The Rundown: Harper Finally Signs, Phillies Fans Rejoice, Cubs Fans Move On, Free Agency Still Broken

Bryce Harper finally signed with the Phillies. For Cubs fans who were holding on to hope that Theo Epstein was going to shock the world by pulling the rug from beneath the other teams hoping to land the all-star right fielder, dreams die hard, don’t they?

With rumors of other offers trickling in, it seems like Harper may have left a ton of money on the table potentially. But he made his choice and he’ll have to produce. Philadelphia fans — who hurled all kinds of social media invective at Harper when it looked like he might sign elsewhere — may resort to more physical tactics if he doesn’t produce and the Phillies struggle this year. I mean, it was getting pretty ugly for awhile.

But then Harper signed and millions of baseball fans were treated to Jake Arrieta sweeping in his skivvies to prepare his home for the arrival of his new teammate. It’s true, some things you can’t unsee. And despite the whole Deliverance feel of yesterday’s shenanigans, I assume Harper is happy with the way things turned out. And Phillies fans who aren’t opposed to the exorbitant contract are free to run amok in the streets of Center City.

Their attitude certainly changed in mere minutes after Harper accepted Philadelphia’s offer. Have you ever seen a more bipolar fan base?

It wasn’t long after the signing was announced that I started getting bombarded with private messages from Cubs fans that came down to two basic questions:

  1. What was the Cubs’ final offer? I don’t know, but who really cares? If you ain’t first, you’re last, or so I’ve been told.
  2. Will the Cubs turn their attention to Craig Kimbrel? I wouldn’t count on it. Harper allegedly wanted to play for the Cubs and in the end, his contract seemed a bit light, if not downright affordable for even the tightest of wads. If the Cubs couldn’t or wouldn’t top Philadelphia’s offer, I highly doubt their front office will negotiate with a closer who thinks he is worth $100 million. Maybe he is, but not in baseball’s new market. Tom Ricketts has a shiny new chastity belt locking up that bank account of his despite the team’s potentially lucrative new broadcast deal. So forget about it.

As Cubs fans, it’s time to appreciate the roster that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have built. If you want to bitch and whine about Harper taking his 1.3 WAR from last season to the Phillies, Nicky Delmonico is happy to have you jump on the White Sox bandwagon over at 35th & Shields, provided you stop being so annoying. The Cubs are a 90-win team, and if you want to root for a 75-win team, nobody will miss you. Or you can be like me and root for both. I mean, we are Chicagoans, right? Just root for the Cubs a little more.

Cubs News & Notes

  • The Cubs’ biggest signing of this offseason remains the option they picked up on Cole Hamels for $20 million. The veteran starter is eager to prove he is worth the investment.
  • When covering the Cardinals gets too boring, as it often does I’m sure, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch likes to turn their attention to a team that plays in a far more exciting city. They write at least one Cubs article every week.
  • Hey! It’s March 1 and Opening Day is just four weeks away!
  • Tony Clark, executive director of the MLBPA, conducted his annual meeting with Cubs players yesterday, fielding questions, comments, and concerns from the players for about two hours.
  • Kyle Hendricks pitched two scoreless innings in yesterday’s 10-3 loss to the Athletics and showcased his breaking ball a little more than usual. Hendricks threw his fastball or changeup 93 percent of the time last season.
  • Willson Contreras has been getting defensive help from his brother William, a catching prospect in the Braves organization, per Sahadev Sharma. You’ll need a highly recommended subscription to The Athletic to get all the details.
  • Tyler Chatwood will get another audition today. He’ll get an inning or two in after following today’s starter, Jose Quintana. Chatwood looked a bit shaky in his spring debut and I am rooting for him more than any other Cub this spring.
  • Jason Heyward returned to the lineup yesterday after a two-day break.
  • No other team had a higher batting average than the Cubs’ .290 mark on pitches 94 mph or faster.
  • I don’t know how the basketball bloodlines will translate to baseball skills, but Cubs prospect Brennen Davis is the son of former Chicago Bulls standout Reggie Theus.
  • I don’t know what to make of this. As I’ve heard the story, Addison Russell was slightly enamored by a young woman’s passion for the Cubs and somehow found out where she lives so that he could deliver an autographed baseball and hand-written note. If true, it seems at the very least awkward, and at most incredibly creepy while planting a lot of red flags. I don’t want to spread rumors, so I’ll let you judge for yourselves.

Spring Training Notes

No one is happier with the Harper signing than new teammate Rhys Hoskins.

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic has the best analysis regarding yesterday’s big signing ($).

With Harper signed, it’s worth taking a look at next year’s free agents. Some of these players might be available in trade during the season. The biggest prize, Nolan Arenado, is already off the market.

Yankees OF Brett Gardner believes the Phillies aren’t done yet and thinks they may sign one or both of Dallas Keuchel and Kimbrel.

Philadelphia has spent nearly half a billion dollars this winter.

The Astros and Padres are keeping communications open with Keuchel.

The Braves have shown interest in buying Fox Sports South. Don’t be fooled by their small market status. Liberty Media, who owns the Atlanta franchise, has very, very deep pockets.

Orioles first baseman Chris Davis is hoping to have a huge bounceback season and give Baltimore it’s “money’s worth.” Davis signed a $161 million contract four years ago. Last season the slugging first baseman batted .168 with 192 strikeouts.

Clay Buchholz has signed with the Toronto Blue Jays. He had a 2.01 ERA for the Diamondbacks last season in limited playing time and could be a great under-the-radar signing, if healthy.

Extra Innings

Don’t believe the linked article. The Harper and Manny Machado signings do not mean that there isn’t strife between the players and owners, and neither indicates a big win for the players. May I add that though elite players are going to eventually get large contracts, last year at this time we heard rumors of 10-year contracts at $40 million annually for each of this year’s prized free agents.

Middle-tier and older free agents are the ones being squeezed, if you consider 32 old. Ask Adam Jones. Many free agents are being offered one-year contracts. There were 77 players signed to one-year contracts, and another 93 players (and counting) signed to minor league deals through Tuesday. That means that 160 players could potentially be added to next season’s free agent pool, provided those players are still in baseball.

Harper’s deal didn’t fix free agency any more than Machado’s did, despite what Tom Verducci thinks. The market for players is out of whack with baseball’s revenues. And whether you side with the players or owners, there will be a work stoppage after the 2021 season if this isn’t fixed.

Friday Walk Up Song

Whiskey in the Jar by Metallica. It’s March 1, so let’s get Irish, even if it is a hard rock cover of traditional old world folk. Sláinte! It’s Gaelic for Cheers (actually “good health”)! My girls and I love this song. It’s a family staple on every road trip.

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