Bryce Harper
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Report: Cubs could still make play for 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.

Red Sox employees “livid” over team pay cut plan

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Even Drellich of The Athletic reports that the Boston Red Sox are cutting the pay of team employees. Those cuts, which began to be communicated last night, apply to all employees making $50,000 or more. They are tiered cuts, with people making $50-99,000 seeing salary cut by 20%, those making $100k-$499,000 seeing $25% cuts and those making $500,000 or more getting 30% cuts.

Drellich reported that a Red Sox employee told him that “people are livid” over the fact that those making $100K are being treated the same way as those making $500K. And, yes, that does seem to be a pretty wide spread for similar pay cuts. One would think that a team with as many analytically-oriented people on staff could perhaps break things down a bit more granularly.

Notable in all of this that the same folks who own the Red Sox — Fenway Sports Group — own Liverpool FC of the English Premier League, and that just last month Liverpool’s pay cut/employee furlough policies proved so unpopular that they led to a backlash and a subsequent reversal by the club. That came after intense criticism from Liverpool fan groups and local politicians. Sox owner John Henry must be confident that no such backlash will happen in Boston.

As we noted yesterday, The Kansas City Royals, who are not as financially successful as the Boston Red Sox, have not furloughed employees or cut pay as a result of baseball’s shutdown in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps someone in Boston could call the Royals and ask them how they managed that.