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Dodgers interest in Bryce Harper should be expected, not surprising

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USA Today Sports

Dodgers interest in Bryce Harper should be expected, not surprising

The reverse would be more surprising. If the Los Angeles Dodgers, loaded with so many of the cues necessary to chase down Bryce Harper, sat this one out, hands behind their back, head shaking, that would be a stunner.

The Dodgers wading into the situation at some point is not. Yahoo! Sports reported Tuesday that Los Angeles is among those now in pursuit of Harper, at least in a cursory nature. Harper and Scott Boras are reportedly hosting owners in Las Vegas ahead of the Winter Meetings. These are the people who will be handling this negotiation. Harper and Boras are talking to ownership groups. General managers will be mitigated in this process. It’s how Boras does, and has done, high-end business for the last 20 years. 

Los Angeles is a common-sense fit, should it decide to enter negotiations with force. It has proximity, legacy, roster flexibility and starry-eyed allure on its side. Harper could make it back to Las Vegas via a four-hour drive or a plane ride that lasts just more than an hour. His promotional opportunities would be amplified. It’s easy to picture him sitting courtside at Lakers games with his fellow fame-drenched L.A. workers.

The Dodgers have reached consecutive World Series. Their baseball legacy is in line with the Yankees or Red Sox or Cubs. The situation is a prime bundle of wins for Harper each time he checks an item on his list. 

Would it be beneficial to stay long-term? Would it work for my personal life? Will we win? Can I grow my brand? All are answered with an emphatic “yes” when assessing the Dodgers. They just have to cooperate.

Past decisions by Los Angeles president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman suggest the lone speed bump. He’s loathe to shackle the organization to one enormous contract since taking over in 2014. Clayton Kershaw’s recent contract extension didn’t even reach $100 million. Three years, $93 million for the league’s best pitcher when healthy.

The organization likes depth and flexibility. Harper cuts into both. Matt Kemp, who has to play a corner outfield position, will cost the Dodgers $21.5 million in 2019. Yasiel Puig is expected to receive a pay bump to around $11 million in arbitration. Cody Bellinger moves between center field and first base. That in turn moves Max Muncy around. And so on.

Which is not to suggest Los Angeles can’t simplify its stance by saying 'Harper is too valuable, we’ll sign him and figure it out.' Its manager, Dave Roberts, is one of the best in baseball at varied deployment. His talent is part of the reason the Dodgers can take the approach they do. Plus, Kemp and Puig come off the books in 2020 while Bellinger, 23, and Corey Seager, 24, remain under cost-effective team control. Syncing them with a 26-year-old Harper makes billboards and sense.

The Dodgers also snuck under the competitive balance tax threshold last season, resetting their clock and avoiding penalties. That opens their ability -- along with massive revenue streams -- to chase Harper, who already turned down $300 million from the Nationals and undoubtedly wants to at least surpass Giancarlo Stanton’s $325 million contract, the largest in the history of North American professional sports.

In a vacuum, the Dodgers’ deliverables fit. In this specific space, they also fit. The Winter Meetings are a week away in Harper’s hometown of Las Vegas. Hearing about interest from the Dodgers shouldn’t surprise anyone.

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Bryce Harper slid in to Rhys Hoskins' latest Instagram and we're kinda worried

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Rhys Hoskins / Instagram

Bryce Harper slid in to Rhys Hoskins' latest Instagram and we're kinda worried

No one knows when Bryce Harper will sign a contract – perhaps not even Harper himself – but he is fueling speculation every chance he gets.

 

The Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins posted a picture from the team’s spring training site in Clearwater, Florida.

 

View this post on Instagram

missed this walk to work🌴

A post shared by Rhys Hoskins (@rhystothehoskins) on

 

This itself is not newsworthy. Plenty of players have posted pictures of their arrivals at spring training. Scroll through the comments, however, and you will notice that Harper commented “Suhhhhh kiiiiiiid.” This comes one day after Hoskins commented on a Valentine’s Day post by Harper dedicated to his wife, Kayla.

