Phillies

Why White Sox shouldn't be dismissed in race for Bryce Harper

Why White Sox shouldn't be dismissed in race for Bryce Harper

As mentioned last week, there always seems to be a mystery team or two in the mix when a superstar is available in free agency.

With Bryce Harper, one unexpected suitor has already emerged: the Chicago White Sox.

There was a lot of hoopla Thursday over the marquee bearing Harper's name, No. 34 and a White Sox logo at Chicago's United Center. It sure looked like the preparation for a presentation the White Sox plan to make to Harper. 

The White Sox, really? The same White Sox who've averaged 92 losses the last five years and, record-wise, have trended in the wrong direction the last three?

Can they even make Harper an effective sales pitch?

Phillies vs. White Sox

When you think about it, the White Sox aren't in a wholly different situation than the Phillies. Sure, the Phillies went 80-82 this past season while the White Sox lost 100 games, but the Phils themselves are only one year removed from 96 losses, and getting to 80 wins did involve some luck.

Both teams have stockpiled and played young talent during their rebuilding phases. The Phillies are closer to making it out of theirs, but that gap could close over the next few years if Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez, Tim Anderson and Michael Kopech make strides.

Currently, Aaron Nola is the best player on either team. A healthy Jose Abreu would be next, followed by Rhys Hoskins.

Moncada is the most intriguing young position player on either team, Jimenez has tremendous power and Anderson could be a good one, but is Harper really going to bank on unrealized potential?

While the overall talent gap between the Phillies and White Sox isn't as vast as some would make it out to be, the Phillies still offer Harper a better chance to be competitive in 2019 and 2020. 

What does Bryce want?

If you've watched Harper all these years, you know that he cares deeply about winning. He has one speed and it's all-out. 

Harper's going to be able to find a massive offer from any team hot after him. If Scott Boras insinuates to the White Sox that it would take $40 million a year over 10 years, they might do it. Why even express interest if you're not willing to meet the expected price tag?

Keep in mind that White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf is 82 years old and probably wants to make a splash or see his team win while he still can.

It will be about more than money for Harper. It will be a combination of money, a chance to win, fit and the city itself. Harper, over the years, has shown a fondness for Chicago, whether it's naming his dog Wrigley or wearing Chicago team gear in public. That obviously always painted a path to the Cubs, who have some payroll concerns and do not appear to be a major player for Harper.

It's hard to envision the White Sox making an offer the Phillies couldn't match or exceed. So at the end of the day, it's going to come down to where Harper wants to be. The Sixers offered LeBron a better chance to win now than did the Lakers, but he went to L.A. because that's where his heart was. 

The Phillies just have to hope Harper's infatuation with Chicago is overblown.

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Jet belonging to Phillies owner John Middleton is in Bryce Harper's hometown of Las Vegas

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Jet belonging to Phillies owner John Middleton is in Bryce Harper's hometown of Las Vegas

CLEARWATER, Fla. — John Middleton’s private jet is on the ground in Las Vegas, a person in that city told NBC Sports Philadelphia on Friday night.

Las Vegas is the hometown of free-agent slugger Bryce Harper.

It is just a meeting and no deal will be signed Friday night, a source tells NBC Sports Philadelphia. No other details were immediately available, but the Phillies have had ongoing discussions with Harper since first visiting with him and his agent, Scott Boras, in Las Vegas on January 12.

The Phillies went into this offseason hoping to sign one of the game’s top free agents. They hosted Manny Machado in Philadelphia in December, but he ended up signing a 10-year, $300-million contract with the San Diego Padres this week.

Machado’s signing with the Padres left Harper as the Phillies’ primary focus.

Several clubs in addition to the Phillies have pursued the slugging outfielder. One of those clubs is the Washington Nationals, the team Harper came up with. The Nats made news early Friday when owner Mark Lerner said in an interview that the club had “moved on” from Harper. A comment like that would lead one to believe that the Nationals have pulled out of the Harper sweepstakes. However, in the same interview, Lerner said the “door was always cracked a little bit.” So maybe the Nationals are not out of it.

Harper is clearly seeking to top Machado’s deal and probably the $325 million guarantee that Giancarlo Stanton got from the Marlins in a 13-year extension. Stanton is now with the Yankees.

The Padres pursued Harper before signing Machado. The Giants have expressed interest. There has been talk of a mystery team. While it is unclear how many teams are still in pursuit of Harper, it is clear where the Phillies stand — or in this case, where they are parked.

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At The Yard Podcast: Any Harper competition left for Phillies? Herrera vs. Williams and more

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At The Yard Podcast: Any Harper competition left for Phillies? Herrera vs. Williams and more

On this edition of At The Yard, Corey Seidman and Ricky Bottalico discuss the latest surrounding Bryce Harper's free agency. With the Nationals out on him, do the Phillies have any competition for the superstar? Who could be a mystery team?

If the Phillies sign Harper, which outfielder becomes the odd man out: Odubel Herrera or Nick Williams? Also, will we see a better season from Jake Arrieta?

1:00 - Nationals look out on Bryce Harper.
5:00 - Are the Padres contenders for Harper even after signing Manny Machado?
7:00 - If Boras rejects 10 years/$300 million, the Phillies should walk away.
10:00 - How much more is Harper worth than Machado?
13:00 - Odubel Herrera vs. Nick Williams.
18:30 - Phillie with the best chance to take a big step forward.
22:00 - Will Jake Arrieta be better this season?

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