Speculation has run rampant on Bryce Harper‘s next big move, with no shortage of clubs ready and eager to take the award-winning slugger off the market. While the White Sox and Phillies are among the presumed favorites to land Harper this winter (which could quickly change as they’re both said to be in on free agent star Manny Machado as well), Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times points out that the Cubs might also position themselves to make a big play despite ongoing payroll concerns.
Per Wittenmyer, the Cubs’ recent meeting with Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, prompted an interesting reaction from team president Theo Epstein. Epstein reportedly told Boras to give them “a chance to try to move some payroll off the books and check again with ownership” before agreeing to any competing offers. Of course, it’s hard to put any stock in those kinds of statements when the organization hasn’t made any drastic moves to that effect, though they may still have several weeks left to shift things around before Harper makes a final decision.
The Cubs aren’t the only team playing it cool right now, either. The Dodgers have been repeatedly linked to Harper after dealing Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood and Matt Kemp to the Reds on Friday, which allowed them to shave a significant sum off their 2019 payroll and clear some much-needed space in the outfield. Granted, there are plenty of reasons why Harper might not be a perfect fit in Los Angeles — the club’s rumored hesitation over meeting Harper’s exorbitant asking price is one, their current focus on acquiring both infield depth and right-handed bats is another — but it’s unlikely that either of those would be compelling enough to prevent the defending NL West champions from inking the outfielder to a major deal.