SAN FRANCISCO — A few minutes before the start of FanFest on Saturday morning, Giants officials briefly were put into scramble mode. Social media buzzed with rumors that Bryce Harper soon would choose the Giants, which was news to the Giants themselves.
It was an absurd notion that Harper, after months of speculation, simply would announce his intentions by showing up at Oracle Park on a cold, rainy day -- and team officials quickly shot down the possibility. The Giants do not expect Harper to make a decision this weekend, but as everyone prepared to head down to Scottsdale for the start of spring training, there certainly was an increase in optimism.
As players have talked over the past 24 hours, there has been an increased sense among some in the clubhouse that Harper prefers the Giants, a source told NBC Sports Bay Area. From a management perspective, it certainly was not lost on the team’s decision-makers that Buster Posey publicly lobbied for a Harper deal when he met with reporters Friday.
That admiration is said to be mutual. Per a source, one of the things Harper talked about with the Giants contingent in a Monday meeting in Las Vegas was how much he likes Posey. That meeting was supposed to last about two hours, but CEO Larry Baer, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi and manager Bruce Bochy ended up spending four hours with Harper’s camp.
They did not make an offer during the meeting, but if Zaidi had a concept in mind, he certainly had time to make it known to Scott Boras, Harper's agent. Zaidi, who has been transitioning from Los Angeles, flew back to the city with Boras at the conclusion of Monday’s meeting.
Zaidi confirmed the team’s interest Friday, but he otherwise has preferred to keep this chase under wraps. Baer did not publicly speak about Harper during the week, but he did take the stage at FanFest on Saturday to answer a few questions.
“Bryce Harper is an amazing player,” he said. “I can’t handicap it, I don’t know where we are, but we’re giving it a shot. That’s all we can do, I think.”
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Baer pointed out that the Giants have had quick turnarounds before, noting the team won 103 games when Barry Bonds joined before the 1993 season.
“One player can make a difference,” Baer said. “It’s obviously a different sport than basketball, but one player can make a difference.”
The Giants are chasing Harper because he can make a difference in more ways than one. The weather didn’t help, but by any standard, FanFest was stunningly quiet compared to past years. It’s one thing for fans to speak their minds on social media. It's another for them to speak with their wallets.
If Saturday’s crowd was any indication, a lot of Giants fans aren't happy with the plan to take a step back and get younger. Perhaps it was no accident, then, when Baer threw in one last compliment of Harper as his time on stage came to an end.
“He’s 26 years old, too,” he said.