Source: Cubs ‘Met’ with Bryce Harper Friday, Deal Not Believed Imminent (Updated)

Listen, I’m not one to tell you how to flavor your food, so you can feel free to apply as much salt to what follows as you see fit. This all started when I got a text from CI staffer Michael Canter, father of The Rundown, that had some relatively interesting information about a certain huge free agent. It was intentionally vague and he said he’d be digging for more, so I teased a Twitter crowd hungry for any confirmation that the Cubs might still be in on Bryce Harper.

After a little more clarification, Canter posted a thread with more specifics. According to his source, a member of the Brewers’ front office, the Cubs met with Harper Friday as the superstar’s negotiations seem to be amping up a little bit. We’d heard earlier in the week that the Padres had entered the fray and that Harper had taken second and third meetings with some teams. In addition to the four known suitors — Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Padres — it was reported that at least one team lurked on the periphery.

Some very reasonable assumptions led us to the belief that the Cubs were that team, or were at least among a group of teams loitering at the fringe. That squares with earlier reports that the Cubs had told Harper and Scott Boras to come back to them once they had an offer in hand. Despite the discussion of their budget shortcomings, there’s been a thought that a last-second approval for a big expenditure could serve as some sort of deus ex machina to land Harper.

Rather than this being a matter of the Cubs presenting Harper with an offer, it seems that any meeting — if one did actually occur — would be more about due diligence and Boras circling back. In a way, it’s the reverse of Theo Epstein calling Boras, who also represents Jake Arrieta, prior to signing Yu Darvish last winter. That fits with the next bit of info Canter shared, which is that the Cubs have maintained regular contact with Boras (obviously, since he also represents Kris Bryant and Addison Russell).

Given how close we’re getting to spring training, some of these players might be itching to ink deals. People like to think agents control the entire process, and that’s largely true with Boras, but even the biggest agents operate at the behest of the players they represent. So if Harper or any other free agent really wants to get something done, they could make it happen.

One more interesting bit of info here is that, while we’ve heard for some time that the Cubs would need to move money to sign Harper, the source doesn’t believe that is necessarily the case. The Cubs would have to clear roster space, but the thought is that they don’t want to pull off a lopsided trade just to cut payroll. If they were to get Harper, it’d be the result of a budget increase and a subsequent even-value trade of one of their outfielders.

Again, I’m not going to tell you whether or how much of this to believe. I am getting it through more or less the same channels you are and cannot personally vouch for the credibility of the source. I can, however, vouch for Canter, who I’ve known for several years now and don’t see as someone who’d reach around to pull info from his rear end.

And when you look at what’s being said here, none of it falls out of line with what has been previously rumored or reported. So what does that mean for the Cubs? Maybe nothing. If we’re to believe all of this, the likely scenario is that Harper does have another legitimate offer on the table that he’s willing to accept. It’s also likely that the Cubs are not prepared to match it sans a significant change of heart. Or budget.

Stay tuned for more, I guess.

Ed. note: Theo Epstein is in Boston for Hot Stove Cool Music and Jed Hoyer is in Arizona, so when, who, and where a meeting could have occurred is in question.

Update #1: Update: According to Patrick Mooney of The Athletic, no meeting between Cubs and Harper’s camp took place.

Ah, but such is the world of sourced info and rampant rumors. It’s still entirely possible there’s been some level of communication, but there was apparently not an actual meeting (which was already a distinct possibility based on note below).

Update #2: Several hours after this post was initially published, another source reached out with information from someone in Boras’s camp. This person confirmed that the agent had indeed called the Cubs to check back on their stance on Harper and their financial situation. So while it does appear no physical meeting took place, the situation laid out above is still quite plausible.

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