According to multiple reports, San Diego’s Padres sent a contingent to Las Vegas, Nevada on Thursday to meet with Bryce Harper, who remains unsigned with less than three weeks to go before the start of Spring Training.
Fancred’s Jon Heyman wrote shortly after reports of the Padres’ interest in at least checking in with the 26-year-old outfielder surfaced, that San Diego, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Washington Nationals, and the Chicago White Sox were the other teams known to be in on Harper, who reportedly turned down a 10-year/$300M offer from the Nats towards the end of the regular season.
San Diego is rumored to be kicking the tires on Harper’s fellow marquee free agent, Manny Machado, and recent reports had the Padres in trade talks for Miami Marlins’ catcher J.T. Realmuto, but the interest in Harper is a bit of a surprise.
The Athletic’s Dennis Lin wrote on Thursday afternoon that the Padres’ interest was piqued, after they’d, “... heard positive reviews from other teams’ conversations with Harper, which encouraged them to pursue their own meeting, at least as a matter of due diligence.”
Writing at the San Diego Union-Tribune, Kevin Acee reported that interest from San Diego was, “... seen as something of extended due diligence, and it is not thought that the team’s pursuit of Harper is as earnest as its continued efforts to land Manny Machado.”
While Heyman said Washington remains in the mix for Harper, GM Mike Rizzo and Co. in the Nationals’ front office have rebuilt their roster, monitoring Harper while filling their needs in case he doesn’t return to the nation’s capital, adding two catchers (both Kurt Suzuki and Yan Gomes), a bench bat (Matt Adams), two starters (Patrick Corbin and Aníbal Sánchez), two relievers (Trevor Rosenthal and Kyle Barraclough), and a second baseman (Brian Dozier) in an active offseason for the franchise that finished second in the division in 2018, with an 82-80 record last season.
Will the Nationals, who have outfielders Juan Soto, Victor Robles, Adam Eaton, and Michael A. Taylor lined up in the outfield, and are close to the $206M luxury tax threshold for 2019 after passing it in each of the last two seasons and spending $182M this winter, (according to the ESPN’s Stats & Information total cited by ESPN’s Jeff Passan this past week), really give Scott Boras and Harper even the $30M per he reportedly turned down at this point?
Exceeding the threshold for, “... three or more straight seasons ... comes with a 50 percent luxury tax,” while teams, “that exceed the threshold by $20 million to $40 million are also subject to a 12 percent surtax,” and, “... those who exceed it by more than $40 million are taxed at a 42.5 percent rate the first time,” and, “... clubs that are $40 million or more above the threshold shall have their highest selection in the next Rule 4 Draft moved back 10 places,” though the Nationals have wiggle room to avoid the harshest financial penalty and the drop in the draft order even if they bring Harper back.
But will they? Harper and the Nationals are known to have met before Christmas for another round of talks following the late season offer. Will he back back in D.C. in 2019? Will he hear something he likes from the Padres? Will a mystery team blow everyone out of the water? Is it ever going to end?
Here’s what the Twitterers of the baseball world had to offer on Thursday after news of the Padres’ interest broke:
Harper and/or his agent, Scott Boras, have met with a number of clubs in recent days, including second and third meetings in some cases, sources say. No indication a deal is close. https://t.co/LQgI9jceJD— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 31, 2019
Bryce Harper has four active suitors as February nears, source confirms: #Nationals, #Phillies, #WhiteSox, and now #Padres. At least one other team remains involved on periphery, but overwhelming likelihood is he will sign with one of those four clubs. @MLB @MLBNetwork— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) January 31, 2019
The meeting between Bryce Harper and the San Diego Padres is about to start this afternoon, league sources tell ESPN. About to jump on @SportsCenter to talk about why the Padres would be a good fit for Harper..— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 31, 2019
Can confirm, the Padres are indeed headed to Vegas for a meeting with free-agent Bryce Harper. Hearing the meeting is today. https://t.co/PilcYy3zf5— AJ Cassavell (@AJCassavell) January 31, 2019