The Winter Meetings are almost over. Paul Goldschmidt is a Cardinal. Andrew McCutchen is a Phillie. It's time for that last-minute realization that it's almost Christmas and you've been fretting too much about Manny Machado to go shopping yet. It's getting late, early.
But we still don't have a landing spot for Bryce Harper. Many teams met with him in his hometown, agent Scott Boras has soliloquized on his behalf and even Nelly has gotten involved. We don't know where Harper is going, but the last week has given us, if not a destination, at least some clues. So as the Meetings wind down, let's do an updated Harper Destination Power Rankings.
1. Philadelphia Phillies
When you just come out and say you're willing to spend "stupid money," well, let's just say you can find the words "stupid money" somewhere on the Boras Corporation letterhead. The signing of McCutchen doesn't lower the possibility of going after Harper. If anything, it makes the idea of a Harper-Rhys Hoskins-McCutchen middle of the order that much more exciting. That said: Machado is coming to visit next week, and in some ways, he's an even better fit than Harper. (Though he'll have some work to do with those fans.) The Phillies seem absolutely committed to get one of the two superstars on the market, and since there aren't many teams being so openly vocal, that'll keep them atop the list. For now.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
All those rumors flying around about outfielder trades -- specifically Yasiel Puig trades -- hint that something is up. As great as the Dodgers have been the last few years, they really don't have that everyday megastar that the franchise is used to having around. They are under the luxury tax, for now, and can spend if they want to. They don't have an obvious vacancy for Harper to fill, but if you can get Harper, you'll find a spot.
3.New York Yankees
The Yankees say they're mostly out of the bidding -- but then again, Brian Cashman will tell you that his Death Star is "fully operational." If they want Harper, they'll go get him. There is space for him, both in the lineup -- in left field, spelling Aaron Judge in right, at designated hitter, perhaps even someday at first base -- and in the payroll. And the Yanks were Harper's favorite team as a kid and the one he has said he always wanted to play for. I will believe the Yankees are truly out of the chase for Harper when I see him in another uniform, and perhaps not quite even then.
4. Chicago White Sox
A little self-serving here, I'll grant you, since I just wrote about this, but man, the White Sox might be the most perfect fit in all of baseball for Harper. Their cascades of young talent will be reaching the Majors in the next few years, right as Harper is in his prime. He'll be surrounded by hyper-talented, cost-controlled stars for the next five or six years, in a division that the White Sox could rule well into the next decade. Harper would be in a major market, he'd still get to hang around with his childhood pal Kristopher Bryant and he wouldn't have the glare of a New York or a Los Angeles. There's still some debate about whether the White Sox are truly willing to do what it takes to pay for him, but if they are … this is where he should go.
There's always an incumbency advantage, but this is starting to look a little faded. The owner says that the $300 million the Nationals have already offered Harper is "the best we could do," which, while probably not entirely true, does sound like a team ready to move on, particularly when it just paid for the top starter on the market. The Nats will still be good next year with or without Harper and, if anything, their real reckoning will come after Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman become free agents. Still, this is where Harper has played his entire career, and they're still a legit contender: They're not entirely out of the running.
As much fun as it sounds to have Harper and Bryant playing together, signing Harper would likely mean waving goodbye to Bryant in a few years. (Or at least it makes an extension that much more unlikely.) Boras clearly thinks the Cubs have the money for both, and maybe they do, but the Cubs certainly aren't acting like a team that's on the verge of signing Harper. Maybe that's them just brilliantly slow-playing it.
7.St. Louis Cardinals
This is nearly a perfect a fit as the White Sox. But the Cardinals reportedly didn't even meet with Harper or Boras in Vegas, and they seem more than satisfied with their lineup now that they've traded for Goldschmidt. The Cards are eventually going to have to pay up for somebody in the middle of their lineup, and I'd argue that Harper is a much better bet than Goldschmidt or Nolan Arenado (both free agents after the year), but John Mozeliak obviously disagrees. Maybe they'll lurk about to see if the price goes down ... but the price probably isn't going down.
8. The field
The Giants appear to have dropped out entirely, the Angels have been tossed out a few times (the idea of Michael Trout and Harper in the same outfield makes one salivate), the Braves have an opening in right field, the Astros are always up for a surprising move. And hey, the Mets are doing some crazy things right now, and I dunno, the Padres could be wanting to make a wild splash? But it'll almost certainly one of those first seven. And with everybody packing up from Vegas … it might be a while still until we find out.