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When the Giants hired Farhan Zaidi to run their baseball operations department in November, signing Bryce Harper was not his primary focus. A month later, at the winter meetings, Harper’s name rarely came up in the team’s hotel suite.
But the longer “Harper’s Bazaar” continued without the 26-year-old outfielder signing a contract, the more the Giants felt they at least should start a dialog with the potentially transformational player to gauge his interest in becoming a Giant.
That appears to be the reasoning behind a meeting held in Las Vegas this week between Giants officials and Harper. The Chronicle has confirmed that Zaidi, manager Bruce Bochy and team President Larry Baer attended the meeting.
Giants officials, who do not ordinarily discuss free-agent or trade negotiations, did not respond to requests for comment. Nor did Harper’s agent, Scott Boras. There are no indications that a Harper signing with any team is imminent.
Randy Miller, who covers the Yankees for New Jersey Advanced Media, first reported Wednesday that the Giants are making a “late play” for Harper. Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports first reported Harper’s meeting with the Giants.
Their need for a player of Harper’s pedigree, power and overall talent is acute.
With spring training fast approaching, the Giants have two holes in the outfield and only center fielder Steven Duggar penciled in as a projected starter.
Boras had been expecting to push for a record contract exceeding Giancarlo Stanton’s $325 million over 13 years. Harper reportedly turned down a 10-year, $300 million offer from his incumbent team, the Nationals, before the season ended. But as teams prepare to open camp, Harper’s Bazaar — a term Boras coined — remains open.
In a Chronicle interview during the general manager meetings in early November, Boras called the Giants a “perfect fit” for his client.
“I think he likes the absolute feel of the ballpark and the fans,” Boras said. “It’s a great fan base. You know you’re at a ballgame, and he loves the enthusiasm and their success.”
Asked whether the massive brick wall in right field at what’s now called Oracle Park is intimidating, Boras said, “Not when you have Bryce Harper.”
At the winter meetings in Las Vegas a month later, there was an indication that the Giants could enter the sweepstakes at a later date, although they were not among several teams that sent representatives to Harper’s home in that city to make their pitches.
The Phillies have not hidden their desire to sign Harper or shortstop Manny Machado. The Padres and White Sox reportedly are courting Harper as well, with the Nationals still hoping they can re-sign him.
As recently as Jan. 2, in a Chronicle interview, Zaidi downplayed expectations for a “big-splash acquisition” and said he was being patient with the slow market and that he was focusing on moves that would improve a team that wasn’t one or two players from being a contender.
However, while the Giants did not join the initial push for Harper, nobody within the organization ever slammed the door shut.
Then, on Jan. 23, the day of the Drew Pomeranz signing, Zaidi hinted he could circle back and pursue a player who previously wasn’t considered realistic.
“As the market evolves, there might be guys that you had questioned or doubted the feasibility at one point that you circle back around on,” Zaidi said. “It’s our job and responsibility to keep tabs on all parts of the market, and we’re continuing to do that. I think things could change. Your target list evolves over the course of the offseason.”
With Wednesday’s news that the Giants appear in on Harper, the focus seems to be changing as pitchers and catchers prepare to report for spring training.
“They have a successful model,” Boras said of the Giants at the GM meetings, “and I always tell Larry (Baer), ‘This fan base has rewarded you. You’ve got a stadium that’s paid for. You’ve got a rocket ship of a financial model.’
“So the Giants should be successful every year and can use free agency, trades and development in a way that allows them to compete. No different than the major market franchises because they are one.”
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/Are-Giants-and-Bryce-Harper-a-match-13594439.php.