After a seven-season tenure with the Nationals that included a National League Rookie of the Year Award in 2012, an NL MVP Award in 2015 and six All-Star nods, Bryce Harper is now a free agent for the first time.
Below you will find a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the outfielder.
Nats’ Harper offer could be “much more” than $300 million
Jan. 4: The Nationals’ supposed final offer to Harper — the 10-year, $300 million deal they put on the table at the beginning of the offseason — might not be so final at all.
A source told MLB Network Radio analyst and former general manager Jim Bowden that Washington’s most recent offer to their longtime superstar outfielder wasn’t just more than $300 million, it was “much more.”
Bowden writes on Twitter that it seems the 10-year, $300 million offer to Harper was really an initial offer, not a final one. Harper declined that offer, but if the Nationals have now gone beyond that, the possibility of Harper returning to Washington is right back on the table. It would also heat up the competition with Harper’s other major suitors, the Phillies and White Sox.
This latest news would fit with the reports earlier this week that Harper had a lengthy meeting with Nationals owner Ted Lerner just before Christmas, and that the two sides may have actually had several meetings over the course of the offseason.
If they miss out on Machado, will Phils go hard after Harper?
Jan. 3: There aren’t many teams that have been reported to be in on both Bryce Harper and Manny Machado — the Phillies and White Sox are perhaps the only two. The Yankees are believed to be Machado’s preferred landing spot, which means Philadelphia and Chicago may be left to duke it out for Harper, with the Nationals, Dodgers and Cubs also potentially in the mix.
Among those teams, the Phillies would arguably be under the most pressure to sign Harper. They entered this offseason with grand aspirations, and owner John Middleton further stoked the fan base’s expectations by saying in November that the club was “expecting to spend big money and maybe even be a little stupid about it.”
As a result, Philadelphia could go above and beyond to sign Harper if it misses out on Machado, as MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand wrote Wednesday. To that end, general manager Matt Klentak told MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki that a meeting with Harper is in the works, which had been reported earlier this week.
MLB Network Radio host CJ Nitkowski, however, argued that doing whatever it takes to land either Harper or Machado isn’t the best course of action for the Phillies.
“I’m not an advocate of the Philadelphia Phillies doing it,” Nitkowski said. “Not if it means paying that much over market. If you can pay at market, whatever that number is, matching another offer or close to it, I’m all right with it. But if you’re talking about adding another year or two more years at an AAV that’s somewhere [in the $30 million per year range], and you know it’s not the right thing to do, then don’t do it. Because I think you’re ultimately going to end up crippling yourself down the road.”
White Sox currently more engaged on Machado than Harper
Jan. 3: The White Sox are one of two teams, along with the Phillies, that have been reported to be in on both Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, and Chicago would likely be thrilled to land either one. But currently, the club is more engaged on Machado and has made him a formal offer, according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, who notes that the White Sox haven’t done the same with Harper despite remaining in “constant contact” with the outfielder.
There are conflicting reports about how long of a contract the White Sox are willing to offer each of the superstar free agents. Bruce Levine of 670 The Score tweeted Wednesday that Chicago wouldn’t be going beyond seven years.
If that’s truly the case, the White Sox may have trouble landing Machado. The infielder’s preferred team is believed to be the Yankees, and other clubs will likely need to significantly outbid New York to sway him.
Although White Sox fans might be disappointed if the club doesn’t land either player, NBC Sports Chicago’s Vinnie Duber explained Thursday why coming up short on the free-agent market this offseason wouldn’t necessarily impact their rebuilding plans, especially with players such as Nolan Arenado, Gerrit Cole and Chris Sale (who pitched the first seven seasons of his career with the White Sox) set to hit free agency a year from now.
The organization isn’t necessarily ready to compete for a postseason berth in 2019, but may be much better positioned to contend come ’20, after several star prospects either reach the big leagues or are knocking on the door. That includes the No. 3 prospect in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline, outfielder Eloy Jimenez, as well as right-hander Dylan Cease (No. 25), outfielder Luis Robert (No. 44) and middle infielder Nick Madrigal (No. 49). Right-hander Michael Kopech (No. 19), who made his Major League debut last season, should be back in ’20 after undergoing Tommy John surgery in September.
