While the World Series hype hits it fevered pitch, the next big debate in baseball is starting to heat up. Once the Boston Red Sox do away with the Los Angeles Dodgers, or the Dodgers somehow find a way to beat baseball’s best team from start to finish, the Bryce Harper free agent sweepstakes will open up in earnest.
While many believe the Chicago Cubs and the Dodgers are the front runners, there are a few dark horses who may surprise fans and experts. As the offseason approaches, the frenzy for arguably the most talented player of his generation will begin. Reports have Harper inking a hefty record-breaking deal worth somewhere around 10 years for $400 million. Here are the top five potential landing spots for Las Vegas’s own Bryce Harper, and the most likely spot will surprise you.
5. Washington Nationals
There’s no place like home, and Washington has been the only home throughout Harper’s career. They even drafted his brother Bryan, who pitched at double-A in 2018. Nats general manager Mike Rizzo was even quote saying, “Are we going to be allowed to put a good team around a great player like Bryce Harper depending on what the deal is with Harp. I think a lot of those things go into it. He knows that we’re interested in him, he knows how much we appreciate him here and how much we love him here, and I think that when it gets down to the business of baseball, I think that we’ll either make a deal or we won’t but we certainly will put every effort into it and we certainly want him here.”
Doesn’t sound very convincing. Harper has spoken of his love for the city and the fans, but he is also well-coached by his agent, supreme chancellor Scott “Palpatine” Boras, so he says the right things in public. Bryce is packing on up and moving to the VEGAS ODDS: 7-to-1
4. New York Yankees
This has been speculation for years. The Yankees are the big spenders, the glorified shining example of a championship franchise and the biggest media market in the world. They came up short in 2018, losing to arch rival Boston in the NLDS. While a normal year might not net an aggressive plan from GM Brian Cashman, getting knocked out by the Red Sox then watching them go on to win the World Series will only heat up this arms race, not cool it down.
Yankees will offer big money, Harper will entertain the idea, but, it just doesn’t seem like a prudent move for the Yanks. Their outfield is somewhat strong with a name like Aaron Judge but, then again, Andrew McCutchen’s contract has ended and Aaron Hicks isn’t a big name item. Harper could settle in nicely in the Big Apple. If the Red Sox win the World Series, expect the odds on the Yankees to only increase. It’ll be either Harper or Dodgers shortstop Manny Machado. VEGAS ODDS: 4.5-to-1
3. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers aren’t expected to bring back Machado after the season and they are just three losses from being run out of the World Series for the second straight season. They have the pocketbook, and there’s no chance they’ll stand pat and risk losing a third, becoming the “Buffalo Bills” of baseball. It is the best geographical location for Harper, who resides year-round in Las Vegas. The four-hour drive for family and friends is easy, and his familiarity with the west coast is strong. He fly home and watch his beloved Vegas Golden Knights and still be back in LA in less than an hour, if he wants.
Sure they have Cody Bellinger, Yasiel Puig and Joc Pederson in the outfield now, but there are ways to fit a superstar like Harper into the fold, mostly at the expense of Pederson. Most experts believe this is a two-horse race between Chicago and Los Angeles. The Dodgers even snagged Harper on the revocable waiver this summer wire but nothing came of it. The two teams with the most World Series and NLCS appearances in baseball the last four years are going to battle each other for this gem of a catch. VEGAS ODDS: 3.5-to-1
2. Chicago Cubs
He named his dog Wrigley. He has been spotted at Vegas Golden Knights game with fellow Las Vegas superstar and former MVP Kris Bryant. The Cubs failed to reach the NLCS for the first time since 2014. The “Wait until next year” Cubs fans have been overtaken by the angry bitter fans of the post-2003 Steve Bartman era. Ignorant fans are calling for calling for the head of manager Joe Maddon. The team scored zero or one run in 38 games and just two runs 16 times. The offense struggled with consistency and completely disappeared in September. Adding Harper to this young lineup would change the discussion in the Windy City. The negativity (hilarious, because Cubs fans are so greedy now that they’ve tasted the Promised Land) surrounding a team that had the best record in the National League and has gone to the post season four consecutive times for the first time in team history is ridiculous.
Adding Harper — who would be pulling a LeBron James to get his first title — to a lineup that includes Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javy Baez, Kyle Schwarber and Wilson Contreras would be epic. The team has a ton of contract flexibility with all but Rizzo locked into their rookie contracts until 2022. Oh, and Bryce will be able to watch the Golden Knights’ minor league hockey team, the Chicago Wolves, if he ever gets homesick. Sure Harper and Bryant played against each other in high school, but Bryant was always overlooked under Harper’s shadow. Fans will be happy to know Bryant is humble enough to accept that potential circus again, if it means another title but — contrary to popular belief — he and Bryce aren’t THAT close. VEGAS ODDS: 1.5-to-1
1. Philadelphia Phillies
If I were a betting man (and I am), I would lay good money on Harper joining “Gritty” as the new face of Philly sports. According to a source close to Harper, I was told their belief is he will sign with the Philadelphia Phillies when the time comes. It makes sense. Stay in the division, stay the top dog, join a team on the verge of being a contender, and still get the money he is asking for. The Phillies finished 80-82 but floundered down the stretch and finished 22nd in total offense. Odubel Herrera and Rhys Hoskins were their best offensive players with a .255 average and a 34 homers/96 RBI split, respectively.
Not sure if Harper will put them over the hump just yet but the Phillies have one of the top farm systems in baseball. Harper could join them at a perfect time to be the center of the rebuild. Prospects like Alec Bohm and Adam Haseley have them closer to contending than many think. This could energize the fan base and draw them back from the Eagles, who won the Super Bowl this past year. They have the money. They have the faithful fans. My source has known Harper since they were teens so, when they say they believe it’ll be Philly, I do trust them. All the Cubs-Bryce-KB photo opps are merely Boras using the social media universe to up the ante on possible teams and their bidding war. The Cubs are merely the carrot to chase for the Phillies or the Nationals, much like Las Vegas was used as leverage when the Nationals landed the Montreal Expos in 2004. The Phillies will sign Bryce Harper and, because he’s creepy as shit, Gritty will continue to dance into our nightmares. VEGAS ODDS: 6.5-to-1