February 26, 2019
MLB Rumors: Bryce Harper 'Prefers' Not To Sign With Phillies, Dodgers, Cubs 1st Choices, NJ.com Writer Reports

Bryce Harper, the six-time All Star free agent outfielder, remains a free agent even as all 30 Major League teams approach the end of their first week of spring training games. As The Inquisitr has reported, a large part of the reason why appears to be Harper's reluctance to sign with the team that has long been considered the leading contender for his services, the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Phillies have reportedly offered Harper a contract worth $300 million, according to a report on Twitter by MLB Network baseball "insider" Jon Heyman. But even that sum, plus a personal trip to Harper's Nevada home by Phillies owner John Middleton, per The Philadelphia Inquirer, has not been enough to persuade Harper to end his prolonged offseason and join the Phillies at their Clearwater, Florida, spring training camp.

But why?

While speculation has centered around Harper's supposed preference to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers, a team located much closer to Nevada, another possible reason for Harper's hesitancy about Philadelphia emerged on Tuesday, thanks to a report on Twitter by a baseball beat reporter for the New Jersey news site NJ.com.

Harper "prefers not to sign with #Phillies," wrote NJ.com reporter Randy Miller, citing what he described as a "source close to" Harper. "I've been hearing all winter that Harper does not want to play for (Philadelphia Manager) Gabe Kapler due to analytics and quirky personality."

Gabe Kapler watches a game.
Getty Images | Justin Berl
Phillies Manager Gabe Kapler is known to rely heavily on baseball analytics data to make in-game decisions.

In his rookie season as Phillies manager, the now-43-year-old Kapler — who played for seven different teams in a 12-year Major League career, per Baseball Reference — oversaw a drastic improvement for the franchise, jumping from a 66-win season in 2017 under manager Pete Mackanin to an 80-win campaign last year. Kapler had the Phillies in first place in the National League East as late as August 12, before slumping to 15-29 over the remainder of their schedule, including a nine-game losing streak in September, to sink into a third-place finish.

But despite his relative success, Kapler quickly became a controversial figure, as the Chatterblast site recounted, for his often unusual lineups and in-game tactical decisions, which were based largely on the numerical data known in contemporary baseball as "analytics."

Miller's "source close to Harper" may not have the whole story, however, because Harper's reportedly preferred team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, relies on analytics data more than all but a few other teams. In fact, according to ESPN, the "top two" analytics-reliant teams in MLB last year were the two teams that met in the World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox.

Miller also reported that the Dodgers are Harper's team of first choice — along with the Chicago Cubs who at least so far have shown no interest in pursuing a Harper signing, as NESN reported.