It wasn’t that long ago that former MLB general manager Jim Bowden told CBS Sports HQ that he was hearing the Philadelphia Phillies were rounding third base with free-agent Bryce Harper. Of course, sometimes when you round third base, you’re thrown out before touching home plate. Then again, other times you aren’t.
So after a day that made many Philadelphia Phillies fans pessimistic about the club’s chances to land the six-time All-Star, ESPN‘s Buster Olney offered a welcome update Wednesday evening.
While Olney added the qualifier that only Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, knows exactly what his client has been offered, some executives still believe that the Phillies have offered the largest total deal to Harper. Also in the good news department for the Phillies is that, per Olney, the Los Angeles Dodgers remain interested in attempting to lure Harper to the West Coast on a short-term deal. Unless that stance changes, it’s hard to imagine Harper signing with the Dodgers, even if they may be his preferred destination of the three teams believed to still be in pursuit of the former National League MVP.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is that Olney says that while the San Francisco Giants are unsure how likely they are to land Harper, they are in “heavy” on the 26-year-old right fielder. This comes on the heels of Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area reporting that the Giants have discussed a 10-year deal with Harper.
There are pros and cons to the Giants as a suitor for Harper. San Francisco is a beautiful city, one that’s home to one of the nicest stadiums in the sport and is obviously much closer to Harper’s hometown of Las Vegas than Philadelphia is. At the same time, while Oracle Park may be a great place to watch a game, it’s not a hitter-friendly park and may be the hardest place for a right fielder to play at. If Harper believes there’s a chance he may opt-out and test free-agency again in a few seasons, playing in San Francisco may not be an ideal way for him to secure another payday near his 30th birthday. The Giants also are unlikely to contend in 2019 and beyond, even with Harper in the fold.
According to Angelo Cataldi of SportsRadio 94 WIP, Boras is insistent that the Phillies include an opt-out after the third season of any free-agent contract with Harper. Whether that’s the singular thing holding up a deal with the Phillies – or any other team – it’s likely something the victor of Harper sweepstakes will have to cave on. Manny Machado got an opt-out after the fifth year of his 10-year/$300 million deal with the San Diego Padres. Harper likely wants to beat that, and being able to opt-out after the third year, as opposed to the fourth year, would be the difference between him reaching free-agency on the right side of 30 again. An opt-out after 2021 would also allow him to become a free-agent one offseason after Mike Trout and Mookie Betts can potentially become free-agents – and after a new collective bargaining agreement is in place.
So Harper may be “rounding third base.” He may be headed to Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles or the Twilight Zone, if they are willing to budge on a third-year opt-out.
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