Harper met with Nats for five hours before Christmas
Jan. 2: The mutual interest for a potential reunion with Bryce Harper and the Nationals remains strong, but the standstill in Harper’s lengthy free-agent process has seemingly centered on dollars and years. While the baseball world took a proverbial break from business over the holidays, Harper and his agent, Scott Boras, met for five hours with Nationals owner Ted Lerner on the Saturday before Christmas, according to a report on Wednesday from the Washington Post’s Chelsea Janes. MLB Network insider Jon Heyman confirmed that the meeting took place.
It’s unclear if the 10-year, $300 million offer that Harper reportedly rejected during the final week of the regular season remains on the table, but as Janes notes: “Until Harper signs elsewhere, you simply cannot rule out the Nationals. The door, it seems, remains open.”
Earlier on Wednesday, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported that Harper has met with the Nats “multiple times” this offseason, though if such interactions have taken place, they’ve flown under the radar. The two sides did not formally engage at the Winter Meetings in Harper’s hometown of Las Vegas one month ago.
Here’s where it gets interesting: Janes reports that the Nationals have been uncharacteristically tight-lipped about the meeting on Dec. 22, which hasn’t reflected their stance from earlier this offseason.
“On the record and off it, club officials have been willing to discuss the Harper situation because it seemed relatively uncomplicated until now: They made their offer. They put forth a legitimate effort to sign him. And he didn’t take it,” Janes writes.
Boras has executed multiple long-term, high-paying deals with Lerner in the past, notably for Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, so by going straight to ownership, he is engaging directly with who will be paying Harper.
Harper, perhaps the most prominent player to hit free agency of his era, entered the New Year with still an incredibly murky market, while Manny Machado — the other top free agent available — has seen his market take a clearer scope. Machado met with the Yankees, Phillies and White Sox ahead of the holidays and is expected to sign with one of those three clubs, and perhaps soon. It’s believed that Machado will sign before Harper.
Harper has also been prominently linked to the Phillies and White Sox, with Passan reporting that both are willing to go to the 10-year mark that the Nats offered, but as Janes notes, it’s unclear what, if any, formal offers Harper has on the table currently.
The Nats could be being mum to drive up the asking price for Harper’s other suitors, such as the division-rival Phillies. Or they could be trying to gain leverage by holding back the market’s demand for Harper. Either way, Washington shouldn’t be counted out until Harper meets pen to paper.
Phillies reportedly to meet with Harper
Jan. 2: Along with the Yankees and White Sox, the Phillies are known to be one of three primary suitors for Manny Machado. Oh, and they also are very much interested in fellow free-agent superstar Bryce Harper. So much so, in fact, that a meeting with the slugging outfielder is set to happen soon, according to Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia.
“Even while they negotiate with Machado, the Phillies remain interested in outfielder Bryce Harper, the other megastar on this winter’s free-agent market,” Salisbury writes. “In fact, a person close to the player tells NBC Sports Philadelphia that a face-to-face meeting between Harper and Phillies officials is being planned for ‘the next week or so,’ in Harper’s hometown of Las Vegas. Phillies officials met with Harper’s representative, Scott Boras, at the winter meetings in Las Vegas last month. The player was not in attendance at that meeting.”
A planned in-person meeting with Harper is pretty big news at this stage of the offseason. It’s also interesting for what it could mean for the Phillies’ approach with Machado, with whom they met last month in Philadelphia.
There have been rumors that the Phillies theoretically could afford Harper and Machado, although that remains unlikely with both players aiming for at least 10 years and possibly north of $300 million. The takeaway from this latest news, then, might be that the Phillies are still very much in on Machdo — who many expect to sign before Harper — but if they fail on that front, the Phils quickly could pivot to target Harper to ensure they land at least one of these two stars.
The Phillies do seem intent on that, too, as ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports that they and the White Sox are the two teams willing to give Harper or Machado the 10-year deal they are seeking.
