Don’t believe the media- Cubs are in on Bryce Harper

     In late December my health club was doing some renovations so I headed to another one in a different location  (North suburbs) to get in a late night workout.  As I was leaving I was talking to one of the workers there.  We talked about a bunch of stuff ranging from how nice the club is to some Chicago Bears players that work out there, women members (hey I’m a guy that’s what we do), etc.  when he told me something I couldn’t believe.  He had heard from some of the members that Bryce Harper was looking for houses in the neighboring town.  He said some of the members were buzzing and that there was chatter that the prize free agent and his wife were in town. He told me the name of the suburb, but I will not reveal it out of respect for the Harpers’ privacy just in case this is true.  I wasn’t fishing for information.  I wasn’t even looking for it- just making small talk. Truth be told I’m much more of a football fan than a baseball fan.  However, the old adage goes where there‘s smoke there’s fire.  And I think there’s fire here in Chicago- and I’m not talking about the soccer team or the one started by Catherine O’Leary’s cow.  People don’t just say stuff like that out of the blue. There’s usually something to it. (Disclaimer-  I don’t know Bryce Harper or any of his friends.  I don’t have any sources in the Cubs organization. I really wish I did I could use a great job in sports. )

 Does it make sense for the Cubs?

The short answer is yes although it’s more complicated than that.  The Cubs financial issues are well publicized.  Big contracts to Jason Heyward, Yu Darvish, & Tyler Chatwood as well as a depleted farm system are significant hurdles which could limit their interest.  However, just because they have those contracts right now doesn’t mean they’ll have them forever.  Moving contracts like Heyward’s isn’t easy, but it’s possible if the Cubs are willing to include a sweetener like Ian Happ.  Remember though, they’re not doing that unless they know for sure Bryce is coming to Chicago.  Why upset the clubhouse if the deal falls apart or leave the team shorthanded in the outfield?  Hence the waiting game- what’s the final annual offer they’ll have to compete with- 30 million, 35, 40?  Once they know that- then they can decide whether to match it and to trade Heyward.  So why does it make sense for the Cubs?  Harper is a generational talent who has YET to hit his prime.  Players like that rarely come along in free agency before their prime and Theo & Jed know it.  Also signing Harper wouldn’t cost them any prospects or players to acquire him. After trading top prospect Eloy Jimenez to the White Sox you have to wonder if the thinking was let’s get Quintana’s team friendly contract and we can replace Eloy with Harper.  They also have a window for a title run now.  Jon Lester is no spring chicken, they also signed veteran Cole Hamels- and you’re not signing Hamels unless you’re trying to go for it now. Despite 95 wins -the Cubs offense struggled last year.  Part of the blame was Bryant’s injury, but adding a force like Harper to the lineup is a major upgrade any way you slice it.  Scouts figure Happ will have a good career, but he’s not expected to be a game changer like Harper can be. Heyward is a gold glove and solid leader, but Harper’s bat and upside to be one of the game’s greats surpasses that. Signing Harper not only improves the offense, but could help mend fences with Kris Bryant who was not happy about having his service time delayed his rookie year.  It could pay dividends in retaining Bryant when he becomes a free agent.  Bryant and Harper grew up together in Las Vegas and are close friends as are their wives.  And as many of you know first hand- Happy wife=happy life. If you were Bryce Harper‘s wife wouldn’t you want to hang out in the same town with your good friend while the boys are on the road, go out to dinner together, go shopping with the kids together etc.? This is most likely a family decision. Don’t underestimate that advantage the Cubs have. Harper’s respect for Theo and Joe Maddon is well documented as is his love for Wrigley Field.  This is a perfect fit and everyone knows it.   Here’s the other side of the coin- if the Cubs don’t sign Harper then the opposite side of the spectrum is that they have to go against him.  If a weapon like Harper falls into the wrong hands- LA, NY Yankees, or Houston it changes the balance of power in the league and could form a powerhouse too tough for even the Cubs to overcome.  And that’s the dilemma Theo & Jed face which is I why I believe they’re making a run at Harper.  That’s what I’d do if I was them. When you’re so close to another title and you have a chance to get a game changer like Harper you go for it. If their offer is anywhere in the ballpark (pun intended) of the other suitors they should land him.  The odds of them getting Mike Trout in a few years are less likely with Trout hailing from the East Coast. 

