What I’m Hearing: USA TODAY Sports’ Bob Nightengale says that a third team is making a late push to sign MLB slugger Bryce Harper.
USA TODAY Sports
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The prolonged Bryce Harper sweepstakes is coming to a close.
Harper is expected to make his decision by the end of this week, two team executives told USA TODAY Sports. The executives spoke on condition of anonymity because of ongoing negotiations.
This chase for Harper, or Harper’s chase for at least $300 million, has lasted so long that now teams are jumping in to see if they can get him at a discount rate.
The Los Angeles Dodgers are the latest to show interest, with their front office and manager Dave Roberts meeting Harper and agent Scott Boras in Las Vegas on Sunday night, which the club confirmed Monday.
“It was good, just trying to get to know each other,’’ Roberts said in his morning briefing with reporters. “I think in the spirit of us, the Dodger, vetting a certain process makes sense and for those guys to do their due diligence as well.’’
They are the third team to enter the bidding, joining the Philadelphia Phillies and San Francisco Giants.
Everyone else, at this moment, is out, according to the other team executives and owners who earlier expressed interest.
The Washington Nationals, who offered Harper a 10-year, $300 million contract in September that he rejected before hitting free agency, are out.
The Chicago White Sox, who met Harper earlier in this winter and offered Manny Machado an eight-year, $250 million deal, no longer are interested.
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The San Diego Padres, who chose Machado over Harper, have no more money.
Really, it’s quite simple here.
If Harper wants the most money, the Phillies are most likely his team.
If he wants to go to an iconic franchise that’s close to his Las Vegas home, but doesn’t mind leaving about $200 million on the table, he’ll choose the Dodgers.
If he wants to stay out West, but perhaps doesn’t mind playing for a team that’s about to begin their rebuild, and playing in a ballpark that could suffocate his power numbers, he’ll go to San Francisco.
The choice is his.
The Phillies, who have been the stalking horse all winter for Harper, remain the favorite. They desperately want him, but maybe they’re not so willing to spend “stupid’’ money. They realize that if they land Harper, they likely will not only be favorites to win the NL East, but also satisfy a fan-base who will be outraged if they don’t get him.
If the Dodgers were willing to make a $300 million offer, Harper would sign quicker than finishing off a Dodger Dog. But Andrew Friedman, Dodgers vice president of baseball operations, has never spent more than $80 million in free agency, and isn’t about to start now. His biggest expenditure for an outside free agent was the $60 million he gave to center fielder A.J. Pollock this winter.
The Giants want Harper primarily to stay relevant, sell season tickets, and be their modern-day Barry Bonds. Essentially, he would be a one-man carnival. The front office has no interest in anything more than a short-term deal, but ownership may try to overrule new boss Farhan Zaidi, which could create potential conflict within only a few months on the job.
Sometime this week, the drama will end.
Does the Dodgers’ entrance into the derby force the Phillies to increase their offer, perhaps one last time, toppling Giancarlo Stanton’s record 13-year, $325 million contract?
Or are the Phillies getting exasperated by the lengthy process, wondering if they’re getting played, and demand a decision.
The end is finally near.
It’s about time.
Follow Nightengale on Twitter @Bnightengale