Did Harper ring in 2019 with a potential new teammate?
Jan. 1: As we await any firm reports about free-agent superstar Bryce Harper’s destination, we’ll take what we can get, right?
The most recent “news” appears to be that the slugger spent the end of 2018 and start of ’19 with none other than fellow Las Vegas native — and Cubs third baseman — Kris Bryant, as NBC Sports Chicago points out. Kris’ wife, Jess (@jess_bryant), even has picture proof of the pairing on her Instagram story.
What does this mean? Probably nothing. After all, Harper and Bryant grew up together, and this is far from the first time we’ve seen Harper and Bryant hanging out together, or even the first time this very offseason.
Then again, there have been rumors noting the Cubs’ interest in Harper, and it’s not like Harper celebrating the new year with one of his good buddies is a bad thing for Chicago’s chances at all. Maybe spending all this time together really is a sign … of a potential future signing?
Bryce vs. Manny: Who will sign first?
Dec. 30: There still are so many questions when it comes to both Bryce Harper and Manny Machado on the free-agent market. But a different way to look at things involves pitting the two against each other, not to see which one will get the larger contract but to figure out who will sign first.
MLB Network insiders Jon Heyman and Joel Sherman discussed just this topic in a segment. Their guesses? Sherman gives it a whopping 98 percent chance that Machado signs before Harper, while Heyman puts it at “merely” 90 percent.
“We publicly know [Machado’s] field,” Sherman says. “We know it’s going to be the White Sox, the Phillies or the Yankees, almost certainly. And once you define the field, I think you’re up to the bidding process … and it doesn’t seem, from what we publicly know, that’s the place where Bryce Harper is right now.”
Which raises the question: While Machado already has visited Chicago, Philadelphia and New York, where, exactly, is Harper in the decision-making process? “Right now, the Harper market is mostly a mystery,” Heyman says.
Certainly sounds like Machado, who recently indicated he would wait until after the new year to make his choice, will be the first of these two superstar free agents to find a home. And by extension, that could mean Harper deliberately may be waiting to try to top whatever money Machado gets.
This is how the Cubs can land Harper
Dec. 28: While the Cubs’ payroll restrictions could prevent them from pursuing Bryce Harper, Phil Rogers of Forbes writes that there are two ways for the club to make it work.
The first is to eat enough of Jason Heyward‘s salary to make it worthwhile for a team to trade for the 29-year-old outfielder. Heyward is still a productive player — he was worth 2.0 wins above replacement in 2018, per FanGraphs — but he’s owed $106 million over the next five seasons. If the Cubs contribute $56 million in a trade, another team would have to pay Heyward only $10 million per year over the life of his contract.
The second option would involve the Cubs paying the luxury tax in 2019 before trimming the payroll to avoid the steep penalties levied against teams that exceed the threshold in consecutive years.
As Rogers notes, Chicago could free up nearly $60 million by letting Cole Hamels, Ben Zobrist, Brandon Morrow, Pedro Strop, Steve Cishek, Brandon Kintzler and Brian Duensing leave as free agents after the 2019 season.
President of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer will need to decide if it is worth it to weaken the rest of the roster for the chance to land Harper, and ownership would also need to be willing to pay the luxury tax for at least one season in this scenario.
When it comes to Harper, how much of a concern is the luxury tax for the Dodgers?
Dec. 28: While the Dodgers’ trade with the Reds earlier this month likely didn’t trim enough payroll from the books for the team to fit Bryce Harper without exceeding the luxury-tax threshold, Los Angeles’ projected penalty may not be much of a deterrent, writes Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times.
The Dodgers stayed under the threshold in 2018, resetting the tax rate to 20 percent on every dollar spent over the limit. Teams that exceed the limit in consecutive years are subject to a 30 percent rate, while three straight years bumps the rate to 50 percent. There’s also a 12.5 percent surtax for exceeding the limit by $20 million to $40 million.
