Bryce Harper ‘warming up to the White Sox'? Could the future-focused pitch work?


LAS VEGAS — The White Sox remain in the hunt for Bryce Harper, according to one report after another, and as they jetted off to his hometown for their own kind of warm up at the Winter Meetings here in Sin City, maybe Harper's starting to warm up to the idea of playing on the South Side.

WBBM's George Ofman tweeted just that Monday morning — though he later deleted the tweet — the latest Twitter link between the White Sox and the biggest fish in this winter's free-agent pond.

In pro sports, it's easy to say that it all comes down to money, and while that kind of blanket statement is not exactly true, money plays an obviously enormous role. The White Sox, simply by being in the mix, would have to be willing to hand out a contract that is expected to be the biggest the sport has ever seen.

There's a perception among certain White Sox fans that they will not do that. Well, consider it another preconceived notion that Hahn will be happy to shatter. He's talked often about how the team has flown in the face of those preconceptions over the past two years: that they wouldn't undergo a full-scale rebuild, that they wouldn't make a blockbuster deal with the Crosstown-rival Cubs. He's held the door open for more of that kind of behavior, and making a gargantuan contract offer would fall into that category.

And a gargantuan contract offer is what it would figure to take to get Harper, as high-spending clubs like the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies are also reportedly in the hunt. The Phillies have even promised to "spend stupid," which could price just about anybody out of a bidding war.

Plus, those teams can offer what the White Sox cannot: the ability to start winning championships, plural, right now.

The White Sox have big plans and a bright future, but they remain just plans. Meanwhile, the Yankees won 100 games last season, the Dodgers have been to each of the last two World Series and the Phillies made a big jump in their rebuilding effort last season and would figure to be a contender if Harper signed on.

But Hahn thinks that bright future is as big a selling point as any, and he's confident there's an allure to buying into such plans and seeing them through to a championship.

“You have to understand these guys are professionals and they understand deep nuances about each individual franchise,” the White Sox general manager said on a conference call last week. “And from a macro standpoint, the idea of potentially being part of a winner in Chicago has very broad appeal. From a nuanced standpoint, the chance to be part of the White Sox organization based upon what our future looks like, futures that these players are familiar with and understand having either seen personally some of these young players play or video or talked to other players about them, it’s something that they buy into.

“There’s an allure not just to winning in this city. But there’s an allure of being part of building something that’s potentially sustainable and potentially great. Where we were in Year 2 of a rebuild I don’t think really plays a huge role in the decision-making process of what a player is buying into in terms of the long term future.”

So is that what this whole "warming up" business is about? Is the White Sox pitch — which was reportedly aided by the presence of Hall of Famer Jim Thome — making an impact? Or is the contract offer simply the biggest out there?

Those questions remain unanswered. But, you would figure, it's going to take more than just money, and you would figure, it's going to take more than just the ability to win championships. So maybe the White Sox long-term focused pitch is working, maybe it's the right blend of money and winning and the ability to do something special that makes Harper "warm up" to the South Side.

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