MLB teams pulling out all the stops for Bryce Harper and Cubs reportedly still in the mix originally appeared on nbcsportschicago.com
Bryce Harper is still dominating headlines this Hot Stove season and now we're getting a glimpse into the big pitches from each MLB team.
Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan detailed how teams around the league are courting the superstar free agent, including the Los Angeles Dodgers sending Magic Johnson to Las Vegas (Harper's hometown) and the White Sox sending Jim Thome.
Passan also discussed the Cubs, but only to say they're expected to "check in" on Harper.
The Cubs have been touting their financial constraints for more than a month, citing the rise in payroll that is projected to eclipse the luxury tax threshold ($206 million) even before any other signings or moves take place this winter. The moves they've made already support that claim, dealing away Drew Smyly and his $7 million deal ($5 million against the luxury tax) to clear room for Cole Hamels' $20 million option and sending Tommy La Stella to the Los Angeles Angels last week ahead of an increase in salary that is supposed to take the pinch-hitting specialist up to about $1.2 million.
Still, Theo Epstein's front office kicks the tires on any move that could possibly make their team better and acquiring a player with Harper's absurd talent would certainly improve the lineup, regardless of cost. It would be irresponsible to not at least "check in" on Harper's market and get a sense of who he is as a player/person with a face-to-face meeting.
The Philadelphia Phillies still look like the favorite in the Harper Sweepstakes and the moves they've made this week further back that claim, as Passan pointed out, by opening up a spot in the outfield and gaining a bit of financial flexibility in the Carlos Santana deal with the Seattle Mariners, allowing Rhys Hoskins to move back to first base.
The Cubs are on track for roughly $219 million in payroll against the luxury tax in 2019 and the Dodgers aren't far behind at $197 million while the Phillies sit at just $132 million and the White Sox are at a stunning $81 million.
The next couple weeks will be fascinating for Harper's market as MLB's Winter Meetings take place in Vegas, where the superstar will be just a short car ride away from the game's top decision-makers.