It’s too soon to count out a reunion between Bryce Harper and the Nationals, ESPN.com’s Jeff Passan writes in his latest column, as “Harper has met multiple times with representatives” from the team. In a rather surprisingly open interview last month, Nats managing principal owner Mark Lerner said his organization wasn’t willing to go beyond the ten-year, $300MM extension it offered Harper after the season, though rumors have continued to swirl that Washington is still at least monitoring Harper’s market. It could still be some time before we have an answer about Harper’s 2019 destination, as the outfielder (like many Scott Boras clients) is in no rush to sign a contract that doesn’t meet his satisfaction. The Phillies and White Sox, Passan reports, are willing to guarantee Harper at least a ten-year deal, indicating that the two teams have at least made some progress in their pursuit of the free agent outfielder, though obviously the gigantic dollar figure Harper is demanding is still a very notable obstacle.
Some more hot stove items from Passan….
- Before the Rangers dealt Jurickson Profar to the Athletics as part of a three-team trade with the Rays, Texas also explored another three-team scenario involving the Yankees and Braves. “There was traction, at one point,” Passan writes about a deal that would have seen the Yankees get Profar, the Braves get Sonny Gray, and Texas would have received a prospect (presumably from Atlanta’s farm system).
- The Diamondbacks would only consider trading Robbie Ray for a very big return, with Passan noting that Arizona would want more for Ray than the Mariners received from the Yankees for James Paxton back in November. While both Ray and Paxton are front-of-the-rotation southpaws with two remaining years of team control, Ray is almost three full years younger than Paxton, which would explain Arizona’s higher asking price. That deal saw Seattle land an MLB-ready pitching prospect (Justus Sheffield), another young arm on the brink of the majors (Erik Swanson) and a promising lower-level position player (outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams). It’s a steep price tag, though at least two teams with a lot of minor league depth have been linked to Ray in trade rumors.
- News broke last week that Yasmani Grandal turned down a four-year, $60MM offer from the Mets, though Passan says that such an offer was “never officially presented,” and that the terms were “characterized by sources on both sides as more of a discussion.” Grandal’s market seems a little uncertain right now, due to the number of catcher-needy teams who have already found other backstops, and the looming presence of J.T. Realmuto on the trade market. With draft pick compensation via the qualifying offer hanging over Grandal’s services, there is some threat of Grandal becoming (in the words of one executive) “this year’s version of Mike Moustakas,” i.e. a QO free agent whose market thins to the point that he is forced to accept a one-year contract. Grandal accepting a one-year deal “remains unlikely but not out of question,” as per Passan, though the catcher and his camp are reportedly “staying patient” that a satisfactory multi-year deal will eventually surface.
- A.J. Pollock is one of many big-name free agents whose markets may not get moving until Harper and/or Manny Machado sign new contracts. As Passan notes, Pollock is a good fit for both the Phillies and White Sox, though those teams are more likely to focus on Harper and Machado before turning to backup plans. Three executive tell Passan that Pollock’s situation bears similarity to Lorenzo Cain last winter, who had to wait until late January to find a new contract, though his market quickly heated up to the point that he was able to land a hefty five-year, $80MM deal from the Brewers.
- We heard during the Winter Meetings about the Reds’ interest in Braves center fielder Ender Inciarte, though Passan writes that “talks stagnated” between the two sides, and Cincinnati then pivoted to acquire outfield help in the form of Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp. Neither of those two are viable center field options, of course, so the Reds remain on the hunt for a replacement for Billy Hamilton.