According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, the Dodgers project to be approximately $24 million below the $206 million threshold in 2019, which means signing Harper to a contract with an unprecedented average annual value of $40 million would put them over the line by $16 million, leading to a tax of just $3.2 million. Los Angeles could realistically get back below the threshold in 2020, as the club is slated to shed $90 million from its payroll after the 2019 campaign.
Of course, there are other factors in play here. The Dodgers have greater needs elsewhere, and signing Harper would likely mean forgoing pursuits for Indians ace Corey Kluber and Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto. But if the club truly wants the 26-year-old outfielder, a luxury-tax payment of less than $4 million seems unlikely to get in the way.
When it’s all said and done, could Nationals still end up re-signing Harper?
Dec. 27: Bryce Harper has generated plenty of buzz this offseason, as he and fellow 26-year-old superstar Manny Machado headline the current free-agent class. But after Harper has been linked to several teams, including the Dodgers, Phillies, White Sox and even Yankees, will he end up re-signing with the Nationals?
Washington reportedly made Harper a 10-year, $300 million contract offer, which he declined. In his latest Inbox, MLB.com’s Jamal Collier answered fan questions, including one about whether the Nats still have a shot to bring Harper back even if it means going over the luxury tax threshold.
“I believe the two sides will at least re-engage at some point, otherwise the Nats could have closed the proverbial door on Harper already,” Collier writes. “As far as the luxury tax, yes the Nationals would prefer to remain under that threshold after exceeding it the past two seasons. However, according to Forbes, the grand total the Nationals owe for exceeding the luxury tax in 2018 is $2,386,097. I would not let that hold me up from signing Harper.”
The window certainly remains open for the two sides to come to an agreement, and it will be intriguing to watch how it all develops given that Harper has known no other franchise since making his Major League debut at age 19 in ’12.
More likely to land Harper: Dodgers or Cubs?
Dec. 27: While the market for Bryce Harper is still unclear, MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi reports that there’s “still about a half-dozen teams on some level of interest with Harper,” and the Dodgers and the Cubs are the two potential suitors currently drawing the most buzz.
The Dodgers were presumed to have entered the Harper mix when they traded Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig and Alex Wood to the Reds earlier this month, and the Cubs’ interest in Harper was mentioned in a Chicago Sun-Times report on Dec. 23, when Gordon Wittenmyer wrote that president of baseball operations Theo Epstein met with Harper and agent Scott Boras at the Winter Meetings and urged them not to accept another offer before the Cubs had a chance to try to clear some payroll and check again with ownership.
Now, it’s possible that neither team is prepared to make a spirited push for Harper. Los Angeles is reportedly hoping to stay under the luxury tax, and the club needs a right-handed bat more than a left-handed one. Moreover, the Andrew Friedman-led Dodgers front office hasn’t been known to splurge on any one player. Chicago, meanwhile, has to do some serious payroll maneuvering to create the room to sign Harper.
As for who has the best chance to sign Harper between the two teams, Morosi is going with the Dodgers, for the simple reason that Los Angeles has already made the move to clear both roster spots and financial flexibility. Currently, the Cubs are not a fit for Harper financially or roster-wise, and they will likely have difficulty moving Jason Heyward, Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood, who are three of their highest paid players for 2019.
Will ‘desperate teams’ offer the most for Harper and Machado?
Dec. 26: The biggest storyline this offseason is the free agency of two 26-year-old superstars in Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Where will they end up? MLB Network insider Joel Sherman makes a guess in an article for the New York Post: the teams that offer the most money. Sherman writes that those clubs, the “desperate teams” in the mix, are the Phillies and White Sox.
Both clubs have given indications they may open the coffers wide for Harper or Machado, with Phillies owner John Middleton famously saying the organization might be “a little stupid” about how it spends its money this winter, and with Chicago’s 82-year-old owner Jerry Reinsdorf wanting to win another World Series in his lifetime.
