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Harping on Bryce

A little wishful thinking regarding this offseason’s top remaining free agent

MLB: Miami Marlins at Washington Nationals
Clown decision, bro: It’d be great to see Harper play on the South Side. Just don’t get your hopes up.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

It seems like an eternity has passed since the Chicago White Sox lost Manny Machado to the San Diego Padres, though it’s been merely a week or so. Many fans voiced their displeasure, frustration, angst, bitterness and disappointment once that news was announced, and I count myself as one of the fans aching for Machado, only to have his hopes dashed in an instant.

I felt dejected and rejected as Machado ejected the White Sox from his consideration.

I could never wax as poetic as katiesphil or sardonically spew my wit as well as Brett, so I contented and comforted myself in merely reading the heartfelt pain and anguish from comments and posts on this site. I was perhaps most distraught about losing a potential dynamic left side of the infield to a team known more for its Chicken than its baseball prowess. Having stolen away the likes of Josés Ruiz and Rondón via waivers from the Padres somehow seemed like a tiny consolation.

However, the main reason I’ve held back on commenting has been the hope, albeit ever so slim, that the White Sox could be seeking a back door route toward acquiring this offseason’s other premier free agent, Bryce Harper.

Chances on Bryce Harper

Admittedly, I don’t like our odds to get Harper:

  • He’s a Scott Boras client
  • The Phillies are the favorites to land him
  • He could return to Washington, which is a favorite locale for Boras players
  • West Coast teams San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco have a better climate to offer.

To answer the first point and second points, the Phillies have encountered just as much difficulty with Boras as have the Sox. Remember the J.D Drew fiasco, one score and two years ago? Besides, Harper doesn’t seem particularly enamored with Phillies fans — and who can blame him? The Nationals already have a loaded and dynamic young outfield, and don’t appear willing to go beyond $300 million presently, so this answers the third point. San Francisco doesn’t seem willing to go long-term on Harper, the Dodgers don’t really need Harper as they also have a cavalcade of outfielders, and the Padres may be all spent after snatching Machado from our clutches.

Do we, or even Sox management, really want to see another elite talent forgo the South Side to join the Padres? It also won’t hurt that Harper’s close friend, Kris Bryant, also resides in Chicago, as if you all didn’t know.

A couple days ago, Jon Heyman announced that the White Sox are remaining in touch on the Harper front. (“While the White Sox see the asking price for Harper as beyond their comfort level, they remain in touch.”) I know what you’re thinking: Everything Heyman says should be taken with a grain of salt. However, reading between the lines, perhaps the White Sox may go beyond their comfort level. Signing Harper would immediately win themselves some goodwill, goodwill that has evaporated since Machado left for warmer pastures.

What would it take to sign Bryce Harper?

Supposedly, Harper has been offered more than $300 million by several teams. It has yet to be determined how much more. In an MLBTR chat on Monday, Tim Dierkes was asked, “If Rick Hahn called Scott Boras today and offered 10/$335, would he be a White Sock?” and Dierkes said yes. If the Sox offer as much as the Phillies, he certainly would choose the White Sox over Philly.

I’m not opposed to adding a few incentives for Silver Slugger Awards, Top 5 in MVP voting, attendance, etc. to help stir the pot and deter other teams competing for his services. The guaranteed money, however, has to stand at $335 million, which at $33.5 million per would be basically the equivalent of paying for Machado and Jon Jay. Give in and offer a couple opt-outs if need be, perhaps in years four and seven.

The White Sox must realize they’ve lost the PR battle by faceplanting with Machado, but they could easily win it back with a Harper signing. Harper would bring fans to the seats and would provide viable protection for a young up-and-coming slugger in Eloy Jiménez. Harper would finally give the White Sox and their fans some hope that better things are coming.

Finally, the team’s financial versatility should still be intact. The White Sox should still have plenty of money to spend on upcoming free agents, as next year’s crop could potentially be an improvement over this year’s.

What the Sox gain and lose with Harper

The White Sox would gain a 26-year-old player (Ryan Cordell-age), who has nearly 200 career homers to his credit so far. His career slash of .279/.388/.512 is terrific, and it’d be fun to see him feast on Kansas City, Detroit, and Minnesota pitching some 50-plus times per season. Harper is willing to take the free pass, and is full-effort player who would unlikely be forced to sit by Ricky Renteria due to lack of hustle. Harper also can help you on the basepaths, as he’s already got 75 career stolen bases.

Harper simply makes any team he’s on more dangerous.

The Sox would obviously give up a boatload of cash, but you’ve got to give up something to get something. The Sox would have to forfeit $500,000 of international bonus pool money and their second round draft pick this June. While it’d be disappointing to lose a high second-round prospect and international money, the Sox really haven’t enjoyed much success internationally, or in the second round. Since 1965, the White Sox have only had two signed second-rounders finish with a career bWAR of at least 10.0: Terry Forster (1970, 20.3 bWAR) and Bob Wickman (1990, 16.9 bWAR). Harper reached 10.0 bWAR in 2015 alone, although admittedly he hasn’t reached those lofty heights since.

Many times, it takes thinking outside the box to get things accomplished. Albert Einstein is credited for saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results,” Well, for years the White Sox have avoided Einstein’s truism, trying to win with subpar free agents, and failing.

They’ve also failed in attracting big-name free agents by continuing to repeat their same tired errors (i.e. Alex Rodriguez, Torii Hunter, Masahiro Tanaka, Machado) — seemingly so they could say “we tried,” or “we got invited to sit at the adult’s table.”

It’s time to do something creative, and not let this opportunity slip away. Of course, I don’t have high expectations of getting Harper, based on past results and recent quotes — it’s simply unwise to have lofty expectations, as they’re likely to be stomped on.

However, this is the White Sox chance to finally become relevant. Jerry, Ken, Rick — take it.