The Cubs have met with Harper and his agent Scott Boras for up to three hours, according to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times, who reports Chicago is trying to free up cash to make a run at the 2015 NL MVP.
President of baseball operations Theo Epstein asked Harper and Boras to give the Cubs a chance to clear payroll before accepting an offer from another club, Wittenmyer's sources said.
Landing Harper would likely cost more than the $300 million over 10 years he reportedly turned down from the Washington Nationals in November. That might be a tall task for the Cubs, who will be up against the luxury tax, although Wittenmyer reports the organization is less concerned about the penalties incurred for going over the threshold than its internal budget.
The Cubs already have more than $168 million committed to players in 2019, which doesn't include arbitration dollars due to Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber, and a handful of others. They've also got a full outfield with Schwarber, Jason Heyward, Ian Happ, and Albert Almora Jr. in the fold.
Chicago lost the NL wild-card game last season with a similar roster.
Harper, 26, hit 34 homers and drove in 100 runs while posting an .889 OPS in 159 games last season.
Chicago's pursuit of Harper could be aided by his friendship with fellow Las Vegas native Bryant.