Is Bryce Harper close to signing with Phillies?

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People don’t do it as much anymore, but there is a fun, weird history of fans tracking private jets allegedly containing free agents during the hot stove season. The big free agent — let’s call him Rice Larper — lives in, say, Las Cruces, and is rumored to be negotiating with, let’s say, the Pottsdown Phanatics. Someone will get on one of those air traffic trackers, see a private plane en route from Las Cruces to Pottsdown, and frantically claim it’s Larper, deal done, on his way to be introduced by the Phanatics at a surprise press conference.

It was great fun! That sort of reporting/rumor-mongering got the imagination going and stoked excitement. It was also always 100% wrong. I can’t remember a single free agent whose signing was actually reported via this sort of tea leaf reading. Which is sad, because that would totally own if it had panned out, but it just never pans out. Reporters, teams, players or, sometimes, customers in Honeybaked Ham stores break the news of these big signings, not internet gumshoes.

I offer that because there is some similar tea leaf reading going on regarding Bryce Harper and the Phillies, a team which is reportedly interested in him and which has met with him and his agent multiple times.

A Philadelphia radio station, 94WIP, is passing along a “report” — and I use those quotation marks with maximal dubiousness-signifying tone implied — that Las Vegas sports books have taken Harper landing spot prop bets off the board because he has a deal in place with the Phillies pending a physical. That report passed along by the radio station came from a Vegas-affiliated Twitter account I have never heard of. No one in the more mainstream parts of the media has run with it either, so take it for what it is. In the meantime, since there’s nothing else going on, I’m combing Twitter for confirmation or refutation of that prop bet stuff, but just know that it’s out there.

The Philly radio station likewise shows some tweets from the Twitter account behind the video game MLB The Show, which is officially-licensed by MLB and the Players’ union. Yesterday it put out these two tweets:

In the year 2019 it would not surprise me in the least to see a corporate sponsor/brand partner break the news of a big signing before a reporter did, but again, I wouldn’t take this as any more reliable than people tracking Gulfstream jets online. When a consumer product says it has “big news” it’s almost always about something it’s selling, not legitimate news.

Is all of this interesting? Sure. Am I contributing to breathless hype by passing this along, even if I do so skeptically? Oh for sure. Do I care? Nah, because it’s been a boring offseason and we can use all of the breathless hype we can get. There’s a polar vortex coming to much of the Midwest tonight, so I have to do something to keep warm. But still, take it all with a grain of salt.

If you need me, I’ll be tracking tail numbers of private jets.

Orioles option LHP Bruce Zimmermann to minors

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SARASOTA, Fla. – The Baltimore Orioles have optioned left-handers Bruce Zimmermann and Nick Vespi and reassigned infielder Lewin Díaz, left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez and catcher Mark Kolozsvary to minor league camp.

The Orioles announced the moves Monday.

Baltimore’s spring training roster now has 46 players.

Zimmermann made 13 starts last season. He went 2-5 with a 5.99 ERA.

The competition for rotation spots with the Orioles has been a significant story during spring training, but after the team acquired Cole Irvin and Kyle Gibson in the offseason – and with top prospect Grayson Rodriguez in the mix as well – there were a lot of pitchers Zimmermann needed to beat out.