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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.

Brewers have 3 positive COVID tests at alternate site

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
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MILWAUKEE — The Brewers had two players and a staff member test positive for the coronavirus at their alternate training site in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Milwaukee president of baseball operations David Stearns confirmed the positive results Saturday and said they shouldn’t impact the major league team. Teams are using alternate training sites this season to keep reserve players sharp because the minor league season was canceled due to the pandemic.

Stearns said the positive tests came Monday and did not name the two players or the staff member. Players must give their permission for their names to be revealed after positive tests.

The entire camp was placed in quarantine.

“We have gone through contact tracing,” Stearns said. “We do not believe it will have any impact at all on our major league team. We’ve been fortunate to get through this season relatively unscathed in this area. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get all the way there at our alternate site.”

Milwaukee entered Saturday one game behind the Reds and Cardinals for second place in the NL Central, with the top two teams qualifying for the postseason.

The Brewers still will be able to take taxi squad players with them on the team’s trip to Cincinnati and St. Louis in the final week of the season. He said those players have had repeated negative tests and the team is “confident” there would be no possible spread of the virus.

“Because of the nature of who these individuals were, it’s really not going to affect the quarantine group at all,” Stearns said. “We’re very fortunate that the group of players who could potentially be on a postseason roster for us aren’t interacting all that much with the individuals that tested positive.”