything from everyone and certainly make an informed decision."
Remember, though, that Boras’ job is to get his clients the biggest possible paydays, and he’s very good at doing exactly that.
None of this is to say that the White Sox aren’t willing to spend big. General manager Rick Hahn has talked repeatedly about the economic flexibility the ongoing rebuilding process has afforded his front office, and he’s spent a year and a half talking about how the White Sox have succeeded at smashing preconceived notions. He’s talked about being opportunistic in this much-discussed free-agent market and about being willing to make additions that give the White Sox a better chance at long-term success. It’d be pretty difficult to argue Harper doesn’t do that.
But it might not be the right time for any of that to come to fruition. The White Sox are fresh off a 100-loss season, with significant injuries befalling many of their highly rated prospects and perhaps, depending on how things play out, altering the timeline of when the contention window opens on the South Side. The future is undoubtedly bright, but is that all that’s necessary — along with the monster contract, of course — to make Harper or someone else of his caliber pick the White Sox over current championship contenders?
The Phillies weren’t a playoff team last season, but with Harper added to the already exciting young mix they have at the major league level, they’d be a World Series contender. If the White Sox add Harper to their 2019 roster, are they even a playoff team? There would still need to be player development and/or other moves to take place to get them to elite status. The waiting game has been a hard thing to sell to fans, even if they’ve done a good job buying in. It seems it’d be a hard thing to sell to one of the game’s best players, too.
The White Sox won’t be out on Harper until they’re out on Harper. But if the Phillies are as much of a slam-dunk destination as Nightengale believes them to be, can anyone else say they were ever in?