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The latest Harper free-agent rumors

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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.

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.

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.

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."

Belle weighs in on Harper and Machado
Nov. 15: The White Sox signed Albert Belle to what was, at the time, the largest contract in baseball history, at five years and $55 million in 1996. Belle joined NBC Sports Chicago's White Sox Talk podcast on Thursday to talk about the club, and one of the topics of discussion was whether Chicago would try to sign Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, given they are expected to land contracts in the range of $300 million-$400 million.

"I guess [fans] should be skeptical until it actually happens," said the five-time All-Star. "If they're willing to spend the big money on Harper or Machado ... that means they're willing to go for it again, and win a pennant. ... If I were an owner, I wouldn't give anyone more than a five-year deal. I'm just trying to figure out all the guys who signed big deals that are hurt now. Look at Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols ... Robinson Cano isn't gonna pan out on his [deal]."

Lack of counter offer suggests Harper might not return to Washington
Nov. 15: The timing of the report that Harper rejected a 10-year, $300 million offer from the Nats during the final week of the regular season -- during the General Managers Meetings in Carlsbad, Calif., last week -- presented plenty of intrigue. On one hand, Harper's representatives might have had incentive to set the floor for any negotiations, but the club might have also had incentive to show that it made a strong effort to retain Harper.

Either way, the fact that no news has surfaced that Harper's camp made a counter offer to Washington suggests that the longstanding face of the franchise likely won't be back, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

"I think he's gone from Washington," Nightengale said on the ESPN Baseball Tonight podcast with Buster Olney recently. "The fact that he never even bothered to make a counter offer or even talk about it, I think he wants at least, he's looking at least for $400 million, probably 12 or 13 years at about $35 [million] per year."

Video: Collier on Nationals' huge offer to Harper, pursuit

That figure will likely be out of the Nats' price range. The club is in the market for starting pitching and catching, and have been linked to some prominent players to fill those voids, such as Patrick Corbin and Dallas Keuchel -- the top two free-agent pitchers -- as well as Yasmani Grandal, the market's top backstop, and the Marlins' J.T. Realmuto, who Washington pursued in the past before the asking price became too high.

Nats GM Mike Rizzo has said that the club will continue to pursue Harper in free agency, but that the club's offer from the final week of the season is no longer on the table, per Nightengale. It wasn't immediately clear if Scott Boras, Harper's agent, made a counteroffer. Boras is known notoriously for pushing his clients to free agency and an opening bidding field. 

Nightengale speculated that the Phillies are the favorites to land Harper, but he also didn't discount the White Sox, who hope to climb back to contention after a massively disappointing 2018. 

Video: Bryce Harper's likelihood of joining the Phillies

"I think the Phillies are a very desperate team," Nightengale said. "They've got a ton of money. They made it clear: 'We want to spend money. We want to win right now.' So I think they'll do everything possible to sign Harper, no matter what the price is ... I'd be stunned if he doesn't end up with the Phillies."

Boras is known to be close with Phillies principal owner John Middleton, and it's been no secret that the club is perhaps the favorite to land Harper.

Should signing Harper be the Dodgers' priority?
Nov. 15: After re-signing Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers may be preparing for a relatively quiet offseason. But The Athletic's Jim Bowden thinks the club should look to make a massive splash by signing one of the biggest names on the free-agent market: Bryce Harper.

In his story (subscription required) looking at one move each 2018 postseason team needs to make to get back to October, Bowden writes that Harper to the Dodgers "makes too much sense," even if the club is saying it isn't planning on significantly increasing payroll.

The Dodgers reportedly tried to acquire Harper via waivers in August, and after losing in the World Series for the second straight season, it wouldn't be a major surprise if they bid on the slugger in an effort to get over the hump.

As Bowden points out, Harper would give the Dodgers' lineup a strong left-right balance, and his star power would be a major marketing point in Los Angeles.

Is a return to D.C. possible for Harper?
Nov. 14: Baseball fans, writers, executives -- just about everyone involved in and around the sport, really -- have been anticipating Bryce Harper's free agency for, well, quite some time. What amount of money could he sign for? How many years would he get? What team will land him?

Wouldn't it be funny, then -- or maybe even a little anticlimactic -- if he stayed put?

In a close count, the on-air talent for MLB Network Radio predicted that Harper will re-sign with the Nationals.

