We are long past the point of ridiculousness when it comes to the current status of free-agent star outfielder Bryce Harper.
As spring training begins, the six-time All-Star and 2015 NL MVP remains unsigned as teams remain stubborn to hash out a deal in the range of 10 years worth $300 million. The 26-year-old is one of the poster boys — along with Manny Machado — of an offseason that still has a vast number of good players still without a team.
It seems as though things are finally beginning to take shape though as the baseball world is getting a better idea of where Harper will land.
This offseason has seen the former Washington National linked to the likes of the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, and Philadelphia Phillies. Now in mid-February, that list is reportedly down to just two teams with only one of the original suitors still in the hunt.
USA Today’s Bob Nightengale told KNBR on Monday that the Phillies and San Francisco Giants are the last two teams standing in the Harper sweepstakes.
It is believed that the Giants are set to offer Harper a short-term deal, something in the five-to-six-year range, that still holds an average annual salary around the $30 million mark. For a team desperate for outfield legitimacy, the Giants would thrust themselves back into the NL West hunt with Harper while providing the Las Vegas native with a way back to the west coast.
Regarding the Phillies, Nightengale believes they would have to “grossly outbid” the Giants to get Harper. That would likely mean a contract that matches his 10-year desires while eclipsing the $300 million mark.
Within an NL East division that looks to be one of the most competitive in the majors, adding Harper to an offseason that has already yielded Jean Segura, Andrew McCutchen, and JT Realmuto would likely make the Phillies the favorites.
One of their division rivals, the Mets, who have stayed away from both Harper and Machado this offseason despite being a big-market ball club with plenty of money to spend, helped shed some light as to why they remained passive.
Speaking with Mike Francesa on WFAN, Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said that Harper and Machado are “probably not the best fit for us.”
There is no denying that the Mets have plenty of names currently on the roster to keep happy when it comes to the prospect of nabbing Harper. In the outfield, Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo will man corner outfield spots while Yoenis Cespedes recovers (if he returns at all). In center field, the oft-injured Juan Lagares will lead a competition that will also feature the light-hitting Keon Broxton.
But to suggest that any of these names trumps the prospect of signing Bryce Harper is quite a bold statement, one that will likely further draw the ire of Mets fans.
With a projected $40 million in cap space still available, per Spotrac, there wouldn’t be much issue fitting Harper’s salary in the team’s books. But Mets fans have heard this song and dance 1,000 times already: the Wilpon family would never make a big move like that, even if it meant the Mets would become a World Series contender.