 

View this post on Instagram

My Funny Valentine!😂🥰 #Greys

A post shared by Bryce Harper (@bharper3407) on

 

The Phillies are among the teams rumored to be potential suitors for the 2015 NL MVP. Does this mean Harper is going to sign with one of the Nationals’ biggest rivals and remain in the NL East? No idea. But Harper is doing a good job of holding onto everyone’s attention while he remains undecided.

 

This is not the first time Harper has fueled speculation via social media.

 

Hoskins posted this picture on Instagram back in December, with the caption “loading…”

 

View this post on Instagram

loading...🔋

A post shared by Rhys Hoskins (@rhystothehoskins) on

 

On Super Bowl Sunday, Harper tweeted this:

 

 

This week, Harper unfollowed a number of Washington Capitals on Twitter, according to Caps winger Tom Wilson:

 

 

In January, MLB The Show’s twitter account posted a series of simulations showcasing how some team’s seasons might look with Harper in the fold. He quoted some of those tweets with some cryptic emojis:

 

 

That same account also tweeted “You'll want to keep an eye on this account tomorrow... just saying,” back on January 28th.

 

 

This fueled speculation that the video game’s cover would be released the next day and Harper, as the cover athlete, would reveal his destination by appearing on the cover in his new team’s uniform. The cover was released, but it featured Harper in a plain white hoodie.

 

For now, Harper watch continues. As a matter of fact, you should go ahead and refresh your Twitter and Instagram feeds – odds are he posted another cryptic tweet or comment while you were reading this.

 

 

 

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MLB insiders from around the league share their opinions on Bryce Harper

MLB insiders from around the league share their opinions on Bryce Harper

The battle for Bryce Harper is all anyone can talk about in Washington, D.C. and at Nationals Spring Training in West Palm Beach, Florida. Apparently, it’s all anyone can talk about anywhere.

This week on D.C. Sports Live, MLB insiders from NBC Sports regional networks around the country gathered to discuss the Bryce Harper sweepstakes, while making predictions on where the coveted slugger would end up playing in 2019 and beyond.

There wasn’t one consensus pick among the four insiders, though none of them predicted San Diego or Chicago as Harper’s final destination. The Giants, Phillies, and Nationals themselves seemingly stand out from the pack as the most likely options, though of course that is subject to change at any point.

“I think there’s a very slight, slight chance that he returns to the Nationals,” said NBC Sports Washington’s Todd Dybas. “Those are very low odds to me.”

Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area felt differently from Dybas, thanks to a conversation with one of the Giants.

“I asked a player this today, and he predicted the Nationals,” Pavlovic said. “So I’m going to go with him.”

While the Phillies have long been viewed as one of the favorites, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s insider, Jim Salisbury, agreed with Pavlovic, saying he still thinks “there’s a chance he ends up back with the Nationals.”

Vinnie Duber of NBC Sports Chicago rounded out the predictions by saying the Phillies make a lot of sense.

Interestingly, none of the insiders except Salisbury seemed too confident in the teams they personally cover as Harper’s final destination. Pavlovic feels the Giants aren’t interested in giving any player $100 million, let alone the rumored $300 million the Nationals offered, meaning it would be difficult for San Francisco to reach a number Harper likes.

The Phillies obviously have money and a need on the roster, but Salisbury feels the organization isn’t too picky between Harper or the other remaining big fish, Manny Machado.

“At this point here in Philadelphia, it’s a jump ball between Machado and Harper,” Salisbury described. “And whoever wants it, come and get it, and you’ll be a Phillie.”

The game of musical chairs between the teams, Harper, Machado, and every other free agent is still alive and well. It’s clear from the roundtable that no one is really sure where Harper will end up. We’re all playing the same waiting game when it comes to the superstar.

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