Bryce Harper and Manny Machado remain two high-profile names that are still available in the MLB free agent market with teams still trying to make their pitch. The Los Angeles Dodgers have been widely linked to the 26-year-old outfielder, but the Chicago Cubs have also had their winter meetings with him. 

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Cubs president Theo Epstein has a lengthy meeting with Harper's agent, Scott Boras, something that lasted about three hours. Per sources, Epstein had urged them to hold off from accepting an offer from other teams as they try to move some payroll off the books and consult again with owners.

As of this writing, nothing much has changed. In the case of Harper, it is likely that the suspense behind whichever team he ends up with will drag on to January 2019. 

But if Harper's social media reaction to an MLB post is any indication, the Cubs may need to move fast. Harper liked an Instagram post submitted to the MLB official Instagram account, something that sends off mixed signals on whether the Dodgers are truly the favorites to land his services.

While all that remains in the balance, it hardly comes as a surprise that the Cubs are exploring other options in the event that they are unable to convince Harper to come on board. The Cubs have so far added infielder Daniel Descalso, Conor Lillis-White and Kendall Graveman. The last two names may not ring a bell, but they are a result of the Cubs continuing to work on a strapped payroll budget. 

It thus becomes a race on tweaking their respective budgets for all teams vying for Harper's services. Aside from the Dodgers and the Cubs, other teams interested in Harper's services include the Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies. But as mentioned in a previous post, Harper reportedly wants to become a Dodger badly.

To clear salary space, the latest on the Dodgers was trading away spare outfield and rotation depth when they shipped Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood and Matt Kemp to the Cincinnati Reds, Yahoo Sports reported. That move saved the Dodgers about $6.8 million in salary and $15.8 million in taxable salary. This leaves their payroll at around $180 million, although this is still not enough to sign Harper, who is forecasted to ask for $30 million annually.

The Dodgers need to stay under the $206 million luxury tax line, but the tax burden will be much smaller should they sign Harper.