Thursday's baseball: Padres jump into mix for Harper

By Kevin Acee
San Diego Union-Tribune
With spring training set to begin this month, outfielder Bryce Harper remains unsigned.

The Padres have jumped into the tepid free agent market with both feet.

A source confirmed representatives of the team, including general partner Peter Seidler, were scheduled to visit with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper in Las Vegas on Thursday.

This is seen as something of extended due diligence, and it is not thought that the team’s pursuit of Harper is as earnest as its continued efforts to land star infielder Manny Machado.

Ken Rosenthal first reported the Padres’ plans to meet with Harper.

Where Machado can play third base, the Padres’ greatest positional need, Harper plays right field, the position at which the Padres are deepest.

Harper, 26, is expected to command around $30 million a year.

The Padres last year signed Eric Hosmer the day before spring training. Hosmer and Harper are both represented by agent Scott Boras, whose relationship with the Padres has improved drastically in recent years, as he also represents some of their top minor league prospects.

The players at the top of this year’s free agent class are for a second straight offseason not finding the lucrative action that was expected. The stagnation and potential for a relative steal lured the Padres into the pursuit.

The Padres’ offseason plans have taken some turns, which cannot be considered all that unexpected. Members of the front office have long explained their personnel plans have multiple subsets and contingencies. And every time course is altered, new subsets and contingencies come into focus.

The ballclub expected to be plenty active this winter, particularly in the trade market. In the course of talks with other teams, however, the Padres shifted to an expectation they would keep most of their young core at least through the first couple months of the season.

While they have not stopped talking with other teams, the Padres shifted to the free agent market in search of a third baseman. Their interest centers on Machado, Mike Moustakas and Marwin Gonzalez.

Should the Padres acquire Harper, it would almost certainly necessitate a renewed effort to move Hunter Renfroe or Franmil Reyes, who also play the corner outfield spots.

Ohtani improving

AL rookie of the year Shohei Ohtani has been medically cleared to resume full strength training on his right arm following Tommy John surgery, although he will not be ready to hit for the Angels by Opening Day.

Angels GM Billy Eppler provided a positive update on the recovery of his two-way star.

Ohtani’s latest appointment with Dr. Neal El Attrache went “really well,” according to Eppler. Ohtani was cleared to begin weight training Friday as the right-hander rebuilds strength on his right side.

The Angels expect Ohtani to be their designated hitter at some point in 2019, but he will not be active when the Angels open the regular season in late March, Eppler says. Ohtani is not expected to pitch again until 2020.

Around the horn

The Colorado Rockies and third baseman Nolan Arenado settled on an arbitration-record $26 million. Josh Donaldson set the previous mark at $23 million with Toronto last season.

The 27-year-old Arenado was set to pass that record even if he went to arbitration. Arenado asked for $30 million earlier this month, while the Rockies offered $24 million.

... The Houston Astros and left-hander Wade Miley agreed to a one-year, $4.5-million contract, according to multiple reports. Miley was 5-2 with a 2.57 ERA in 16 starts for the Milwaukee Brewerse in 2018.

... The Pittsburgh Pirates signed reliever Brandon Maurer and outfielder J.B. Shuck to minor-league deals. Maurer, 28, is 16-31 with 36 saves and a 5.36 ERA in 289 games with Seattle, San Diego and Kansas City, including 0-4 with a 7.76 ERA in 37 games with the Royals in 2018. Shuck, 31, is a .244 career hitter.

Associated Press contributed.