As the Hot Stove seems to be giving everyone the chills so far this off-season with the lack of activity (other than a few short moments, thanks to Jeter); a lot of attention has been turned to what could be a revolutionary Free Agent Class next year. With the likes of Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, Charlie Blackmon, and Daniel Murphy set to be free agents and a possible Clayton Kershaw opt-out for next year, too. This has affected many teams’ outlook on their spend this year, as teams aim to get under the Luxury Tax Threshold so they can have a good winter splurge on some of the stars in the game.
But almost certainly the biggest name of all that will hit the market; Bryce Harper. In his 6 years with the Washington Nationals so far, he has established himself as one of the faces of the game, with his MVP-level of play, countless honours (except a World Series ring) and a personality that people stop and take notice of. When he gets his new deal, it would almost certainly be the most expensive contract in MLB history, topping the 13 year, $325 Million deal that Giancarlo Stanton signed with the Marlins (and also topping Zach Greinke‘s $34 million yearly salary). So in advance of this, I thought I’d take a look at the potential suitors for Bryce next off-season.
The only place to start in this discussion is where Bryce Harper currently resides. The Nation’s Capital. The Nats recently finished up Jayson Werth’s sizable contract, and have shown that they’re not afraid to pay heavily when warranted, such as Scherzer’s recent deal; so they may be able to fork out the potential $400/$500 million dollars it would take to get their star player to stay for the next 10/12 years, assuming the clever finance people can figure out a way to structure it. Harper has mentioned numerous times that he appreciates how rare it is for a player to stay at one team to become a real city icon and if the financials lined up he would love to remain in DC. His agent Scott Boras, he who loves his players to test free agency, may have something to say about that though, in an effort to get the Nats in a bidding war for his prized asset. It’s not out of the question that he’ll sign a contract before then; as we saw with Stephen Strasburg last season with a surprise extension out of nowhere, but he’s been somewhat injury-prone and it may have been safer to cash in early, unlike Harper. All in all, there’s still a reasonable chance that Harper could opt to remain at Nats Park, but it’s probably a bit less than 50% at this stage given the likelihood of him hitting the open market.
This would be my pick as the most likely destination of Harper (yes, even more so than the Nationals at this point). The former unanimous NL MVP’s main concern at this stage of his career is finding a team that’s going to get him a World Series ring or two, and anyone who would bet against the Cubs doing so in the next 10 years is a brave man. And other than Jason Heyward (and to some extent, Jon Lester), they don’t have any mammoth contracts currently hamstringing their payroll so could certainly afford to make a run. I’m not sure how big a factor it is, but a lot of Cubs fans will hoping for the Las Vegas Bromance between Harper and Kris Bryant to be rekindled at Wrigley as two of the key cogs in truly building a new dynasty (if it wasn’t already)!
New York Yankees
Big Free Agent hits the market? New York Yankees pop up as a potential suitor. You all know the drill by now, and it was long deemed a near certainty that Bryce Harper would be a Yankee as soon as he cracked the Big Leagues in 2012. That combined with the shot Right Field in the new Yankee Stadium made this a match made in heaven. But with some of the recent moves, such as acquiring Stanton’s monster deal; along with the emergence of some younger players like Aaron Judge, Clint Frazier, and Aaron Hicks, do they have room for Harper? I would never rule out the Yankees, but it’s a heck of a lot less likely than it would’ve been at the end of the 2017 season.
The Rest Of The Pack
It would take a foolish man to not even think about exploring the possibility of “Could we get Harper?”; but after you weed out the like of the Rays and Athletics who likely wouldn’t be able to fork out the cash, and then those who don’t really have a need such as the Astros and Red Sox; you get a few teams who may make a surprise run like we’ve seen in the past. Remember when Albert Pujols went to the Angels, or Robinson Cano went to the Mariners? In the Harper stakes, that kind of team could be the Phillies, Giants or maybe even the Dodgers (although Dodgers aren’t that much of a surprise candidate, let’s be honest). I think the team to watch from that bunch would certainly be the Giants. Not too far from his Las Vegas home, and they seemingly have payroll spare to go get a huge bat given how hard they pursued Stanton this off-season. He’s also no stranger to hitting balls into McCovey Cove (thanks Hunter Strickland; and yes I did enjoy watching that HR again), so they may well have a say come next off-season.
Overall Harper is going to have a wealth of options to choose from should he hit free agency is around 10 months time. And despite the Nationals recent chemistry with Boras it seems like by far the most likely option. I pray to the baseball gods that he stays in DC long term, as I’ve witnessed first hand that he is one of the top players in the game; with the ability to change any game at any given moment. But I think the reality is that he’ll be plying his trade elsewhere come 2019, and with it will come the largest contract in baseball history, until Trout hits the open market a couple years later. So I’m going to enjoy him defiling baseballs in Washington whilst it lasts.