But apparently the meeting with White Sox brass went well because more than a year later, Harper raved about the sit-down and talked about the intrigue of playing on the South Side.
"I met with Chicago, had a really good meeting with them," Harper said in an interview with Barstool Sports. "It was always something where I was like, ‘I want to play in Chicago, that'd be fun.' You always talk about Wrigley. You don't always talk about (Guaranteed Rate Field) and playing in Chicago. But I love that blue-collar feel on the South Side of Chicago.
"I was like, ‘They could be a good team.' They've got a lot of good arms. They've got (Michael) Kopech, they've got (Reynaldo) Lopez, they've got (Lucas) Giolito, two guys they got from the Nats in the (Adam) Eaton trade. They've got really good pitching. They've got Dane Dunning, as well, who's a minor league guy. He'll be in the big leagues this year, possibly. So they had a lot of good prospects coming up. (Nick) Madrigal, I think.
"So they had a lot of good guys, and I was like, ‘Hmm. Who's going to hit behind me? Oh, shoot, big ol' first baseman (Jose Abreu)'s going to hit behind me.' That's huge for me because he just kind of goes about his business, hits .280 every year with 25 (home runs) quietly and nobody really talks about it. But he's a very good guy to hit behind me, so that was a big thing, as well.
"I was like, ‘Man, these people are going to show up because they're blue collar, and they want to see their frickin' team win again.' When they were winning back in the day, that place was sold out completely. I met with them, and that was a great meeting. I thought we had a really good meeting."
Of course, Harper ended up picking the Phillies, signing a 13-year, $330 million contract. Like Rick Hahn said throughout his front office's pursuit of both Harper and Manny Machado that winter, he viewed it as a win-or-lose situation. The White Sox were either going to get the player or not, and they ended up with neither.
But Hahn's insistence during that time that big-name players were enticed by the idea of playing for the White Sox gets backed up by Harper's rehashing of his meeting with the team. Whether Harper came in educated about the team's future - it's no surprise he'd be familiar with the guys the White Sox got in the deal with the Nationals - or the White Sox were the ones to get him up to speed on the bright future coming to the South Side, being a part of that future obviously had some appeal.
Harper said he wasn't initially excited by the prospect of playing for the Phillies but that by the end of the process, he was enamored by the fans of Philadelphia. White Sox fans might not be happy that when Harper talks about his love for Philly, he's not instead talking about his love for the South Side - because the qualities he mentions loving seem to apply to the South Side, too - but seeing where Harper's priorities lied during that time should at least endear Harper to many.
"At the end of the day, I was very intrigued about playing in Philly because of how hard-working this city was," he said. "I came from a very blue-collar family. My dad worked his ass off every single day. … And when I go into a city (like Philadelphia), I know what they're going through because my dad did it every damn day.
"That's what fuels me going out there every single day. I want to play 158 to 162 (games) because those fans work through their whole week to buy a ticket for a Saturday game, and if I'm not playing, that's a slap in the face to them. They are the working-class city, and they are grinding every single day to get by. And if I can make them happy that Saturday or Sunday, that's what I'm going to do, and I'm going to work my frickin' tail off to do that.
"So when I was going through it, I was like, ‘What city can do that for me?' And I was like, ‘Philly.' Not even close, not even a question. … I love Philly. I love those fans. I love the pure emotion the fans and Philadelphians feel and let out. You saw it when they won in ‘08 and when they were good in ‘09, and you saw it with the Super Bowl and the Eagles.
"Philly is a city of underdogs. The hate they feel for every other team, I love it. It's Philly or nothing."
It would have been something had the White Sox been able to put Harper in the same outfield as Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert. But it didn't work out that way, despite Harper's feelings about his meeting then and all this time later.
Fortunately for Hahn, he backed up his comments that "the money will be spent" with a busy winter of free agency. And Harper's decision hasn't removed any of the luster from the bright future on the South Side.
Bryce Harper raves about 2018 meeting with White Sox during MLB free agency originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago