In the latest episode of "As the Bryce Harper Turns," Jon Heyman of Fancred reported that three teams—the Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago White Sox and Washington Nationals—were currently interested in signing the superstar this offseason.
However, Heyman added that "word is, several teams are said to be waiting in the wings. The word 'waiting' suggests this may yet take awhile."
This report is the sort of information that will make Harper's camp and his agent, Scott Boras, smile (if Boras himself isn't the source of this info). While the market has seemingly been cool for Harper and fellow superstar Manny Machado, having several of the proverbial "mystery teams" waiting in the wings would increase his leverage in negotiations with teams like the Phillies, White Sox or Nationals.
As ESPN's Buster Olney tweeted eight years ago:
The suggestion that the process could take awhile has been reported elsewhere as well. On Tuesday, Matt Gelb of The Athletic wrote that "multiple sources have told The Athletic that the Phillies have gained confidence they will land one of the available superstars," though he added any signing might not take place until February.
The Phillies appear to be the front-runners, with Bob Nightengale of USA Today reporting Sunday they were the "clear-cut favorite" after meeting with Harper for several hours. Nightengale also reported the Phillies were set to make the largest offer on the market to either Machado or Harper, depending on which superstar they prioritized.
As Gelb noted, that willingness to spend big bucks will keep the Phillies in the running for both players. But the Phillies can also leverage their interest in both players against one another so long as both remain on the market, though that particular leverage disappears the moment either Machado or Harper signs elsewhere.
For teams like the Phillies, the hope is that the Harper market remains surprisingly cool, keeping his leverage limited and driving his price down. For Harper, the hope is that additional teams indeed enter the fray, making the market more robust and driving up his price.
So it appears, for both sides, the waiting game marches on.