Not only are Kris Bryant’s ridiculous numbers at Double-A leading to speculation about when the Cubs will call him up, the slugging third baseman won the Southern League’s annual Home Run Derby last night too.
Bryant hit .355 with 22 homers, 20 doubles, and a 1.160 OPS in 68 first-half games, posting a .458 on-base percentage and .702 slugging percentage. And then he smacked 16 more homers in the Derby to beat out Diamondbacks first base prospect Jon Griffin for the title.
It would be difficult for any prospect to dominate a league more thoroughly than Bryant did in the first half at Double-A, but general manager Jed Hoyer has insisted that the Cubs have no immediate plans to call him up to the majors or even to promote him to Triple-A. So last year’s No. 2 overall draft pick will continue making life miserable for Southern League pitchers.
Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.
Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.
As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.