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.
Harper and the Rockies?
Nov. 20: Bryce Harper has been connected with several teams during this Hot Stove season, but a club that would create shock waves if it were to land the superstar slugger is the Rockies.
USA TODAY Sports' Gabe Lacques suggests the idea isn't as far-fetched as you might think. In fact, he argues Harper and Colorado would be a fit.
"The Rockies should recognize that their window to win may never be better, given their offensive core and that rarest of sights in Denver -- young, capable starting pitching," writes Lacques. "With the status of one franchise player in doubt, locking down another in the near term would ensure them enduring relevance -- along with a powerful shot to win it all now."
Harper playing 81 games a season at hitter-friendly Coors Field is quite a thought. In 90 career plate appearances there, he has a .387/.489/.627 slash line. And even if it's just for one year, can you imagine Harper and Nolan Arenado in the same lineup?
On the other hand, the spacious outfield of Coors Field can be a nightmare for mediocre defensive outfielders. MLB.com's Mike Petriello took a deep dive to investigate the causes behind Harper's poor defense in 2018.
"Defensive Runs Saved scored him a -26, worst of any outfielder who doesn't call massive Coors Field home," Petriello notes. "Ultimate Zone Rating scored him a -14.4, at the bottom of the list. Statcast™ Outs Above Average, which for the moment includes only range and not arm value, puts him at -12, fifth-worst."
That's not to say all is lost, of course. Petriello also writes that "he's still just 26 and enormously talented. Teams aren't just going to assume he can't play defense anymore."
Cashman weighs in on Harper as a potential first baseman
Nov. 20: When agent Scott Boras touted Bryce Harper's ability to play first base two weeks ago, some viewed it as a sales pitch to the Yankees, who don't have an obvious need in the outfield.
In an appearance Tuesday on MLB Network Radio, Yanks general manager Brian Cashman weighed in on Harper as a potential fit and quashed the idea of New York considering him for a position switch.
"People have talked about Bryce Harper being able to play first base, I don't know if he can or can't," Cashman said. "I know he's very athletic, but that's not necessarily a bet I would recommend placing with the amount of money he's expected to get."
Cashman again pinpointed the starting rotation as an area of focus, along with addressing the bullpen and covering the absence of shortstop Didi Gregorius, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery and likely won't be ready until the summer. Cashman, though, didn't close the door on signing Harper.
"I'm not ruling anything out," the GM said. "We like to think of ourselves as very progressive and open-minded to any idea, if it's a good idea. My main laser focus currently is on those areas of need, but that doesn't preclude me from, with ownership obviously directing things from above, being open to any idea that makes us the best that we can possibly be."
Is Harper still in play for Yankees after Paxton trade?
Nov. 20: The Yankees' trade for James Paxton could have ripple effects beyond the starting pitching market. Those effects could even extend to Harper and Manny Machado, as one of the major potential suitors for the two superstars has to determine its course for the rest of the offseason.
According to a report from MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi following the Paxton trade, the Yankees do remain involved in the marketplace for high-end position players like Harper. It would be reasonable to think they might become even more involved, since they've now addressed their starting rotation -- and without handing out a big free-agent contract -- but per Morosi, starting pitching actually remains New York's priority even after adding Paxton. That's consistent with the position the Yankees have taken this offseason that they want to add multiple front-end starting pitchers entering 2019.
But don't rule out Harper landing in New York. Also per Morosi, the Yankees have continued to have internal discussions since the beginning of the offseason about signing Harper and playing him at first base, although that's still "unrealistic" at this time.
Even if that's the case, the Yankees could probably find a place for a player of Harper's caliber, whether it's in the outfield, at first base or even at designated hitter. But someone like Machado might be a better fit, as he fills a clear need for the Yankees at shortstop in Didi Gregorius' absence.
Cardinals president: Team has the payroll room to add a player such as Harper
Nov. 19: The Cardinals have been mentioned as a potential landing spot for Bryce Harper, and team president Bill DeWitt III confirmed the club can afford to hand out $300 million or more in free agency, according to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
"We could do it, sure," DeWitt said. It's about [considering] putting all our eggs in one basket. We have the payroll room."
With projected arbitration costs included, Baseball-Reference.com estimates that the Cardinals' payroll will be $136.9 million in 2019. Even if the Cards sign Harper for $35 million, their payroll wouldn't be much higher than it was this past season, and they would still be well below the $206 million luxury-tax threshold. St. Louis also has just $75.4 million committed for 2020, $33.4 million for 2021 and $6.67 million for 2022.