Tweet from @MLBNetworkRadio: 🚨🚨 FREE AGENT PREDICTIONS 🚨🚨The @MLBNetworkRadio team says:Brantley ������ #BravesCorbin ������ #YankeesEovaldi ������ #RedSoxGrandal ������ #AstrosHapp ������ #YankeesHarper ������ #NationalsKeuchel ������ #NationalsKimbrel ������ #BravesMachado ������ #PhilliesPollock ������ #Mets pic.twitter.com/zXhhCHEFXi

While a number of other teams have been linked to the Harper market -- from favorites like the Phillies and Yankees, to other big-market possibilities like the Dodgers to dark-horse candidates like the White Sox -- it wouldn't necessarily be surprising to see the 26-year-old return to the Nationals.

After all, it's the only franchise Harper has known as a professional. The Nats drafted Harper and helped him develop into a big-name star as well as an MVP. Let's not forget: The club still hasn't won a postseason series -- something that, no doubt, Harper wouldn't mind trying to change.

Plus, general manager Mike Rizzo has made it known that he would welcome Harper as a part of the team's future, recently stating -- amid reports that the Nationals offered a 10-year, $300 million contract at the end of the regular season -- "We certainly have made attempts to sign him. He's our guy. We're looking forward to seeing what can transpire." 

Projecting Harper's next contract
Nov. 14: While superstar slugger Bryce Harper is primed to cash in this offseason, he may have several options to consider when it comes to the length of his next contract, which Sports Illustrated's Emma Baccellieri covered in an article for si.com on Tuesday.

The most likely option would seem to be what Baccellieri terms "The Lifetime Deal," a 10-year contract in the neighborhood of $350 million.

These types of deals are risky for the signing team, as the Angels and the Mariners have found out after inking Albert Pujols and Robinson Cano, respectively. But as Baccellieri points out, Pujols was 31 years old and Cano 30 when they signed. Harper is only 26, giving him a better chance to make a long-term contract pay off.

Harper could also consider a shorter-term deal with a higher average annual value (AAV). Baccellieri proposes a four-year, $170 million contract that would blow away the record for AAV, which is held by Zack Greinke at $34.4 million.

Taking that one step further, Harper could sign a one-year deal for $45 million, betting on his ability return to MVP form in 2019 before entering free agency again next offseason. This would obviously be risky for the outfielder, as he could have a down year or suffer an injury, but he might consider it if the offers he receives aren't much better than the one he reportedly rejected from the Nationals (10 years, $300 million) on the final day of the regular season.

Are Giants better off signing multiple players instead of Harper?
Nov. 13: The Giants could have between $30 million to $40 million to spend this offseason, and they have been connected to free agent Bryce Harper. However, as Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports points out, Farhan Zaidi, San Francisco's new president of baseball operations, may prefer to spread out the club's resources to fill multiple needs.

When Zaidi was the Dodgers' general manager under president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, the team never gave out any contract totaling more than $80 million, opting instead to focus on building a deep roster.

Pavlovic notes that the Giants need a starting pitcher, an outfielder and a utility man, and he suggests signing J.A. Happ, Nick Markakis and Marwin Gonzalez for what MLB Trade Rumors projects will be a combined $33 million in 2019. None of the three is expected to require a long-term commitment, whereas Harper is believed to be seeking a 10-year deal.

As Pavlovic writes, Harper would certainly make the Giants flashier, but signing multiple players to less expensive deals could be the better route to take.

Phillies may need Harper's personality as much as his bat
Nov. 13: With money to spend and a desire to contend as soon as next season, the Phillies are considered the favorites to sign Bryce Harper. And while the Phils would certainly benefit from adding Harper's bat to their lineup, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports writes that the slugger's personality could be just as important.

Although Aaron Nola and Rhys Hoskins are strong building blocks, Salisbury argues that Harper would provide Philadelphia with a much needed face of the franchise to energize the fan base and help fill Citizens Bank Park.

While the Phillies made a leap this past season, winning 14 more games than the previous year, they ranked just 17th in average attendance at 27,318. In 2008, when Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Cole Hamels were in their primes and the club won the World Series, the Phils averaged 42,254 fans per game, ranking fifth overall.

Salisbury also writes that Harper's "competitive sneer" will rub off on the rest of Philadelphia's roster, giving the club a much-needed edge as it tries to keep pace with the up-and-coming Braves in the National League East.

Are White Sox trying to clear space for free-agent stars by shopping Garcia?
Nov. 13: The White Sox are actively shopping right fielder Avisail Garcia, according to a report from MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, which may be part of an effort to clear space for Bryce Harper.

Tweet from @Feinsand: According to a source, the White Sox are actively trying to trade Avisail Garcia. There���s a sense within the industry that Chicago will non-tender Garcia if they���re unable to deal him.

