It remains to be seen where coveted free agent Bryce Harper will wind up playing this season, but he apparently won’t be a member of the Chicago Cubs.
A fan asked Cubs manager Joe Maddon during an appearance for the Union League Boys & Girls Club on Tuesday night if the team planned to sign the outfielder. According to ESPN, Maddon gave a succinct and clear response:
“Not going to happen.”
The Cubs long had been thought to be a viable option for Harper once he hit free agency. For the Cubs, he’d represent a considerable outfield upgrade. For Harper, he’d be reunited with longtime friend Kris Bryant. The two were raised in Las Vegas and played together growing up.
Chicago, however, has signaled that it doesn’t intend to expand the payroll this winter. They traded pitcher Drew Smyly to save salary and have remained steadfast that they are going to build from within.
“We feel as though all the ingredients are in the bowl already,” Maddon said Tuesday, according to the Chicago Tribune. “It’s already there. To just go out and purchase guys because some kids had a tough year is probably not good form.”
A report over the weekend said the Philadelphia Phillies have emerged as the frontrunner for Harper, while the Washington Nationals hold out hope they can re-sign him. Given the Cubs’ unwillingness to spend this offseason, it appears likely Maddon was not trying to fool other teams with his comments.
Washington made Harper, now 26, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft. In seven seasons with the Nationals, Harper hit .279 with 184 home runs and 521 RBIs. He was the 2015 National League MVP and is a six-time All-Star.
He is believed to be asking for a contract well in excess of $300 million.
—Field Level Media