The Cardinals have needs in the bullpen, at third base and in the outfield, so they may choose to spread out their resources. But it's at least financially feasible for the club to sign Harper.
Could the Braves be a surprise suitor for Harper?
Nov. 19: The Athletic's David O'Brien floated the Braves as a potential suitor for Bryce Harper in a tweet on Monday, but a source quickly quashed that possibility, telling O'Brien that Atlanta is not in on the superstar outfielder.
The reigning National League East champions could benefit from Harper's power and patient approach, as Atlanta ranked just 19th in homers and finished in a tie for 19th in walk rate this past season. There's also an obvious need for Harper from a positional standpoint, with right fielder Nick Markakis joining Harper on the free-agent market. And the Braves seemingly have the financial room to sign Harper, with Baseball-Reference.com estimating that they will have an $86 million payroll in 2019, factoring in projected arbitration costs.
But Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos has indicated that he doesn't foresee the club handing out the type of contract -- possibly 10 years for north of $300 million -- it would take to sign Bryce Harper, and O'Brien's source reiterated that point Monday.
Should Yankees go all-in on this year's free-agent class?
Nov. 19: By their lofty "World Series or bust" standards, the Yankees haven't had much success recently. New York hasn't hoisted the Commissioner's Trophy since 2009, and even the Orioles have won the American League East more recently than the Yanks.
ESPN's David Schoenfield thinks Yankees owners Hal and Hank Steinbrenner need to "summon the spirit of their father and go big, ignore the luxury tax, do whatever it takes," and that means going all-in on this year's free-agent class.
Schoenfield outlines a five-move plan for the Yankees to become the best team in baseball, starting with signing infielder Manny Machado and left-hander Patrick Corbin.
Schoenfield thinks the Yanks should trade for Mariners southpaw James Paxton to join Corbin in their revamped rotation, noting that Paxton is projected to earn roughly the same amount as Sonny Gray in arbitration. New York can trade Gray and add Paxton without impacting the payroll. That looks prescient now, as the Yankees acquired Paxton on Monday in a blockbuster deal that sent Justus Sheffield -- the Yankees' No. 1 prospect -- and two other Minor Leaguers to Seattle.
Move No. 4 in Schoenfield's plan is to sign Daniel Murphy to start at first base and fill in at second, replacing the Greg Bird/Neil Walker combination. The Yankees gave more than 700 combined plate appearances to Bird and Walker in 2018, and both posted sub-.675 OPS marks. Schoenfield argues the lefty-swinging Murphy would be a great fit at Yankee Stadium, and points out that the veteran's contact-heavy approach would help to balance New York's strikeout-prone lineup some.
To cap it all off, Schoenfield has signing Bryce Harper as Move No. 5 for New York. In this scenario, Brett Gardner would become the fourth outfielder, with Giancarlo Stanton remaining the club's primary designated hitter.
For the Yankees to pull this off, the Steinbrenners would need to be willing to exceed the $206 million luxury-tax threshold by a significant margin, which isn't out of the question. Before staying under the threshold in 2018, New York paid the tax in every year from 2003, when the system was put in place, to 2017.
Harper in Houston, and for less than $300 million?
Nov. 18: Several Sports Illustrated writers made their predictions for where Bryce Harper would sign this offseason, and for how much. One of the out-of-the-box guesses came from Connor Grossman, who went with the Astros for $280 million over eight years, with an opt-out after 2020.
"I don't think Harper and Scott Boras are going to find a deal that meets their liking in both length and dollars," writes Grossman. "[Yankees general manager] Brian Cashman won't be swooping in with a 10-year, $400 million miracle. So they'll have to 'settle,' which in this case means breaking the average annual value record, joining an uber-talented team and leaving open the possibility of hitting free agency again at 28."
As for the Astros not being widely considered among the favorites to land Harper (like the Phillies and Yankees), Grossman cites the Angels' surprise signing of Albert Pujols to a 10-year, $254 million deal in 2011, as well as the Mariners inking Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240 million contract in '13, as examples of what can happen when you least expect it. A lineup featuring George Springer, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa and Harper would be all the more formidable for a club a year removed from winning the World Series.
MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reported earlier this month that Houston had a deal in place to acquire Harper at last season's non-waiver Trade Deadline, but it was nixed by Nationals ownership.
Will Cubs join the fray for Harper?
Nov. 18: Although The Athletic reported earlier in November that the Cubs have "financial concerns that may limit their ability and motivation to make a huge splash this winter," the club may nonetheless be involved in the Bryce Harper sweepstakes.
Dan Bernstein of 670 The Score reported Friday that the Cubs are among the teams that are "in" on Harper with negotiations starting to pick up steam.
Of course, the report should be taken with a grain of salt, as Matt Snyder of CBS Sports noted Saturday. The Cubs may simply be floating this as a misdirection to make other teams think they are involved in the Harper bidding, and to avoid backlash from the fan base. Furthermore, Bernstein isn't a known news-breaker, and his report hasn't been confirmed by any local or national reporters of note.
Baseball-reference estimates the Cubs will have a $208.6 million payroll in 2019, putting them over the Competitive Balance Tax threshold of $206 million and subjecting them to a 20 percent tax on all overages. Teams that exceed the threshold by $20 million to $40 million are also required to pay a 12 percent surtax. The Cubs will likely fall into that range if they sign Harper for north of $30 million.
Still, a major free-agent move wouldn't be out of character for the Theo Epstein-led front office, which has signed Jon Lester, Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist, Yu Darvish and Brandon Morrow to expensive contracts over the past four offseasons.
Will offseason end with neither Harper nor Machado in Philadelphia?
Nov. 18: The Phillies have long been connected to free-agent superstars Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, with many expecting the club to land at least one of them. But what are the chances that Philadelphia comes away with neither player?
That was the most-selected option in a recent MLB Trade Rumors poll, with nearly a third of people (as of Sunday night) voting -- and perhaps hoping, if they are fans of other teams -- that Philadelphia won't sign either Harper or Machado.
Of course, if that scenario happens, it might be because the Phillies decide to take a different route. MLB Network insider Joel Sherman argued Saturday in an article for the New York Post that Philadelphia would be better off signing three or four big-name free agents instead of pouring all of its resources into Harper or Machado.
Will a potential TV deal be a factor in whether the Yankees sign Harper?
Nov. 17: Tyler Kepner of the New York Times notes that the Yankees are in negotiations to buy back the YES Network, and that such an acquisition by the franchise may influence whether Bryce Harper ends up in pinstripes next season.
Kepner includes a quote from Harper's agent, Scott Boras, who said, "It's a market within a market that no one's ever talked about." Harper is one of the most exciting players in the game, and his style of play and star power could improve already strong ratings for the YES Network.
Harper has said he wears the No. 34 because the two digits add up to 7, which was the number of his idol, Mickey Mantle. The short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium is certainly an inviting sight for the left-handed slugger, but the Yankees do have a crowded outfield already, and general manager Brian Cashman has said the club's No. 1 priority is starting pitching this offseason.
Are the Phillies facing a choice between Harper now and Trout later?
Nov. 17: The Phillies are considered the odds-on favorite to sign at least one of Bryce Harper or Manny Machado . They have the funds. They have the need. They make a lot of sense. But could there be a reason to avoid splurging on a free-agent superstar now?
Undoubtedly, Harper instantly would make the Phillies better. But in a story for the New York Post, MLB Network insider Joel Sherman wonders if Philadelphia really is ready for the next step toward contention -- not to mention, the hype and expectations -- that comes with inking such a star.
It's a fair question after a roller-coaster 2018 season in Philly. Through early August, the Phillies led the National League East and looked like definite postseason contenders, only to falter to an NL-worst 16-33 record after Aug. 7. The players who were supposed to make up the core of the franchise's next contender have struggled to develop at the Major League level, aside from NL Cy Young Award finalist Aaron Nola and young slugger Rhys Hoskins .
"Wouldn't the Phillies be better off spending $300 million-ish on Patrick Corbin , Craig Kimbrel , Michael Brantley and Josh Donaldson -- or multiple players of that ilk -- to address a roster in need of upgrading in many spots?" Sherman argues. "That at least keeps them out of the ultra-long-term, big-buck risk that would come with Harper or Machado. And the Phillies have to think a little about future financial flexibility for many reasons, none bigger than that Mike Trout -- who grew up a Phillies fan -- is a free agent in two years."
