LAS VEGAS — Understatement of the offseason: A Bryce Harper signing would be big for the White Sox.
How big? Easily the biggest story on the South Side since the World Series championship in 2005, that’s all.
A Harper signing would bring a true superstar to Chicago, legitimize the Sox’ brand and revive their level of relevancy in a sports town dominated by the Bears and Cubs. It would give their rebuild not a finishing piece but a centerpiece and face for a franchise that right now has only a promising future with coming talent to stand on.
Harper’s lefty bat in the middle of the lineup alone would not turn the Sox into contenders for 2019 but, with Eloy Jimenez coming, would certainly make them better for the short term. And for the long term, with more prospects such as Luis Robert coming, it’s feasible to see the Sox contending for years to come.
His agent, Scott Boras, said at the winter meetings Wednesday that Harper has a savvy business sense and knows what the Sox’ farm system looks like. He wants to play for a winner that will contend for championships (plural). And he wants to be the face of a franchise to advance his name and brand.
Working in the Sox’ favor, Harper, who is considering the Sox and numerous other teams, wouldn’t be overly concerned that the team isn’t ready to win in 2019. That’s because he knows the Sox should be ready shortly after.
“When you’re signing a long-term contract, you’re looking at a franchise in the long term, not just the short term,’’ Boras said.
That was one of several things Boras said to keep the Sox’ hopes simmering. One national analyst, former general manager Jim Bowden of CBS Sports, called the Sox the favorites for Harper late Wednesday afternoon, stirring the pot.
Boras said Harper has met with every team he needs to by now (the Sox’ first meeting was Nov. 19), and negotiations are underway. While Boras and Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf have had a less-than-great relationship over the years, Carlos Rodon is a Boras client, and Boras said he “loves talking” to Reinsdorf.
“He’s a very knowledgeable baseball person,’’ Boras said. “He’s been a historic figure in the game and someone I enjoy talking to.”
Boras said his discussions with Reinsdorf always have been respectful, “and we have good baseball conversations. It’s good to talk to a very steady guy, and Jerry’s very much that about baseball.’’
Despite his reputation as a labor hawk and one who has stood for financial restraint,
Reinsdorf shocked the baseball world when he signed Albert Belle to a $55 million contract in 1996. The biggest deal he has worked for a Sox player since was $68 million for Jose Abreu.
“I’m sure Jerry will do anything that’s good business for him,’’ Boras said. “He’s a very successful businessman and an owner. And so I would certainly say that he certainly has an opportunity to look at a star player, as he’s done in the past. Looking at that today, it’s even a greater advantage for him.’’
“Something could happen quickly,’’ Boras said. “Something also could happen in a matter of weeks. You really can’t put a time on it.”
A hungry fan base is on the edge of its seat.
“These are extraordinarily complex [deals],’’ general manager Rick Hahn cautioned. “It’s more than just dollars times years. There’s multiple layers from trade protection, opt-outs, deferral structures. There’s a lot of moving pieces involved. These things can take time. These things can fall apart for a lot of different reasons. There’s a lot of different potential potholes along the way before you get to a deal. But we have an idea about what we’re going to try to accomplish, and we’re going to pursue it diligently.”