Why Cubs were always longshots in the Bryce Harper derby
Maybe now somebody will believe Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein.
From the beginning of the Cubs' extra-long off-season, Epstein made it clear to all who would listen that the Cubs were not serious players in the Bryce Harper derby.
Transparency has been Epstein's M.O. from the beginning of his tenure in late 2011, when he told fans there would be some lean years before the team would contend.
But even though Epstein has that kind of track record, many fans and some media members clung to the notion that somehow, some way, Harper would wind up on the North Side of Chicago.
It would have taken something truly extraordinary for that to have happened. In the end, the Philadelphia Phillies are giving Harper an extraordinary contract, a reported 13-year deal worth a reported $330 million.
Bully for Harper. The Phillies have made sense since before Day 1 of the off-season, and Harper should feast in the Phillies' hitter-friendly ballpark. His presence should make the Phils the favorites in the National League East and perhaps meet up with the Cubs in the postseason.
For the Cubs, the silly season was silly from the beginning. First came the reports that they would be open to trading third baseman Kris Bryant despite about 138 reasons why that makes no sense.
The Harper talk didn't stop until Thursday, and in fairness, there's always a possibility until a deal is done elsewhere. But we're talking slim possibility.
First, whether you buy the Cubs' company line or not, Epstein and team chairman Tom Ricketts made it clear from the start that money was going to be tight this winter.
If the Cubs were to have made a serious run at Harper, they would have had to make other moves. They would either have had to trade right fielder Jason Heyward, who is entering only the fourth season of his weighty eight-year, $184 million deal. Even if a trade were possible, the Cubs would had to have eaten a good portion of Heyward's deal. Not many other teams would want to pick up the bulk of a contract for a two wins-above-replacement player.
The silliness continued into spring training. When Heyward was scratched from the Cubs' lineup earlier this week for personal reasons, speculation started again that he would be traded to make room for Harper. The same thing happened last week when infielder-outfielder Ben Zobrist was an excused absence, also for personal reasons.
Even if the Cubs had kept Heyward and signed Harper, they would have had to move Heyward to center field, and where would that have left center fielder Albert Almora Jr.?
Now we can all get on with our business. The Phillies all along have been the ideal landing spot for Harper. The only shame of it all is that the Phillies and Harper did not reach a deal three months ago, allowing the team to use the entire off-season to build a marketing campaign around the player.
Even so, expect the presses to start rolling with those Phillies Harper jerseys and for fans in Philly to start lining up for tickets.