Things could’ve been a lot different for the Dodgers if they signed Bryce Harper two years ago.
Though the Los Angeles Dodgers have only one World Series to show for it, they’ve been arguably the most dominant MLB force over the last decade. They’ve been to the postseason in eight straight years (all of which featured division titles), made the NLCS five times and reached the World Series three times. They have the best record in the league over that span.
But if the Chicago Cubs wanted to, they could’ve disrupted this reign much more often than just the 2016 season, when they eliminated LA in the NLCS. Instead, payroll concerns got in their way and they managed to ostracize their franchise player in Kris Bryant over a service-time grievance. Oops!
Now, we’re seeing it all come crashing down this offseason. They traded Yu Darvish. Bryant is likely on the way out. Some are speculating Kyle Hendricks could be moved for the right price. Theo Epstein is gone after it was made clear the Cubs were going to cut back on spending (which has been evident for over two years now). He wanted no part of that.
And to think this team could’ve had Bryce Harper two years ago. According to Bryant, who is close with the former NL MVP, Harper had the Cubs as his preferred destination when he became a free agent after the 2018 season.
Here’s what Bryant said, via Bartstool Sports’ “Red Line Radio”:
"“He came to Chicago [the season before he hit free agency], he played us and we went to dinner one night …. And we were just talking and I was like ‘Man, it would be super cool if you came to Chicago.’ And he’s like ‘Honestly, it’s top of my list.’“And I thought we really had a chance to get him. You know, I kind of forget the situation, exactly who we signed or whatever, but he really loves Chicago. He loves coming to the city, eating there … who doesn’t like going to Chicago. I’m kind of bummed out we missed out on that opportunity.”"
The Ricketts’ family, who owns the Cubs, has an estimated worth of $4.5 billion, according to Forbes. Look, we know this wouldn’t have been cheap since they had guys like Bryant, Darvish, Jon Lester, Jason Heyward, Anthony Rizzo and others on the payroll, but they had one of the best executives in the history of the sport in Epstein. Think he couldn’t have made it work and executed some shrewd trades to maintain other areas of the roster? Just think of a Harper, Heyward and Kyle Schwarber outfield.
At that point, the Cubs definitely knew their futures with Bryant and Schwarber likely wouldn’t last beyond their arbitration years. They knew Anthony Rizzo had team-friendly contract options. They knew Lester’s contract was coming off the books after 2020. They could’ve just spent an extra $30 million per season to really go for it and be a thorn in the Dodgers’ side.
Instead, they were seemingly content with their one World Series win and have had just one postseason series win since then despite a wildly talented roster and an ownership group with deep pockets.
The worst-case scenario here? The Cubs are building around Harper and Javier Baez this offseason. That sounds like a pretty damn good situation. But here we are, and that’s why the Dodgers are a juggernaut organization while the Cubs are merely a flavor of the week.