It could be a worthwhile approach, especially if Phillies execs don't think the club is one star player away right now and would prefer to enhance multiple areas while also taking more time to evaluate players like Odubel Herrera , Maikel Franco , Scott Kingery , J.P. Crawford , Nick Pivetta , Nick Williams and Zach Eflin .
In theory, then, a few of those would improve in 2019 alongside the multiple free-agent reinforcements, putting the franchise in line for a run at Trout -- at a time when both he and the Phillies could be in their primes together.
Is Harper's food preference the key to his free agency?
Nov. 16: Amid peak Hot Stove season, some rumors are more firm, others more frivolous. This one might fall under the latter label, but that doesn't make it any less fun.
As the baseball world awaits Bryce Harper's decision, we're gobbling up just about every tasty morsel of information we can when it comes to the free-agent superstar. TMZ Sports tracked down Harper at LAX and got, well, this delicious scoop, straight from Harper: "Favorite food? Probably Chicago. They got great food. ... Deep dish, of course. Anywhere in New York, of course, you know you can always go out there and eat good food."
Translation: Harper definitely is putting the Cubs, White Sox, Yankees and Mets at the top of his list, right?
In reality, the 26-year-old pointed out that he's still a long way from making any decision with regard to signing what is expected to be a massive, potentially record-breaking contract. But, hey, consider this a little food for thought.
Are Harper's defensive issues an anomaly? How will potential suitors view them?
Nov. 16: Bryce Harper's defensive statistics took a nosedive last season, as the right fielder finished with -26 defensive runs saved, while his arm graded out among the worst in MLB. But his agent, Scott Boras, argues that Harper's hyper-extended knee the season prior impacted his defensive value in 2018, and that it was therefore an anomaly.
How will potential suitors for the free agent superstar view his defensive performance from '18?
"Teams interested in Harper must decide how much credence they put in Boras' argument, and how much it affects their valuation of the player," writes MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal in an article for The Athletic. "The Nationals evidently were undeterred, making an offer to retain Harper on the final day of the season, albeit one they knew he was almost certain to refuse -- 10 years, $300 million, according to the Washington Post."
One mitigating factor even in the scenario that some clubs are wary of Harper's defense, is his potential as a designated hitter in the AL.
Harper to the Yankees inevitable?
Nov. 16: While the Yankees have said their main focus this offseason is starting pitching, WEEI's John Tomase suggests one of this offseason's biggest prizes could still end up in pinstripes.
"For now, the Yankees aren't considered favorites to land [Bryce] Harper," Tomase writes. " ... But forgive me for thinking that somehow, someway, the Yankees end up playing a role in this before it's over. It would be a New York kind of move, especially in the wake of a fourth World Series title for the Red Sox since 2004. It could be justified by Harper's age, and man would it make Red Sox-Yankees even more compelling."
Harper has said that he wears the No. 34 because the two digits add up to 7, Mickey Mantle's number. And as a young, exciting and sometimes polarizing superstar, he fits the mold of past Yankee free-agent signings over the years. As for room in New York's outfield, the Yankees re-signed Brett Gardner earlier this offseason, making it a full house. But Tomase argues that the 35-year-old Gardner may not be the answer given his age, and Aaron Hicks is tradable.
One way or the other, the Yankees being in play for Harper would be very intriguing, to say the least.
Phils ready to spend for Harper, other big free agents
Nov. 16: If the Phillies are going to seriously pursue Harper, Manny Machado and other top free agents, they'll have to be willing to seriously open their wallets. And they're prepared to do just that.
"We're going into this expecting to spend money. And maybe even be a little bit stupid about it," owner John Middleton told USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale at the MLB Owners Meetings.
"It's exciting to contemplate what we may be able to do this offseason. We know the free-agent class this year is really, really good."
Both Harper and Machado could command contracts in the 10-plus year and $300-plus million range. But the Phillies currently have less than $70 million on their payroll for 2019, and only about $50 million committed for 2020 and $15 million for 2021.
They can afford to make a major play in the free-agent market, and it looks like they plan to do it, as they look to make the leap to a playoff contender after fading down the stretch in 2018. In addition to being linked to Harper and Machado, Philadelphia could make a play for a top starter like Patrick Corbin or a reliever like Craig Kimbrel.
Middleton wouldn't refer to Harper or Machado by name, "But," he told Nightengale, "we will be spending."