The New York Yankees traded for prodigious slugger Giancarlo Stanton on Saturday morning, adding him to an already-power-packed lineup that includes Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. That will easily be the biggest baseball news of the weekend.
And I couldn't help but think ahead to next offseason and the free agency of Bryce Harper. Why?
- Harper is a free agent next offseason and he's not signing an extension with the Nationals.
- He grew up a Yankees fan and for years we expected the Yankees to be the frontrunner when he hit free agency.
- The Yankees now have Stanton and Judge at the corner outfield spots locked in for years. Sure, there's a DH spot, but having both Stanton and Harper on mega-contracts would be totally redundant.
- The Yankees still have pitching holes to fill this offseason, further adding to their future payroll obligations.
If the Yankees do want to go the route of a gigantic contract next offseason, Manny Machado at third base makes a lot more sense than Harper.
As far as Harper goes, we're going to take a totally speculative look into the crystal ball. I will list the teams I think (this is a key point, because there's no way to actually know what's going to transpire in the next 11 months that might change the landscape such as this Stanton trade did) have a shot at landing Harper. This is bound to be incredibly wrong, so it's recommended you save this and mock me endlessly on Twitter next offseason when Harper signs with the A's.
|Just like that, the Cubs are the obvious favorites here. For the past few years, Harper has more and more dropped hints he'd love to play for the Cubs and, specifically, with childhood friend Kris Bryant. The Cubs could use more pitching now and would love to do something about that awful Jason Heyward contract, but there's plenty of wiggle room here. Perhaps some outfield trades bring back pitching. This is going to be a common refrain here, but "where's he going to play" due to a logjam of outfielders doesn't apply to a generational talent like Harper. If you can get him, you get him and figure it out. The most important point here is that the Cubs' most important position players (Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Willson Contreras, Addison Russell, Javier Baez, etc.) are all under team control through 2021. And to reiterate, he really wants to play with fellow Vegas child Bryant.|
The Stanton-to-Yankees news had to be of great relief to the Nationals and their fans. It's just one step closer to them having a shot to retain their favorite position-playing superstar. The Nationals have the financial wherewithal to retain him and the comfort zone home-field advantage. The grass is always greener on the other side, sure, but there's something to be said for this being the only professional team Harper has ever known. He's been with the club since they drafted him first overall in 2010 and they've treated him well, as far as we can see.
As things stand, the Phillies only contract past the arbitration years beyond next season is Odubel Herrera's five-year, $30.5 million extension from 2017-21. We're talking about a large market team with basically no money on the books. They could conceivably double what any other team can pay if they wish to go this route. Odds are, they'll start spending this offseason and go nuts next -- possibly going for the Machado-Harper combo -- but to count this team out would be folly. The Phillies are going to start making offseason noise at some point before the calendar says 2019. What better way to start than with Bryce Harper?
|I feel like the favorites are the top three here, so there's a bit of gap before we get to this point. How can we not, however, view the Dodgers are threats? They are the Dodgers. They have tons of money. It's Los Angeles. They are built to keep winning for a long time. I feel like their main focus will be elsewhere, though. Why? Clayton Kershaw has an opt-out of his contract after 2018. He's their top priority. Bryce likely doesn't want to play second fiddle in the offseason spending spree.|
If the Red Sox go through another power-starved season, they might be inclined to make a run at Harper. They already have a set outfield for the future in Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley and Mookie Betts, but some reconfiguring could be done for Harper. My bet is they answer some questions this offseason and aren't as needy for Harper next winter. Definitely don't ignore them, though.
Mike Trout and Bryce Harper in the same outfield?!?! Pieces would need to be moved around, but they seem to already be doing that with Shohei Ohtani.
Let's say the D-Backs miss out on bringing J.D. Martinez back and then feel the void all of 2018. They could spend for Harper with an additional selling point being their proximity, compared to every other team, to Las Vegas.
I have to list them here because it's New York, but it's hard to see a deal coming to fruition with this ownership group and Harper. A lot can change in a year, though.
After losing out on Stanton and Ohtani, it feels like the Giants are going to pay J.D. Martinez a billion dollars. Perhaps they land him and then Harper is the missing piece come next offseason. My hunch tells me that by next offseason that the Giants will be closer to a rebuild than paying a half-billion dollars for Harper. It's also an incredibly unfriendly ballpark for power hitters and that could factor.
I'm betting the Cardinals react to losing out on Stanton by signing Eric Hosmer or J.D. Martinez or trading for someone like Josh Donaldson. Maybe they sign Mike Moustakas. I don't get the feeling the Cardinals are going to be waiting around for a third straight playoff-less season while saving money to make a run at Harper. Maybe they'll be desperate, but I'm not seeing it.
"Hey, Bryce, you wanna hit 80 home runs in a season? I'll hang up and listen." The Rox aren't far from Vegas, either.
Can't leave them off the list, but it's hard to see it even being remotely possible now.
The smart money is on the Cubs, Nationals or Phillies with the next four being decent fall-back bets. I'd be shocked if teams outside the top seven were heavily in on the bidding. As noted, lots can change.
Who ya got? No wrong answer for around a year. Have at it.