Report: Cubs could still make play for Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper
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Speculation has run rampant on Bryce Harper‘s next big move, with no shortage of clubs ready and eager to take the award-winning slugger off the market. While the White Sox and Phillies are among the presumed favorites to land Harper this winter (which could quickly change as they’re both said to be in on free agent star Manny Machado as well), Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times points out that the Cubs might also position themselves to make a big play despite ongoing payroll concerns.

Per Wittenmyer, the Cubs’ recent meeting with Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, prompted an interesting reaction from team president Theo Epstein. Epstein reportedly told Boras to give them “a chance to try to move some payroll off the books and check again with ownership” before agreeing to any competing offers. Of course, it’s hard to put any stock in those kinds of statements when the organization hasn’t made any drastic moves to that effect, though they may still have several weeks left to shift things around before Harper makes a final decision.

The Cubs aren’t the only team playing it cool right now, either. The Dodgers have been repeatedly linked to Harper after dealing Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood and Matt Kemp to the Reds on Friday, which allowed them to shave a significant sum off their 2019 payroll and clear some much-needed space in the outfield. Granted, there are plenty of reasons why Harper might not be a perfect fit in Los Angeles — the club’s rumored hesitation over meeting Harper’s exorbitant asking price is one, their current focus on acquiring both infield depth and right-handed bats is another — but it’s unlikely that either of those would be compelling enough to prevent the defending NL West champions from inking the outfielder to a major deal.

MLB, union resume blood testing after pandemic, lockout

Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK – In the first acknowledgment that MLB and the players’ association resumed blood testing for human growth hormone, the organizations said none of the 1,027 samples taken during the 2022 season tested positive.

HGH testing stopped in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Testing also was halted during the 99-day lockout that ended in mid-March, and there were supply chain issues due to COVID-19 and additional caution in testing due to coronavirus protocols.

The annual public report is issued by Thomas M. Martin, independent program administrator of MLB’s joint drug prevention and treatment program. In an announcement accompanying Thursday’s report, MLB and the union said test processing is moving form the INRS Laboratory in Quebec, Canada, to the UCLA Laboratory in California.

MLB tests for HGH using dried blood spot testing, which was a change that was agreed to during bargaining last winter. There were far fewer samples taken in 2022 compared to 2019, when there were 2,287 samples were collected – none positive.

Beyond HGH testing, 9,011 urine samples were collected in the year ending with the 2022 World Series, up from 8,436 in the previous year but down from 9,332 in 2019. And therapeutic use exemptions for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder dropped for the ninth straight year, with just 72 exemptions in 2022.

Overall, the league issued six suspensions in 2022 for performance-enhancing substances: three for Boldenone (outfielder/first baseman Danny Santana, pitcher Richard Rodriguez and infielder Jose Rondon, all free agents, for 80 games apiece); one each for Clomiphene (Milwaukee catcher Pedro Severino for 80 games), Clostebol (San Diego shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. for 80 games) and Stanozolol (Milwaukee pitcher J.C. Mejia for 80 games).

There was an additional positive test for the banned stimulant Clobenzorex. A first positive test for a banned stimulant results in follow-up testing with no suspension.