With a week to go until pitchers and catchers report, both Bryce Harper and Manny Machado remain free agents. There's no telling if either will find a new home before camps open across Florida and Arizona, but there is at least one new development to note on the Harper front: The San Francisco Giants may have entered the running.
A contingency that included head honchos Larry Baer, Farhan Zaidi, and manager Bruce Bochy flew out to meet Harper earlier this week in Las Vegas, per NBC Sports Bay Area. Here's more:
The Giants had quietly targeted Harper over the past couple of years, but underwent a shift in strategy when Zaidi was hired in November. The new plan was the overhaul the roster incrementally and add to the existing core, but Zaidi is known to be opportunistic, and if Harper's price has truly dropped, the Giants could find a more suitable deal.
The Giants haven't made the postseason since 2016 and earlier this winter appeared closer to entering a full-fledged rebuild than pursuing a top-shelf free agent. Yet adding Harper could give the Giants renewed life and would improve an outfield that in the corners is slated to feature some combination of Chris Shaw, Mac Williamson, Austin Slater, and Rule 5 pick Drew Ferguson. Besides, at 26, Harper is young enough to figure into future plans, no matter how the Giants fare in 2019.
The biggest hang-up is likely to be financially related. The Giants did their best last season to duck under the competitive balance tax. Currently, they're projected to be more than $30 million below the threshold. Adding Harper would require using most of that breathing room. Is San Francisco's ownership willing to risk paying a trifling overage penalty in order to improve their team and its chances of playing in October again? We'll see.
In the interim, consider it a troubling sign of the times that any interest in Harper is a big deal.