With Jose Abreu at first base, Daniel Palka and Matt Davidson likely to split at-bats at the designated-hitter spot, and top prospect Eloy Jimenez potentially taking over in left field soon, the White Sox will have nowhere for Garcia to play if they sign Harper.

Garcia has battled persistent injury problems during his career, and he's proven to be an unremarkable offensive performer (lifetime 101 wRC+) as well as a subpar defender (lifetime -26 Defensive Runs Saved as an outfielder). And although he was worth 4.2 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) in 2017, per FanGraphs, his production was boosted by great batted-ball fortune (.392 BABIP). Over the rest of his career, he has tallied exactly zero WAR.

MLB Trade Rumors projects Garcia will earn $8 million in 2019, his final season of arbitration eligibility. However, Feinsand reports that there is a "sense within the industry that Chicago will non-tender" him if it can't work out a trade.

Trading or non-tendering Garcia would also give the White Sox the additional option of shifting Tim Anderson to the outfield to make room for Manny Machado at shortstop, though Chicago also has an opening at third base if Machado is willing to move back to that position.

Harper rejects the Nationals' qualifying offer
Nov. 12: Bryce Harper has rejected the Nationals' one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer, as was expected. The 26-year-old superstar is expected to receive a long-term contract somewhere in the $300 million-$400 million range.

Since he was made a qualifying offer, Washington would get a selection after the fourth round of next year's MLB Draft, and the club that signs Harper would be subject to losing a pick (or picks) and international bonus pool money.

Are the Phillies shopping Santana to make room for Harper?
Nov. 12: According to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal in an article for The Athletic (subscription required), a rival executive said the Phillies are "shopping the hell" out of first baseman Carlos Santana, who signed a three-year, $60 million contract with Philadelphia last offseason.

Per Rosenthal, the Phillies want to move Rhys Hoskins back to first base. While that makes strategic sense from a defensive standpoint -- Hoskins recorded -19 Outs Above Average, per Statcast™, and -24 Defensive Runs Saved in left field this past season -- Philadelphia may also be trying to clear space on the payroll and in the outfield for free agent Bryce Harper.

Santana's deal included a $10 million signing bonus, leaving him with a base salary of roughly $35 million over 2019-20, and he has a $500,000 buyout on his $17.5 million club option for '21. The Phillies will likely need to send some cash to move the 32-year-old, who hit .229/.352/.414 with 24 homers and 86 RBIs over 161 games in the first year of his contract.

Philadelphia has been consistently connected to Harper this offseason and could conceivably afford to sign him without moving Santana, but doing so would likely mean putting promising right fielder Nick Williams on the bench or giving Santana more playing time at third at the expense of Maikel Franco.

A big gap between Harper and Machado?
Nov. 12: In a piece for The Athletic, Cliff Corcoran ranks the best under-28 free agents of all-time. It's interesting to see where the top two free agents on this year's market land. Manny Machado is ranked third, behind only Alex Rodriguez (2000) and Barry Bonds (1992). Bryce Harper is all the way down at 11th out of 13 players, ahead of Carlos Beltran (2004) and Goose Gossage (1977).

"The math projects [Machado] to be worth 5.2 bWAR in his age-26 season, but he has been a six-win player in four of the last six seasons (I'm counting his 5.7 bWAR this year given his uncharacteristic struggles in the field), so he could very well exceed that projection," writes Corcoran.

With respect to Harper, Corcoran cites his inconsistency at the plate and injury history, pointing out his 1.5 WAR (Baseball Reference) in 2016, and 1.3 WAR last season.

"What was supposed to be the monster free agency to end all free agencies is instead a confusing mixed bag of impressive accomplishment and confounding underperformance," Corcoran writes.

How will Rizzo address the Nats' needs this offseason?
Nov. 12: Although the Nationals want to bring back Bryce Harper, the club has other holes to plug, and earmarking a substantial portion of their payroll for a potential Harper reunion could have dire consequences if the team waits too long and the 26-year-old signs elsewhere.

According to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal in an article for The Athletic (subscription required), one agent offered a theory about Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo's offseason approach, predicting that Rizzo will aggressively try to address the team's needs, then leave it up to ownership to make the final decision on Harper if the outfielder is still available.

As Rosenthal points out, Rizzo must proceed as if Harper is not returning after the slugger reportedly rejected a 10-year, $300 million offer from the Nats on the final day of the regular season.

Rosenthal also notes that any upgrades the Nats make could make the team more appealing to Harper and persuade him to re-sign, which would be a win-win scenario for Rizzo.