I suspect the pursuit of Harper is being kept on the down low for several reasons: not to get the fans hopes up in case they don’t get him, not to upset the current roster (Heyward, Happ, Almora), not to get into a bidding war with a team like the Phillies, Dodgers, or Yankees, etc. The local media keeps quelling reports of the Cubs interest, but what’s being reported appears to be different than what’s being said.  Several reporters wrote that Kris Bryant said Harper is not coming to Chicago.  I have yet to see that interview. Bryant said in an interview with Dave Kaplan recently (January 18, 2019 see link below) that he didn’t know if Bryce was coming to Chicago- NOT that he wasn’t coming. 

https://www.nbcsports.com/washington/nationals/bryce-harpers-longtime-friend-kris-bryant-says-harper-isnt-headed-cubs

 

How can some reporters misinterpret what Kris Bryant said to Dave Kaplan? It seemed pretty easy to hear what he said which was, ”I don’t know”. Is the Cubs brass is being straight up with their pessimistic outlook on signing Bryce Harper or are they simply using the media to broadcast a message, and not necessarily an honest one, to the fanbase & other potential bidders that the Cubs are out on Harper? It wouldn’t be the first time the Cubs have been less than honest for the team’s best interest. Remember in the 2017 postseason when Theo was asked a point blank question about retaining the Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio? The Cubs ultimately fired him despite saying differently prior to that. And I’m not blaming Theo for what he told the press. There’s a time and place for everything and I think that’s what this situation is. My spidey sense is telling me something doesn’t seem right here.  I smell a rat.  The truth is only the Cubs know if they’re in on the star outfielder and only Bryce Harper (and his wife) know where he wants to play and where they want to live.  My best guess is, when it’s all said and done, that it’s going to be in Chicago for the Cubs. I mean why would there be chatter out there of the Harpers looking for a house in the North Suburbs if there wasn’t some level of interest on both sides?

Mark's Week 5 picks

Did well in my pool in week 4 although i didn't post it.  Here are my picks for week 5.

NE (-10.5) at Clev-  Tom Brady is back and Bill Belicheck returns to the team t aht fired him.  Add in a healthy Gronk and this has the makings of a blowout.  Give me the Pats 

TB (+7) at Car-  Cam Newton is out for Carolina along with Doug Martin and Gerlad McCoy and several others out for Tampa.  This seems like a toss up so I'll take the points and hope the Bucs keep it close.

Cin (-1) at Dal- Andy Dalton returns to the state where he starred in college (TCU) and has something to prove.  Dallas is without Dez for the 2nd straight week.  I think Cincy's defense is better than the Cowboys so I'll take the visitors in a high scoring game.

Pit (-7) vs NY Jets-  The Jets are without Eric Decker and Darrelle Revis while the Steelers have Leveon Bell for the 2nd straight week.  I think Pitt has too much firepower for the Jets.  If Ryan Fitzpatrick has a bad start he could get benched.  Give me the Steelers at home.

 

Mark's week 3 picks

Last week 4-3

Season 6-8

I went 4-3 should have went 5-2.  How Green Bay lost to the Vikes is beyond me.  Sam Bradford had 8 days to learn the offense- 8!!!  The Vikes couldn't run the ball because their line is terrible and AP got hurt.  Didn't matter I still lost- ugh!! well try to do better this week.

Hou (-2.5) at New England-  I know it's in Foxboro and it's against Coach Belicheck but it's a 3rd string rookie.  You still need the horses to win the Kentucky Derby.  The Pats line is banged up as well .  This sets up well for the visiting Texans.  JJ Watt and JaDaveon Clowney should own the line of scrimmage.  

Pitt  (-4) at Philly-  One of the best teams in the league travels across the state to take on rookie Carson Wentz.  Wentz has been impressive, but the Steelers are a much different animal than the Bears or Browns.  The loss of all pro lineman Lane Johnson hurts the Eagles o-line.  Antonio Brown is due for a big week- mainly because I'm playing him in my fantasy league.  The zone blitz of Pittsburgh could cause some turnovers.  Give me the Steelers

Car (-7.5) vs Minn-  The Vikings have lost AP and their starting tackle Matt Kalil. A bad o-line gets worse.  Sam Bradford did well in his Vikings debut but he['s not very mobile and Carolina's front four should own the line of scrimmage.  I think the Vikes defense gets worn down and Cam and the Panthers pull away.

