News will break shortly that the largest ever MLB free agent contract has been agreed. Will Bryce Harper sign it with one of the frontrunners or is there a mystery team?
The favourites to land the superstar are the “spending stupid money” Phillies. Also in the conversation are both Chicago teams, the Dodgers and the Nationals. Obviously, as with all big-name signings, the Yankees and Red Sox cannot be ruled out.
Harper is one of the biggest names in the game, and at just 26 years old, would offer a level of on and off-field value that has never been available from free agency before.
Back in 2011, one of the greatest players of his generation hit free agency. Seeing Albert Pujols ground into another double-play, it’s difficult to remember how brilliant he was when he left the Cardinals. During his 11-year tenure in St Louis, he averaged 40 home runs with 121 RBI and 1.037 OPS. Truly outstanding production.
In a survey with team executives, ESPN found that no-one had picked the Angels as Pujols’ destination. They were the mystery team.
Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, has indicated there is a mystery team in play. It is likely this is just a ruse to get better offers on the table, but Harper is a franchise changer that would improve all 30 teams.
The San Francisco Giants are one of the longest-established clubs in MLB, based in one of the country’s most desirable cities. And it is only a one-hour flight from Harper’s Las Vegas home.
According to Forbes, they are one of the top-5 richest MLB teams, so money is no issue.
New president of baseball operations, Farhan Zaidi, could launch the Giants back into the limelight by audaciously securing the services of Harper.
More than any other team, the Giants badly need the power that Harper offers. The outfielder went deep 34 times last season, which was just one fewer than the combined total of Evan Longoria, Brandon Belt and Buster Posey.
With Posey and Madison Bumgarner post-peak, there is a vacancy for a new Bay Area icon. Every shot splashing into McCovey Cove would be another step towards baseball immortality.
Oracle Park (previously AT&T Park) might not maximise a hitter’s potential, but there was another left-hander slugger who called San Francisco home. Barry Bonds set the single-season record of 73 home runs when AT&T Park was his home field.
Staying on the west coast, San Diego offers the best beaches and the best weather in the country. Last September, the Nationals endured six rain delays and had three games postponed. And that was in just one month alone.
With a franchise valued at $1.3 billion according to Forbes, the Padres have the finances to offer a record-breaking contract.
The Padres are young, with potentially five of their Opening Day starting lineup being under 25. Add this to the best farm system in the business, and Harper would be the talismanic figurehead of potentially the most exciting team over the next five to ten years.
Last season, Angels’ GM Billy Eppler worked his magic to encourage Shohei Ohtani to choose the Halos over the other 29 teams, in the most fascinating free agent sweepstake.
The opportunity to be teammates with the best player on the planet should not be underestimated. Harper and Mike Trout were the top two prospects in the game in 2011, yet since then, Trout has accumulated more than double the WAR of Harper.
A lineup featuring Harper-Trout-Ohtani at its heart would be the most exciting in the game. Add Justin Upton to the mix, and that’s an impressive outfield on display.
The Angels are enjoying a $3 billion TV deal which helps value them as the eighth richest team in the game, so they certainly have the necessary financial clout.
Trout becomes a free agent in 2020 and the Angels could lose him to the Phillies unless they can demonstrate a seriousness to be World Series contenders. The signing of Harper would do that.