Welcome to Day No. 119 of the Bryce Harper Free Agency Sweepstakes. The end, finally, feels near. John Middleton spent two days in Las Vegas over the weekend and returned home without a deal, but the Phillies still felt good about their chances to land Harper. That was before they found out the Dodgers had returned to the table. The Phillies could be in trouble.
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— Matt Breen (firstname.lastname@example.org)
There’s always a bigger fish.
The Phillies positioned themselves within the last week to be the favorite to land Bryce Harper, with their loss in the Manny Machado race motivating them to drive up their value of Harper. But a new suitor emerged Monday morning after it was reported by MLB.com that the Dodgers had visited Harper on Sunday night in Las Vegas. Harper had hoped all offseason for the Dodgers to re-enter the mix, because he longs to play in Los Angeles.
The Dodgers’ going after Harper is bad news for the Phillies, who need to hope that their long-term offer is enough to sway Harper from Hollywood. Harper, one of baseball’s most marketable stars, always seemed destined for Los Angeles. He would be close to home and playing under the brightest lights. But the Dodgers failed early in the offseason to match his interest.
The Dodgers would likely want to sign Harper to a big-money, short-term deal. The Dodgers met with Harper in December and were the favorites after they dumped salary by trading two outfielders. But they faded from the race.
The market for Harper was projected to include the Cubs, Yankees, and Dodgers, as baseball’s heavyweights were expected to make their pitches. But the Cubs didn’t come to the dance, the Yankees never seemed interested, and the Dodgers seemed tepid. Scott Boras, Harper’s agent, then waited out the market, which was led by the Phillies followed by the Nationals, Padres, White Sox, and Giants.
Perhaps those teams could begin a bidding war to drive up the price for Harper. Or maybe the longer the process dragged, the more likely the highest bidder would overpay just to end it. Or perhaps the slow market would tempt one of the heavyweights to come back to the table.
That was the one scenario that the Phillies were hoping to avoid.
Roman Quinn talked to Bob Brookover about his harrowing encounter this offseason with Hurricane Michael, which roared through his hometown on the Florida panhandle.
Scott Kingery came to spring training with a revamped swing after a difficult rookie season. He broke it down with Scott Lauber.
Seranthony Dominguez was excellent last season as a rookie. But how could he improve in 2019? The Phillies will start with some rest.
Today: Phillies host Tigers in Clearwater, 1:05 p.m.
Tomorrow: Phillies play the Yankees in Tampa, 1:05 p.m.
Wednesday: Twins visit Clearwater, 1:05 p.m.
Thursday: Split-squad Phillies host Orioles and visit Blue Jays, 1:05 p.m.
If Bryce Harper actually signs a contract to play this season, he’ll be just 26 years old on opening day. How young is that? Pete Rose turned 38 in his second week with the Phillies. Jim Thome was 32 when he signed with the Phillies, and Cliff Lee was 32 when he returned as a free agent.
Those three are the most celebrated free agents in Phillies history and they were all significantly older than Harper.
Send questions by email or on Twitter @matt_breen.
Question: Do you think the Phillies can afford Harper and Trout? — Mike S., email
Answer: It’s not my money, but I don’t think signing Bryce Harper would take the Phillies out of the race for Mike Trout after the 2020 season. The only commitments the Phillies have past 2020 are Jean Segura (signed through 2022), Andrew McCutchen (through 2021), Odubel Herrera (through 2021), Aaron Nola (through 2022), and Scott Kingery (through 2023).