Thursday is Valentine's Day, and while hearts are fluttering around the country as pitchers and catchers treat fans to the welcome sounds of Spring Training, Bryce Harper is still hanging out in Las Vegas, waiting to give a new fan base -- or possibly his old one -- someone else to love.
The Giants are the latest team connected to the former National League Most Valuable Player, as San Francisco's front office met with the superstar outfielder last week in his hometown. Twitter was abuzz over the weekend with rumors of a pending deal during the club's FanFest, though those proved to be premature, to say the least.
A source indicated that while the Giants' interest in Harper is real, it's unlikely that they will extend the type of offer both Harper and his agent, Scott Boras, are seeking. Should Harper's demands come down to the point where he's willing to take a shorter-term deal, there could be a match, but it doesn't appear that will happen in the immediate future.
So where does that leave the saga Boras dubbed "Harper's Bazaar" a few months ago? Let's look at the longshots, contenders and -- dare we say? -- favorites, ranked from the least likely to most likely to sign Harper.
It's been awfully quiet on the North Side of Chicago this offseason. The Cubs exercised Cole Hamels' $20 million option and added Brad Brach and Daniel Descalso, but the much-ballyhooed union of Harper and his Vegas pal Kris Bryant never materialized. Theo Epstein indicated that Chicago wouldn't be a player for any of the top free agents, and barring a change of heart by ownership, it appears Harper and Bryant will have to wait until next offseason to spend any significant time together.
General manager Brian Cashman all but eliminated the Yankees from the Harper mix early this winter, but Hal Steinbrenner's recent comments that his club can't be ruled out on either Harper or Manny Machado kept the door slightly open for the addition of one of the two superstars. The Yankees have plenty of outfielders -- Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, Giancarlo Stanton, Brett Gardner and Clint Frazier are all under contract -- from which to choose, but there's no question that Harper would make New York's lineup significantly better. (Jacoby Ellsbury was supposedly a part of that mix, too, but the veteran's spring is already off to a bad start thanks to a plantar fasciitis issue.) Again, the question is whether Harper would be amenable to a shorter-term deal, as the Yankees don't appear willing to hand out a lengthy contract of eight years or more.
As mentioned above, the Giants have a real interest in adding Harper to their lineup, but at their price and terms. An offer could come in the form of a shorter-term deal (likely three or four years) at a high average annual value ($35 million?), but as of now, Harper doesn't seem inclined to settle for such a contract. MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported on Tuesday that Harper "isn't even considering" a short-term deal, so this one seems like a longshot as things currently stand.
San Diego was a surprise entrant into the Harper/Machado sweepstakes, but seems to be serious about landing one of them. As with every other team, it will come down to the financial commitment the Padres are willing to make, but with a young nucleus of potential stars in their system, the Padres are in a similar situation as the White Sox. One potential drawback would be the pitcher-friendly confines of Petco Park, which could be an issue for the two sluggers when considering their long-term future.
Chicago has been heavily in the mix for both Harper and Machado for much of the winter, though it's unclear just how many years and dollars the White Sox are willing to give either player. Reports have had the Sox willing to offer seven or eight years and somewhere between $175 million and $250 million for one of the free agents, though it remains to be seen whether those reports are accurate -- or if the offer would even be enough. The White Sox are in the final stages of their rebuilding plan, giving them the belief that the addition of a star such as Harper or Machado would help vault them back into contention in the American League Central.
The Phillies have been the odds-on favorites to land Harper and/or Machado from the outset of the offseason, and many believe they will still ultimately sign one of them. Last week's trade for J.T. Realmuto made the Phillies' roster even more attractive for a free agent, though some have wondered whether either Harper or Machado wants to play in Philly. When it comes to a competitive roster and having money to spend, the Phillies will be in it for Harper and/or Machado until the bitter end. If Philadelphia grows impatient with the waiting game, it could pivot and sign more than one of the other top free agents available, including Dallas Keuchel, Craig Kimbrel and Marwin Gonzalez.
Despite a reported offer of $300 million before Harper became a free agent, the Nationals were unable to get their franchise player re-signed before he hit the open market. Washington had an active offseason, signing Patrick Corbin, Kurt Suzuki, Trevor Rosenthal, Aníbal Sánchez and Brian Dozier, and also trading for Yan Gomes. That's not to say it is finished with Harper, who many inside the industry still believe will ultimately wind up back in Washington. The consensus is that Boras will give Nationals ownership a chance to exceed (or at least match) the biggest offer before Harper signs elsewhere.