The Rundown: Cubs First Full-Squad Practice Today, Harper Mania Intensifies, Manfred Downplays Free Agency Crisis, Craft Beer Reviews

Things were relatively quiet on social media until yesterday afternoon when Jon Heyman decided to rustle up the dying embers of this winter’s hot stove.

That tweet seemed to indicate that the Phillies were close to signing Bryce Harper, though Heyman diluted that notion a great deal in supporting tweets that basically named the Padres, White Sox, and the Phillies as the three teams most likely to land one of Harper or Manny Machado. Where does that leave the Cubs?

Pretty much with the cast of characters that will gather today in Mesa. The good news is that neither star free agent appears to be going to one of Chicago’s division rivals. I still don’t see Harper signing with Philadelphia, though I suppose they may be the only team capable of and willing to pay the right fielder’s escalating rate, which will probably pass $30 million in AAV. If you are expecting the Cubs to meet or best those figures, think again.

There are still a great number of Cubs fans who want to see Theo Epstein walk onto the field today with Harper in tow like he did with Dexter Fowler in 2016. Some of those fans were more than emotionally charged up at the thought of Kris Bryant’s best buddy signing with any other team. After all, he did name his dog Wrigley.

But Harper’s also a huge Yankees fan and it’s been said he wants to play near his Las Vegas home, perhaps with the Dodgers. If you throw all of that into one big pot of Harper stew, all that you are missing is the meat. He will likely sign with the highest bidder, and that team may be revealed as early as today. Or it won’t, because a number of teams still exist on the periphery.

I’d say the White Sox are the heavy favorites to land Machado. I imagine Harper’s name will be attached to numerous teams today, serving to drive his market well beyond comfortable levels. That’s what free agency is intended to do. The fraternal order of front offices may be bound and determined to stick to their algorithms with every other available free agent, but Harper’s and Machado’s contracts will probably be two of this winter’s exceptions.

I still expect the Cubs to get the opportunity to match any offer. I also expect them to take a hard pass. Yes, I am finally letting go of the notion that Harper will find himself positioned between Bryant and Anthony Rizzo in the Cubs’ batting order anytime soon.

Cubs News & Notes

Spring Training Notes

The White Sox are expecting big things from rookie outfielder Eloy Jimenez, even though he is likely ticketed to start the season in the minors.

Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo said the team has long been prepared to lose Harper and likes their chances even without their marquee player.

The Brewers have re-signed third baseman Mike Moustakas. He loves Milwaukee, so good for him. Moose gets a one-year deal that is reportedly worth $10 million.

Khris Davis would like to be the next young player to sign an extension so that he can remain with the A’s for a few more seasons.

This season will be the last for Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia, the veteran announced yesterday.

Rob Manfred revealed yesterday that pitch clocks will be implemented for spring training games.

Baseball’s reigning commissioner also challenged MLBPA chief Tony Clark and agent Scott Boras for inferences that teams are purposely tanking. He said that narrative is “not supported by facts” and deflected blame away from the teams that have been less aggressive in free agency. Manfred suggested that the implication that there’s a free agency crisis is completely false.

Jayson Stark and Mark Reynolds would probably disagree.

The Commissioner’s job is to look out for the owners because they elected him, so none of Manfred’s rhetoric is surprising.

Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright is more than a little fired up regarding the slow free agent market. He indicated the players may take action sooner rather than later. “I think unless something changes, there’s gonna be a strike 100 percent. I don’t think anybody’s hiding that,” Wainwright told 590 The Fan in St. Louis on Friday. “I just worry people are going to walk out midseason.”

Sunday Funday

I went to a craft brewery yesterday to watch the Daytona 500 rather than sitting at home with a sixer of PBR. I rather enjoyed MobCraft in Walker’s Point, though I had to watch the race on my phone as the joint has no televisions. Here’s my post-imbibe review of my favorite brews.

  1. Bat $hit Crazy – A brown ale that is one of the better tasting coffee beers I’ve tried. In fact, it was so good I emptied their available stock when I purchased a growler to go.
  2. Bonfire Summer Stout – Aged in whiskey barrels and finished with graham crackers (what?) and a touch of vanilla. The recipe was crowd-sourced and tastes an awful lot like smokey, slightly bitter S’mores.
  3. Liquid Dessert – This Imperial Stout is aged in bourbon barrels and brewed with dark Belgian sugar and maple syrup. Also a crowd-sourced recipe. Hit me like a shot of morphine — in all the best ways.

Extra Innings

Baseball America has been publishing its top minor league farm systems since 1984, though they admit that very few of those organizations have parlayed those honors into world championships. The Cubs are one of the few exceptions, however, coming in at No. 1 in 2015.

Monday Walk Up Song

Old Fashioned Morphine by Jolie Holland. I think I am having Liquid Dessert withdrawals.

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