Spring training is underway and some of the biggest free agents in Major League Baseball remain sitting at home twiddling their thumbs waiting for a phone call from a team willing to pay them their fair market value.
Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Craig Kimbrel, Dallas Keuchel, Carlos Gonzalez and Adam Jones have fallen victim to one of the weirdest free agency periods in MLB history.
Harper and Machado remaining unsigned raises questions about the fabled Hot Stove, the time around the Winter Meetings when free-agent signings and trades are most prevalent, as both players have a chance to change the course of an MLB franchise.
Reports are that Harper and Machado want multi-year deals around $300 million. The problem is no team has been willing to shell out that kind of money, which is understandable in an era where general managers follow analytics and Moneyball fundamentals.
The last player to receive a contract that large was Alex Rodriguez when he received a ten-year $275 million deal in 2008. A deal that worked for the majority of the contract, but also crippled the Yankees near the end of the contract.
Surely, the Yankees could be more wary of shelling out monstrous contracts, even to the most elite players in the game, but a one-year $30 million deal with Bryce Harper makes the most sense. Here is why.
It prepares the Yankees for a World Series run:
The Yankees desperately need a left handed bat in their lineup and Bryce Harper could be that missing piece. Currently the Yankees are the favorite to win the World Series with 6-1 odds. Adding another former NL MVP to this team would only affirm that the Yankees are primed to win it all in 2019.
The buzz around New York if this team added Harper would certainly take the focus off of players like Gary Sanchez, Giancarlo Stanton and Greg Bird. Imagine the lineup of Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andújar, Didi Gregorious (when healthy) and Bryce Harper. Good luck.
It does not prevent the Yankees from signing core players in the future:
Probably the most important point of this entire article. Harper signing a one-year $30 million deal would be “hired-gun” type of contract. Think of it similar to what the Chicago Cubs did when they traded for Aroldis Chapman, they had no intention of keeping the closer long-term, but he was a critical piece in winning the World Series. In this deal Harper gets the same yearly valuation of a ten-year $300 million dollar deal at $30 million for one season, but it also allows him to sign a monster deal next year when will turns 27. He would earn more money in the long-run if executed correctly.
The Yankees would surely lose Harper next season as a free agent, but would be worth the investment for one-year if they win the World Series. Keeping Judge, Sanchez, Severino, Torres and Andújar is a much bigger priority for the Yankees than retaining Harper. The Yankees would still be able to keep their young core intact while also making a run at the World Series in 2019.
Harper could bolster his value for free agency in 2020:
Yankee Stadium is one of the most hitter friendly ballparks in the MLB. It just so happens that a left-handed hitter like Harper would thrive in Yankee Stadium where the right-field porch is short. Lefty batters at Yankees Stadium slugged .853 in 2017-18 which was the highest in the MLB two seasons ago. Imagine the numbers Harper could put up in a hitter friendly ballpark with tons of lineup protection. Surely he would walk into free agency with better stats than he produced in 2018 as long as he stays healthy.
It would not cripple the Yankees financially (if done correctly):
Surprisingly last season the Yankees barely avoided the luxury tax, only the Boston Red Sox and Washington Nationals were hit with it. Signing Harper would put the Yankees over the luxury tax threshold. However, the Yankees could attempt trade Jacoby Ellsbury and get his $21.8 million salary off their books. This would free up enough cap space for the Yankees to make a fair one-year offer to Harper and would not cripple them financially in the short-term or the long-term.
Overall it is still unlikely Harper ends up in the Bronx. Despite the possibility there are many teams with better odds to sign Harper.
Here are the current odds according to BetOnline.
- San Francisco Giants: 1/1
- San Diego Padres: 5/2
- Philadelphia Phillies: 4/1
- Los Angeles Dodgers: 15/2
- Washington Nationals: 10/1
Only time will tell where Harper ends up.