As mentioned last week, there always seems to be a mystery team or two in the mix when a superstar is available in free agency.
With Bryce Harper, one unexpected suitor has already emerged: the Chicago White Sox.
There was a lot of hoopla Thursday over the marquee bearing Harper’s name, No. 34 and a White Sox logo at Chicago’s United Center. It sure looked like the preparation for a presentation the White Sox plan to make to Harper.
The White Sox, really? The same White Sox who’ve averaged 92 losses the last five years and, record-wise, have trended in the wrong direction the last three?
Can they even make Harper an effective sales pitch?
Phillies vs. White Sox
When you think about it, the White Sox aren’t in a wholly different situation than the Phillies. Sure, the Phillies went 80-82 this past season while the White Sox lost 100 games, but the Phils themselves are only one year removed from 96 losses, and getting to 80 wins did involve some luck.
Both teams have stockpiled and played young talent during their rebuilding phases. The Phillies are closer to making it out of theirs, but that gap could close over the next few years if Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez, Tim Anderson and Michael Kopech make strides.
Currently, Aaron Nola is the best player on either team. A healthy Jose Abreu would be next, followed by Rhys Hoskins.
Moncada is the most intriguing young position player on either team, Jimenez has tremendous power and Anderson could be a good one, but is Harper really going to bank on unrealized potential?
While the overall talent gap between the Phillies and White Sox isn’t as vast as some would make it out to be, the Phillies still offer Harper a better chance to be competitive in 2019 and 2020.
What does Bryce want?
If you’ve watched Harper all these years, you know that he cares deeply about winning. He has one speed and it’s all-out.
Harper’s going to be able to find a massive offer from any team hot after him. If Scott Boras insinuates to the White Sox that it would take $40 million a year over 10 years, they’d probably do it. Why even express interest if you’re not willing to meet the expected price tag?
Keep in mind that White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf is 82 years old and probably wants to make a splash or see his team win while he still can.
It will be about more than money for Harper. It will be a combination of money, a chance to win, fit and the city itself. Harper, over the years, has shown a fondness for Chicago, whether it’s naming his dog Wrigley or wearing Chicago team gear in public. That obviously always painted a path to the Cubs, who have some payroll concerns and do not appear to be a major player for Harper.
It’s hard to envision the White Sox making an offer the Phillies couldn’t match or exceed. So at the end of the day, it’s going to come down to where Harper wants to be. The Sixers offered LeBron a better chance to win now than did the Lakers, but he went to L.A. because that’s where his heart was.
The Phillies just have to hope Harper’s infatuation with Chicago is overblown.
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