Bryce Harper and agent Scott Boras had a five-hour meeting with Nationals owner Ted Lerner on December 22, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reports. Sources from within the team declined to confirm that such a meeting took place, which Janes describes as “a departure from their relative openness about their status with Harper this winter.” One possibility is that Lerner held the meeting without informing anyone else in the organization, which Janes notes “has happened before,” though it could be that the front office is keeping quiet on details either as a gamesmanship tactic (to drive up Harper’s price for other teams), or because an ardent pursuit of the free agent outfielder is underway.
This is the latest twist in the perhaps-ongoing courtship between Harper and the Nats, as ESPN.com’s Jeff Passan reported earlier today that Harper had had “multiple” meetings with team representatives. Boras and Lerner have a longstanding professional relationship that has resulted in several high-profile Boras Corporation clients (i.e. Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer) sign extensions or free agent deals with Washington. Boras has also often bypassed general managers to negotiate directly with ownership in some particularly major contracts, and he has signaled this intent in regards to Harper’s market this offseason.
Some more from around both the NL East and AL East…
- There had already been some indication that the Mets weren’t expecting Yoenis Cespedes to play in 2019 as the outfielder recovers from a pair of heel surgeries, and special assistant Omar Minaya reiterated as much in an interview on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (hat tip to MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo). “If [Cespedes] gives us anything this year, that is great, we’re happy for that,” Minaya said. Cespedes’ first procedure in late July carried a rough timeline of eight-to-ten months before a return to baseball activities, and no update to that timetable was made after Cespedes underwent his second surgery in late October. Cespedes has long been plagued by a variety of lower-body injuries, and since signing a four-year, $110MM deal with the Mets prior to the 2017 season, the outfielder has played in just 119 games. As it stands, New York’s starting outfield consists of Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo in the corners, Juan Lagares in center field, and the newly-acquired Rajai Davis as the fourth outfielder. The Mets have been linked to other outfielders on the rumor mill, however, so it is quite possible more changes could come before Opening Day.
- The Orioles have hired Koby Perez as the team’s new Senior Director of international scouting, as per a team press release. The 40-year-old Perez spent the last three seasons as the Indians’ director of Latin American scouting, his most recent stop in a career that has spanned 12 seasons and included roles as a crosschecker and scout with Cleveland, Philadelphia, and St. Louis (Perez and Orioles GM Mike Elias both worked as scouts in the Cardinals’ organization for two years). Under his new title, as per the press release, “Perez will oversee all aspects of the Orioles’ international scouting operations and management of the club’s bonus pool.” The Orioles have been notoriously indifferent to the international market for years, though this focus began to change even prior to Elias’ hiring, as Baltimore made a strong attempt to sign both the Mesa brothers and Sandy Gaston this fall. Going forward, it certainly seems as if the O’s will now be as aggressive and thorough in locating and signing international prospects as any club in the sport.
- The Yankees’ signing of Troy Tulowitzki doesn’t mean the team is out on Manny Machado by any means, Joel Sherman of the New York Post opines as part of a seven-tweet thread (all linked here). That said, the Yankees wouldn’t publicize being out of the Machado sweepstakes anyway, as such a statement would violate Collective Bargaining Agreement rules about teams weighing in on free agents. It also makes strategic sense for the Yankees to at least appear to still be in on Machado, if for no other reason than to force rival teams to spend more to sign him. If Machado indeed doesn’t land in New York, Sherman feels the Yankees could address their infield needs by signing a player like Neil Walker or Adeiny Hechavarria to provide short-term help until Didi Gregorius is able to return. Sherman suggests that infield help could also be found as part of a Sonny Gray trade package.