But the buzz from the Winter Meetings has been that the White Sox have been talking to the superstar free agents like Bryce Harper. Most people scoff at the prospect of a superstar signing with a 100 loss team.
But the real bottom line for superstars is to go where the money is because
that is why they have high power agents.
There is growing case that teams like the White Sox are the only big dollar landing
spots for Harper, Machado, Kuechel, etc. If the White Sox want a marquee player
to be the face of the franchise, they can pay him and still not even break an $80 million
payroll because of the rebuild. They can be selling (like the Cubs did with Lester) all the
great (pitching) prospects in the minors so the turnaround will be quick.
The Sox drew 1.6 million fans in 2017. If Harper adds 5,000/game attendance (405,000)
the gross revenue could increase by $20 million (based on 2017 average cost to attend game)
which would be 2/3 of Harper's salary.
to justify signing a big money free agent. Signing Harper would not increase attendance revenues at Wrigley Field.
Would a superstar like Harper want to be the "brand" of the White Sox. Clearly, if he was, he would get local endorsement deals and his No. 34 jersey would be a top seller. But those in Washington think Harper's personality does not fit that role. He wants to be plugged into a veteran, high win team who can win a championship or two. That is why he has been trolling the Cubs to sign him so he would not have to "carry" the team.
There may be a mystery team in the Harper sweepstakes. For example, the Giants are saying they are in a state of change. They are willing to entertain offers on Bumgartner. They have only 12 veterans on the roster but the projected payroll for 2019 is around $175 million. Adding a $30 million player is feasible to be under the luxury tax threshold, but you could spend the same amount and acquire 5 or 6 second tier free agents to actually create a competitive roster.
Harper's agent, Scott Boras, is still playing the preachy waiting game. It did not work well for last year's client, J.D. Martinez, who signed a team friendly deal with Red Sox prior to the start of spring training. One would think an agent would want to get a deal done sooner than later because teams are now more focused on trading for roster changes than signing free agents.