A new day, a new what-if for Bryce Harper.
Multiple reports stated Thursday he will be meeting with the San Diego Padres on Thursday night in his hometown of Las Vegas. Yes, the Padres, an organization that has averaged 72 wins annually since Harper arrived in the major leagues and has five playoff appearances to its credit during a 50-year existence.
Everyone would be right to consider living in San Diego. But why would Harper?
Location and lifestyle certainly fit. Access to his hometown would be readily available in a day. As previously mentioned, San Diego is San Diego.
Plus, the Padres have 10 prospects in MLB Pipeline’s latest top 100 list. That’s the most in the major leagues.
Which also means San Diego -- with or without Harper -- is not close to winning yet. Its top prospect, Fernando Tatis Jr., should be up this season. Others, like right-handed pitcher Chris Paddack or left-hander Logan Allen, also have a chance to be in the majors on Opening Day. That’s due in part to the Padres’ desperate need for more talent following a 66-win, last-place finish in 2018, their worst season since 2008, and the young players’ skill level.
The Padres also toil in the National League West, which is home to the two-time defending National League champion Los Angeles Dodgers.
Where San Diego lags is a tradition -- something believed to be sought by Harper as a piece of the total package -- a significant chance at a World Series title in his prime, and overall panache in the sports landscape for one of the game’s most marketable stars.
This meeting could also well be an attempt by Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, to stir a stagnant market. Spilling news about a new meeting Jan. 31 can reboot what had become a lagging, somewhat exhausted, topic. Boras can use this new wrinkle to strike back at any team that believed it could just wait to drive down cost. This is status quo for him. The question is how serious the Padres are or Harper would ever be about them.
As this moves forward, it’s also fitting to recall how Boras managed the Alex Rodriguez negotiations in 2000. Texas outbid everyone, some believe by twice as much, when gifting Rodriguez a record $252 million contract. Boras will always hunt a modern repeat.
Pitchers and catchers report in two weeks. Harper is linked -- in varying degrees -- to the Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago White Sox, Nationals and now Padres. However, he remains unemployed and is likely to stay that way well after this conversation.
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