As the month of February draws to a close, free-agent outfielder Bryce Harper remains on the open market without a team for the 2019 season. That figures to soon change, as reports indicate he is likely to make a decision by the end of the week.
Harper’s most prominent suitor to date has been the Philadelphia Phillies, who have shown a willingness to give him the long-term, record-setting contract he has been seeking since the start of the offseason.
While the sweepstakes looked to be a one-team race, the Los Angeles Dodgers have re-entered the fold after sending a contingent to meet with his camp in Las Vegas on Sunday night.
The Dodgers were believed to be out of the running after signing A.J. Pollock to a four-year contract in January, but with Harper still available two weeks into Spring Training, the club is being opportunistic in exploring the possibility of adding another star player to the roster.
Los Angeles re-engaging with Harper could ultimately pay off, as according to Randy Miller of NJ.com, he is reportedly against the idea of signing with the Phillies due to their analytical approach and the eccentric personality of manager Gabe Kapler:
For what it’s worth, my source who is close to Bryce Harper tells me #Dodgers and #Cubs were 1st choices all along and he prefers not to sign with #Phillies. I’ve been hearing all winter that Harper does not want to play for Gabe Kapler due to analytics and quirky personality
— Randy Miller (@RandyJMiller) February 26, 2019
It’s interesting that Harper is seemingly put off by the Phillies’ usage of analytics, given that the Dodgers also heavily rely on advanced metrics. But unlike Kapler, a polarizing figure in the sport, manager Dave Roberts has been praised for his ability to connect to players.
All things equal, the Phillies are reportedly concerned that the 26-year-old will snub them and choose Los Angeles if both offers are in the same range.
Harper is said to prefer playing on the West Coast, and given the close proximity between his hometown of Las Vegas and Los Angeles, the Dodgers may find themselves in the driver’s seat to make a late splash and further improve their odds of returning to the World Series.