Don’t count the Chicago Cubs out in the race to sign free agent Bryce Harper. In fact, according to recent reports, the Cubs might now be the favorites to land Harper.
“Going in….they were a real longshot…..[they] resigned [Cole] Hamels and seemed to want to be under that luxury tax. [Jon] Heyman (of MLB Network) went on to say that the Cubs and Dodgers are the two best teams in the NL but that both teams want to set themselves up to “do something big.” And he added that the Cubs chances of signing Harper has gone up as the team has started to be more upfront about wanting to add the star publicly. Initial assumptions were that Harper’s upcoming deal would take too much financial maneuvering from the Cubs’ front office to look at them as a realistic destination.
At this point, I think it might be more likely that the Cubs would look at Harper.”
The Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago White Sox are also considered to be factors. Both have the financial flexibility to get the deal done, and neither team would likely need to do as much restructuring to accommodate Harper. The Dodgers already started clearing space for Harper, it would seem. Last week the team dealt Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp and Alex Wood to the Cincinnati Reds. That would seemingly position them to add Harper financially, and it also presumably makes some room for him in a crowded outfield.
The Cubs have yet to complete any real cost-cutting deals. They would probably love to find a taker for the last five years of Jason Heyward’s 8-year, $184 million albatross of a contract. To swing such a deal, the Cubs will almost certainly have to include a valuable young asset from the major-league club and/or the depleted farm system.
One of last year’s free-agent signings, Tyler Chatwood was a bust in year one. However, he’s only 29 and it’s feasible he could turn things around. That’s something the Cubs might have to try to sell to a team in desperate need of depth in the starting rotation.
Chatwood still has two years remaining on a three-year $38 million contract. I’ve always been a proponent of moving Addison Russell and Kyle Schwarber. It would have been much smarter to do this a year ago when their trade value was a bit higher.
Russell’s off-the-field issues and struggles swinging the bat have likely diminished his value. That said, he is only 24 years old and headed for arbitration ahead of the 2019 season. He will be suspended for the first 29 games of the 2019 season, and it wouldn’t shock me if he has played his final game as a Cub.
Schwarber was more productive offensively, but he remains a disaster in left field defensively. Schwarber looks destined to be an all-or-nothing slugger in the mold of Pete Incaviglia or Rob Deer. While there is potentially some value in a guy like that, especially if he is shipped to the American League, Schwarber is clearly expendable.
If The Cubs do find a way to sign Harper, you can almost bet Russell, Schwarber and Heyward will be moving on. Stay tuned.