The Cubs, Chicago reach an agreement on Wrigley renovations

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It comes about six days after they had first hoped, but the Cubs and the city of Chicago have finally reached an agreement for half a billion dollars worth of Wrigley Field renovations:

The historic home of the Chicago Cubs will get a $500 million facelift, including its first electronic outfield video board, as part of a hard-fought agreement announced Sunday night between the City of Chicago and the ball team.

Wrigley Field also will host an expanded number of night games under the announced pact, as part of Cubs owner Tom Ricketts’ plans to renovate the second-oldest ballpark in the major leagues, boost business and make baseball’s most infamous losers competitive again.

The video board will be contentious, as it’s not at all clear that the rooftop owners beyond left field — from whom the Cubs take a cut of all receipts — have signed off. They had threatened to sue.  Beyond that, there will now be up to 40 night games (up from 30) and as many as four concerts a year. To ease neighborhood concerns there will be an additional 1,000 parking spots in a remote lot which will be free and come with shuttle service.

The announcement says no tax dollars will be used for the renovations. That’s laudable if it holds true, but there have many many allegedly “private” financings of ballpark construction or renovations which ended up getting public money or breaks of some kind.  Call me when the work is done if you want to tell me this doesn’t impact taxpayers.

That caveat aside, forward, ho.

The Nationals expect Bryce Harper to test free agency

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Earlier this week at the Winter Meetings, Scott Boras said that he and the Washington Nationals had had preliminary discussions about a contract extension for Bryce Harper. Harper, of course, can become a free agent following the 2018 season and is widely expected to command the largest contract in baseball history.

While that may have given some Nationals fans hope that no other team would get the chance to bid on him, the Nationals are of the view that they have no shot to sign Harper before he at least tests the free agent market. From USA Today’s Bob Nightengale:

A lot of this seems like mutual posturing, doesn’t it? Boras trying to make it appear as though the he and Harper are giving the Nats a fair hearing and the Nats trying to make it appear as though, no matter what they do, Harper is going to hit the market. I tend to believe, personally, that Boras and Harper are hellbent on testing the market, but it’s possible that there is some number that the Nats can offer to head that off, right? Maybe?

Either way: big year ahead for Harper.