According to multiple reports, the Los Angeles Dodgers have entered (re-entered, really) the race for Harper, with several club officials spotted in Las Vegas over the weekend, including manager Dave Roberts. From MLB.com:
A source has told MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez that the Dodgers are back in play for free-agent superstar Bryce Harper. The development throws another twist into the chase for Harper, which had appeared to be down to the Phillies, Giants, White Sox and Nationals, though Philadelphia had appeared to be the heavy favorite to sign the outfielder.
ESPN's Jeff Passan reports the Dodgers reached out to Harper and agent Scott Boras two weeks ago seeking a short-term deal. A few weeks ago Los Angeles added A.J. Pollock to an outfield mix that includes Joc Pederson, Alex Verdugo, Andrew Toles, and more often than not Cody Bellinger. Utility men Chris Taylor and Enrique Hernandez can play the outfield as well.
That said, Harper is a star-caliber producer in the prime of his career, the type of player who can change the balance of power in a division race or even a pennant race. The Dodgers are the NL West favorites going into 2019, though Harper could help them get over the hump following back-to-back World Series losses. He is an impact player about to enter what figure to be his peak yeas.
There are three possibilities here:
- The Dodgers have sincere interest in Harper, perhaps spurred on by the up-and-coming Padres landing Manny Machado or the rival Giants having interest in Harper.
- Harper and Boras are re-engaging the Dodgers to put pressure on the Phillies and potentially create a bidding war, upping the offers.
- Harper and Boras are giving the Dodgers one last chance to up their offer before agreeing to a deal with the Phillies.
Recent reports indicated Harper is not particularly enthusiastic about playing in Philadelphia -- Harper and former Phillie Jayson Werth were long-term mentors and who knows what impression Werth made -- though that always seemed like a negotiating ploy. The Phillies are desperate to some degree. It might not make much to get them to up their offer.
Phillies owner John Middleton traveled to Las Vegas to meet with Harper over the weekend and, while he reportedly hoped to close a deal during the trip, it did not happen. Machado received a 10-year deal worth $300 million and it stands to reason Harper and Boras will beat that, perhaps besting Giancarlo Stanton's record $325 million guarantee. The Dodgers may not go there, but their interest could push the Phillies over $325 million.
The Phillies have had a strong offseason to date, signing free agents Andrew McCutchen and David Robertson in addition to acquiring Jean Segura and J.T. Realmuto in trades. Despite that, it feels like an offseason without Machado or Harper would be a disappointment. Philadelphia has been planning for this offseason for years now. Their top youngsters have arrived and they have money to spend, and there's a centerpiece player out there to be signed.
Harper will play the entire 2019 regular season at age 26. He hit .249/.393/.496 with 34 home runs last season, a career year for most but a down season for Harper. He's earned over $50 million in player contracts and signing bonuses to date, plus he has several lucrative endorsement deals.