Sherman believes Philadelphia and Chicago will be where Harper and Machado end up, though he doesn’t know which player will be in which city. He also notes the involvement of other clubs, particularly the Dodgers and Yankees. The Dodgers could persuade Harper to head west to a World Series contender in a city of stars, and the Yankees need a shortstop to open the season because Didi Gregorius will still be recovering from Tommy John surgery, making the Bronx a potential destination for Machado. Playing for the Yankees is reportedly Machado’s preference.
Sherman goes on to add that not only do Machado and Harper both prefer the Yankees — though New York hasn’t shown much interest in Harper — “word is neither player particularly likes Philadelphia.”
Harper ‘likes’ Hollywood, but are Dodgers a fit?
Dec. 26: Are the Dodgers the favorites to land free agent Bryce Harper? That question was posed by MLB’s official Instagram account, and the post has racked up more than 127,000 likes as of Wednesday morning, including one from @bharper3407 — yep, that’s none other than Harper himself.
Perhaps Harper is just stirring the pot, but it’s not farfetched to think the outfielder would have the Dodgers at the top of his wish list. Los Angeles represents one of the biggest markets in sports, the Dodgers are coming off back-to-back World Series appearances and the club can offer Harper the record-breaking contract he seeks. L.A. also is close to Las Vegas, Harper’s hometown.
Harper to the Dodgers is a rumor that’s been gaining steam after Los Angeles traded outfielders Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp to the Reds last week, but there are several factors that could keep the club out of the Harper sweepstakes.
The first is the luxury tax. If the Dodgers want to stay under the $206 million threshold, which they reportedly do, they won’t have the payroll space for Harper — especially if the club is looking to stick to a shorter-term deal with a higher average annual value, as has been suggested. The Dodgers will have even less room if they complete a trade for Indians ace Corey Kluber.
“I think it’s sort of foolish that they’re so concerned about the luxury tax when they haven’t been to this point,” MLB Network Radio host Mike Ferrin said. “Now when they really do have a chance to be built for sustained success and try and win World Series when they’ve been to two in a row … now they’re gonna start to roll back the financials a bit? Doesn’t make a whole lotta sense to me.”
While the Andrew Friedman-led Dodgers front office has consistently maintained a high payroll, it hasn’t been known for splurging on any one player. In fact, $93 million is the largest contract the club has handed out during Friedman’s tenure. There likely won’t be a 10-year, $300 million offer coming from the Dodgers, which is another reason why they might not have a great chance to land Harper.
Finally, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports that the club is seeking a right-handed bat to balance its lefty-heavy lineup. Signing the left-handed-hitting Harper would increase the Dodgers’ imbalance without addressing catcher and second base — Los Angeles’ two biggest areas of need.
Can Cubs clear payroll space for Harper push?
Dec. 24: While other National League Central teams have been active this offseason, the Cubs have been mostly quiet due to apparent payroll constraints, with Daniel Descalso representing their biggest acquisition to date.
But the offseason is far from over, giving president of baseball operations Theo Epstein plenty of time to make a big splash — and perhaps reel in the biggest name on the market, Bryce Harper.
Epstein may be planning to do just that. According to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times, the Cubs were one of the teams to meet with Harper and agent Scott Boras in Las Vegas during the Winter Meetings, and Epstein urged Harper and Boras not to accept another offer before the Cubs had a chance to try to clear some payroll and check again with ownership.
As Wittenmyer points out, Boras’ track record with top free agents suggests Harper could be on the market well into January, so Epstein could have several more weeks to position the club for a serious pursuit of the superstar slugger.
Former MLB general manager Steve Phillips doesn’t see Harper to the Cubs happening, however, given the maneuvering Epstein would have to do to create the space to sign him.
“[Jason Heyward, Yu Darvish, Jose Quintana and Ben Zobrist] are the guys making [significant] money that maybe they can consider parting ways with,” Phillips said on MLB Network Radio. “Darvish is unmovable considering his health situation. Heyward I believe is unmovable considering his production situation. And $10.5 million for Quintana is fine, but you kind of need Quintana in your rotation right now. … You can probably move Zobrist, but you do have to resolve what you’re going to do at second base, too.
