Bryce Harper to the Chicago Cubs seems more realistic now that it did two weeks ago.
A final announcement probably isn’t coming before January, but we’ve already started imagining what a Cubs lineup would look like with Harper.
Why It Might Happen
MLB Network’s Jon Heyman gave Cubs fans something to hope for earlier this week when he gave the North Siders an edge over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the pursuit of Harper.
A separate report implied Harper isn’t enthused with the idea of joining the Philadelphia Phillies. If these reports are true, it would seemingly give the Cubs an advantage over two of the major suitors for Harper’s services.
Another might be the Cubs’ crosstown rivals, the Chicago White Sox, but truthfully, it’s difficult to imagine Harper choosing the South Siders if the money is comparable.
Who Might Be Moving On
The Cubs will not be signing Harper outright without some cost-cutting moves. There are a number of names that Cubs fans have become familiar with over the past two years that would almost certainly have to exit if the team wants to sign Harper.
Chief on that list is Jason Heyward.
The Cubs outfielder has been an outstanding clubhouse presence and a defensive stalwart, but his .252 batting average, 8.6 HR and 55 RBI per season as a Cub aren’t exactly what you’d expect from a guy with an 8-year $184 million contract.
The Cubs almost have to trade Heyward to sign Harper. To entice a team to take Heyward’s contract, the Cubs will have to ship off a young prospect or two with him.
There’s a good chance the switch-hitting and versatile Ian Happ could be the guy packaged with Heyward. He just turned 24 and he’s already averaging just under 20 HRs per season in two major league seasons. Most of which he’s played part-time.
His upside is real and trade value should be relatively high.
Shortstop Addison Russell has been up and down at the plate, but he’s also serving a suspension that will keep him out of the first 29 games of the season for domestic abuse allegations. The Cubs would probably love to unload him as well. Even if the Cubs can’t sign Harper, it wouldn’t surprise me to see all of these guys moved to help facilitate the team’s backup plan.
Here is the lineup I project with Harper onboard. Mind you, Joe Maddon is the manager, so there is no telling how many different variations we’ll see over the course of a season.
- 2B – Ben Zobrist
SS – Javier Baez
RF – Bryce Harper
3B – Kris Bryant
1B – Anthony Rizzo
C – Willson Contreras
LF – Kyle Schwarber
CF – Albert Almora
The beauty in this lineup is the versatility and the righty-lefty alternation from the leadoff through the eighth spot, that’s assuming Maddon doesn’t hit the pitcher eighth, as he has done at times in the past. There would still be a lack of speed and a natural lead-off hitter, but when it comes to power and balance from both sides of the plate, this could be the premier lineup in the National League, and perhaps all of baseball.