With each passing day, it seems the Chicago Cubs are becoming a more realistic landing spot for prized free agent Bryce Harper. However, the Cubs will almost certainly have to find a taker for Jason Heyward’s bad contract if they’re going to sign the biggest name on the free-agent market.
Insiders Believe The Cubs Have a Legitimate Shot
MLB Network’s Jon Heyman recently appeared on the all-baseball channel and he talked about Harper’s potential landing spot. His words gave Cubs fans around the world reason for hope. Heyman indicated the Cubs have a shot at signing the former National League MVP.
Based on his initial phrasing, it sounded as if Heyman was painting the Cubs as the favorites to sign Harper. Because Heyman is one of the most respected baseball insiders around, the piece sent shockwaves. Myself and many of his colleagues in the baseball world thought Heyman was giving the Cubs the overall edge.
Heyman would later come back to add some “context” to his initial statement:
While this clarification does remove some of the Cubby shine off the original perception, Heyman does acknowledge that the North Siders would have an advantage over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the pursuit of Harper. That’s significant because the Dodgers would figure to be an attractive option for the slugger.
Harper is Reportedly Not Thrilled With Phillies
Another team mentioned as a potential player in the Harper derby is the Philadelphia Phillies. Well, the Phillies might not be Harper’s cup of tea. According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, both Harper and fellow free agent Manny Machado don’t favor playing in the City of Brotherly Love. If that’s the case, it could result in the elimination of another of the Cubs’ primary competition for Harper.
Cubs Must Make Financial Adjustments To Lessen the Luxury Tax Penalty
Harper may favor the Cubs, but financially, Theo Epstein and the rest of the team’s brain trust has some work to do clearing salaries if they hope to sign the star to a massive free-agent deal.
That would include parting ways with a big contract and some of its young talent. The Cubs need to find a taker for a bad contract that is currently on its books. For a team to be willing to do take on a bad deal, the Cubs must entice them by including young talent like Ian Happ, Albert Almora, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber, Victor Caratini or even top minor-league prospect Adbert Alzolay.
Heyward’s Deal Is The Target, But The Toughest To Move
Jason Heyward still has five years left on his horrible 8-year $184 million deal. That qualifies as a bad contract. If the Cubs ranked the contracts, they would most like to get rid of; there’s no question, the Heyward deal would be at the top of the list.
Who Might Be Interested?
Finding a team to take on Heyward’s contract is the challenge. He’s an excellent defensive outfielder capable of playing all three spots at or near a Gold-Glove level.
He’s improved year over year at the plate with the Cubs but still doesn’t produce the kind of production befitting a man with such a Herculean deal. Dating back a full season, some have speculated about the San Francisco Giants as a potential suitor for Heyward, with closer Mark Melancon’s bad 4-year $62 million deal coming back to the Cubs.
Melancon has two years at $14 million per season left on that contract. It’s not as long or lucrative as the Heyward contract, but it would give the Cubs some luxury tax relief. Chicago would have to give up a prospect like Happ and perhaps another lower-leveled minor leaguer to get the Giants to bite. However, if San Francisco were to agree to this completely speculatory offer, the Cubs would have cleared salary and an outfield spot for Harper.
As usual, stay tuned.