“You look at their roster … you start to wonder, how do they make this work to add another big piece? I don’t know that they’ve got the ability to shed payroll, and it’s going to take ownership just swallowing hard and saying, ‘OK, boys, go ahead and add another $35 million to make it work.'”
The Cubs finished second in the NL Central to the Brewers this past season, losing to Milwaukee at Wrigley Field in Game 163. Chicago then dropped the NL Wild Card Game to the Rockies at home, putting added pressure on manager Joe Maddon heading into the final year of his contract. The Brewers figure to be a contender again in 2018, although the club hasn’t been busy this offseason, either. The Cardinals, meanwhile, have added Paul Goldschmidt and Andrew Miller, and the Reds traded for Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Alex Wood and Tanner Roark.
Are Phillies more likely to land Machado than Harper?
Dec. 20: Although much has been written about the Phillies’ interest in free-agent superstars Manny Machado and Bryce Harper this offseason, the club has given little indication as to whether it actually has a preference between the two.
But according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman’s latest article for Fancred Sports, it may be Machado or bust for Philadelphia, and not only because the Phils like the infielder better.
While some Phillies people have recently suggested that Machado is a better fit, Heyman speculates that they may be doing so mostly because of the buzz floating around that Harper isn’t exactly enamored with the City of Brotherly Love.
As Heyman writes, another potential reason is the looming free agency of New Jersey native and noted Eagles fan Mike Trout in two years. If the Phillies land Harper after signing Andrew McCutchen to a three-year contract earlier this offseason, the club will already have an excessive amount of money invested in the outfield when Trout hits the open market.
With these reasons in mind, the Phillies could make an aggressive play and try to outbid the Yankees, the White Sox and others for Machado even though Harper is still available as a possible fallback option.
Could Hoskins help bring Harper to Philly?
Dec. 18: Rhys Hoskins already is beloved in Philadelphia for being a young face of the Phillies franchise as the promising and productive slugger who burst onto the scene in 2017 then followed that up with a strong sophomore season this past year.
If fans in the City of Brotherly Love didn’t have enough love for Hoskins already, well, they should be excited to hear he’s doing his part to help bring talent to Philly — perhaps including superstar free agent Bryce Harper, with whom Hoskins has spoken about the team, the city and more, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports.
“Hoskins’ agent is Scott Boras,” Zolecki writes. “Harper’s agent is Boras. Yes, Hoskins has spoken with Harper.”
“Again, it’s just more of me offering any look as to what this city is like, what the organization is like, what the clubhouse is like, what [manager Gabe Kapler] is like,” Hoskins said. “It’s not me offering information to him. If he wants it, and I’ve expressed this to him, that I am here for a chat if he wants it and it’d help.”
Having a young star like Hoskins serve as something of a pitch person for the Phillies potentially could be quite helpful, whether he’s possibly persuading superstars like Harper or Manny Machado — who is due to visit Philly on Thursday — or other players on the open market who could help improve the club.
The Phillies already have added shortstop Jean Segura via trade and signed veteran outfielder Andrew McCutchen. What’s next for Hoskins and Co.?
Phils reportedly met with Boras about Bryce last week
Dec. 18: While Manny Machado is making headlines for his visits with the White Sox (Monday), Yankees (Wednesday) and Phillies (Thursday) — plus a potential mystery team or two — it’s been curiously quiet on the Bryce Harper front.
The hope was that some headway would be made last week at the Winter Meetings, especially since they were held in Harper’s hometown of Las Vegas. Alas, not much Harper news happened in the wake of the baseball world’s mass exodus — but contrary to the slogan, apparently not everything that happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.
MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reports Tuesday that Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, indeed did meet with the Phillies at both the General Manager and the Winter Meetings, specifically to discuss the star slugger.
The Phillies have been linked to Harper, as well as Machado, all offseason long, so this shouldn’t be a surprise. The timing of this news, however, is intriguing with the club set to host Machado on Thursday. That means by the end of this week, the Phillies will have met with both Machado himself and Harper’s agent, perhaps putting them in position to make a determination of which star free agent they prefer.