The Bryce Harper sweepstakes is still going strong. Despite what you may have seen on Twitter, the Chicago White Sox have not shocked the baseball world and signed the 26-year-old superstar. Not yet, at least.
But the South Siders are up to something. Speculation arose early Thursday morning after a picture leaked showing a scoreboard at the United Center that read “Bryce Harper #34” with the White Sox logo.
Bryce Harper #34 white Sox stage set up at United Center pic.twitter.com/mDF0ohgrNp
— Andy Rapp (@AndyRapp) November 8, 2018
There also appeared to be a stage below that board, leading some to wonder whether the White Sox were about the call an emergency press conference to announce a major move.
When that didn’t happen, people had questions. What exactly are the White Sox doing? Why did they do this at the United Center — where the Chicago Blackhawks and Chicago Bulls play — and not at Guaranteed Rate Field? Do they believe they have a chance to sign Harper?
We can take some educated guesses at the answers to those questions. The White Sox are likely prepping a video presentation for Harper. That’s become a pretty normal way for teams to lure premier free agents in recent years. Those videos usually include a glowing history lesson about the franchise, testimonies from franchise legends and imagery of what it might look like if that player signs with the team.
The reason this was set up at the United Center could have something to do with White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf also owning the Bulls. It’s also incredibly likely the White Sox have already recorded footage of similar signage at Guaranteed Rate Field.
All of this points to the White Sox believing Harper will listen to their pitch. It’s unclear whether Harper plans to meet with the club or if the team will simply send a recruitment video to Harper to review with Scott Boras.
It’s also a sign the franchise might actually spend big money this winter. The White Sox have been linked to nearly every prominent free agent already, though the team doesn’t have a history of handing out mega contracts. Jose Abreu’s $68 million deal is the most the team has ever given to a free agent. Harper is expected to receive somewhere close to $400 million.
Every other team interested in Harper will go to similar lengths to woo him, so there’s no reason for White Sox fans to start celebrating … yet.
You can’t move forward in the negotiation process if you aren’t willing to complete step one. The White Sox are at least attempting to take that step.
For fans hoping the team lands Harper, that’s better than the alternative.
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