GB (-8) vs Det-  The Packers offense should rebound.  Detroit has a banged up defense losing Levy and Ansah and the retirement of Wr Calvin Johnson is a welcome site for Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers.  Jordy Nelson continues to get better and Aaron Rodgers is due for a big game.  Packers roll at Lambeau.

Dal (-7.5) vs Chi- Chicago's is banged up on both sides of the ball- especially on the line.  Trying to stop Zeke Elliott and the Cowboys all pro offensive line seems unlikely.  I think the Cowboys control the line of scrimmage and run at will.  Dak Prescott has poise of a savvy veteran and is due to connect with Dez Bryant.  For the Bears 2nd year wr Kevin White is very raw and not ready.  Give me Dallas at home.

 

Mark's Week 2 Picks

 

Last week 2-5-0

Season 2-5-0

Well last week was brutal.  I told you guys I'm terrible at this.  As Harry Caray used to say to a hitter in a slump- he's due.  Here are my week 2 picks.

Green Bay (-2) at Minn  The Packers have Aaron Rodgers at qb at the Vikes have either Shaun Hill or Sam Bradford.  I'll take the all pro Rodgers.

NY Giants (-4.5) vs New Orleans.   The Giants have an improved defense and a talented rookie in Sterling Shepard.  I don't see the Saints stopping them.  New York at least has a fighters chance of stopping the Saints thanks to an improved defense.  In addition, the Giants have Odell Beckham and the Saints don't.  I think the former LSU Tiger goes wild against his old state.  Give me the G-Men minus the points.

Carolina (-13) vs SF-  The Panthers are well rested and the 49'ers travel cross country on a short week.  I don't think there as good as the Rams made them look.  I'll take Cam and the Panthers to cover a big number.

Pitt (-3) vs Cincy-  These games are always tough.  The Steelers are at home and the Bengals are without Tyler Eifert, Vontaze Burfict, and their rookie corberback William Houston who's out for the year.  I'll go with Pitt in a close one.

Oak (-4.5) vs Atl-  The Raiders have an improved offensive line and Atlanta usually struggles on the road. The Falcons defense is terrible. Oakland should have their way with them.  Khalil Mack is a matchup nightmare for Atlanta.  I think Matt Ryan has a long day and the Raider Nation celebrates a 2-0 start.

Ariz (-6.5) vs TBay- The Cardinals looked awful against a Bradyless Patriot team.  Coversely, Tampa looked great on the road vs the Falcons.  David Johnson is a future star.  I think Arizona is better than they showed and Tampa is due for a letdown.  Give me the birds minus the points.

Hou (-2.5) vs KC-  The Chiefs are without two of their starting offensive lineman.  That's not recipe for success vs JJ Watt and JaDeveon Clowney.  Add to that mix a vastly improved Texans offense - give me Houston minus the points to knockoff the Chiefs

  

 

NFL- Week 1 Picks

**Disclaimer- Just for fun I'll pretend I'm in Vegas and these would be my picks.  Please do NOT bet any of your hard earned  money on them.  Think about it- if I was that good I'd be in Vegas betting them instead of typing them on my computer.  This is strictly for entertainment purposes only.

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Pitt (-3) @ Wash       Big Ben and the Steelers rip through a porous Redskins secondary.  

Ariz (-6) @ NE   Here's the story about a man named Garroppolo.  Hmnn...doesn't have the same ring to it.  Neither will the Patriots offense.  Ex-Patriot Chandler Jones has something to prove.  Cardinals roll in their opener.

Hou (-6) vs Chic   The Bears offensive line is a wreck.  They lost their starting center for the year and Kyle Long is hurt.  Add to that a banged up secondary and JJ Watt, DeAndre Hopkins, and Will Fuller should do well.

Sea (-10.5) vs Mia  The Legion of Boom spells the Legion of Doom for the fish.  10.5 is a big number for a team with a lousy offensive line, but the Dolphins offense looks horrible right now and traveling to other side of the country doesn't help.  Christine Michael is on a mission and Russell Wilson is too elusive.  Give me the birds.

GB (-4.5) at Jack   Last year was a disaster for the Pack.  Aaron Rodgers and Eddie Lacy get the offense back on track.

Car (-3) at Den.  Trevor who???  Give me Supercam in a revenge matchup from last years Super Bowl.

LA Rams (-2.5) at SF  The 49'ers are a train wreck- check that, make it a trolley wreck.  I don't love the Rams as much as I hate the Niners.