Remember that 19-year old kid that stole home on Sunday Night Baseball? That kid that clowned a reporter after hitting his first career home run in Toronto?
Well, that “kid,” one of the most polarizing players in baseball, no longer has a permanent home. Bryce Harper is officially a free agent, ending his marriage with the perennially disappointing Washington Nationals.
It’s certainly possible Harper comes back to Washington. The relationship Nats fans developed with Harper was palpable during the Home Run Derby, one which he triumphed over the rest of the pack.
Washington already has their next Bryce Harper though. Juan Soto is what Harper was just six years ago. He’s that teenager who makes the game look too easy. With an already crowded outfield, with Victor Robles coming back from injury, outfield help isn’t a big concern.
It seemed as though Harper’s 2018 campaign was somewhat a farewell tour. That, or auditioning for that elusive massive contract in front of his potential bosses. Either way, I’d be stunned if Harper hasn’t played his last game as a Nat.
For an entire year now, and honestly even more than a year, the narrative has been about Harper signing with the Cubs. It makes a ton of sense. His wife is best friends with Kris Bryant’s wife, he played little league with Bryant (and new Cubs OF Johnny Field), and his dog is named Wrigley. It seems like the obvious fit. However, there is more than meets the eye.
It seems as if every member of the media has picked up information about the Cubs not willing to exceed the luxury tax threshold. While this in itself is inherently suspicious, the Cubs have been burdened by massive contracts that haven’t worked out and it is not unfeasible to believe that ownership doesn’t want another massive contract on the books.
At this current point, it is probably more likely the Cubs retool via trade than through big free agents, but that is definitely not set in stone.
The New York Yankees are also presumably on the outside looking in. They already have 16 outfielders or something like that, and adding Harper to the fold clutters that outfield even further. Scott Boras mentioned yesterday that Harper would be open to playing first base, where he’s taken grounders for a while, but that’s something that I’ll believe when I see. I would be insanely surprised if Harper plays one inning at first base in the next couple years or so.
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Right now, the likely favorite in the Bryce Harper sweepstakes is the Philadelphia Phillies. Lazy analysis, right? It just makes a ton of sense though. Philadelphia is the only team which we haven’t heard a turn off towards spending a truckload of money. There’s definitely a non-zero chance they sign both Harper and Manny Machado.
I’m not saying that part is likely to happen, but individually, I believe Philly is in the driver’s seat for both of them. They started really strong last season, and Harper could be the missing piece that prevents them from falling off as they did towards the end of the year.
The other team that really intrigues me on Harper is the Chicago White Sox. It’s not a secret that they want to make a big splash. It hasn’t been a secret for a while. They reportedly wanted to trade for Manny Machado the last offseason, even despite not being in 2018 contention.
Jerry Reinsdorf is getting older and agreed to rebuilds with not only the Sox but also the Chicago Bulls, something that he doesn’t have precedent doing. I truly believe Jerry is desperate to get a couple more rings before he passes away, money not being an object. I think the Sox blow their record contract, which currently stands at a 6-year, $68 million. They are going to spend huge.
Outside of those five, there isn’t a team which I’m confident saying Harper has a shot to go there. Sure, Los Angeles makes a ton of sense, but they would have to make the same financial concessions, and probably more, that the Cubs would. New Giants president of baseball ops Farhan Zaidi probably wants to make a splash, but I’m not sure Harper wants to be a part of an inevitable rebuild. St. Louis has been a hot name recently, but I’m still not sure they will spend.
The Angels actually make a ton of sense for Harper, pairing him with Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani in the best lineup core in the league, but that requires the Angels to actually spend. I don’t think that’s going to happen. MLB.com’s Jon Morosi mentioned the Rangers as a longshot destination, I just don’t see that at all though.
I’m not confident at all predicting where the biggest free agent ever will land. I’m going with the Cubs, half because I’m a homer, and half because there’s something we don’t know regarding their finances. Wherever it is, don’t be shocked if he gets $500 million. Yes, half a billion dollars.
He’s kind of good.