One of the most sought-after free agents of this Major League Baseball Hot Stove season is Bryce Harper.
The 26-year-old phenom is about to enter the prime years of his career (that began at age 19, by the way) and he and his agent Scott Boras are looking for a substantial payday. A payday that will likely make him the highest paid player in baseball.
The New York Yankees were the front runner at first, but since they are flush with outfielders, GM Brian Cashman as come out this week during the MLB Winter Meetings and declared the Yankees will not pursue Bryce Harper, thus giving everyone else a shot…that has the kind of change laying around that Harper is looking for.
The deal that Scott Boras will look for will undoubtedly be the largest in MLB history. This contract will be close to, or north of, $400 million. The years will probably be somewhere between 10-15 with an opt out after 3 or 4. Harper will be heading toward 30-years-old at that point and will be looking for his last payday of his career, so you can assume he’ll opt out. Unless he hits a huge snag, in which case the team will be on the hook for all of that money if he opts in. Small market teams can show themselves to the door at anytime, folks. They cannot — and will not — take that risk.
So who’s in the running?
With the Yankees removing themselves from the conversation, the last three teams standing willing to bargain their futures on Bryce Harper would be the Philadelphia Phillies, Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox.
The Phillies would be a wild ride for Harper, who wouldn’t have to move very far from Washington to his new home. The Phillies are currently after starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel and closer Zach Britton. They have also been linked to starting pitcher J.A. Happ, but so have the Yankees, so I think we know where he’ll end up…the black pin stripes, not the red.
With that kind of firepower added to the Phillies roster, you could expect them to become overnight contenders for the N.L. Crown.
Speaking of N.L. Crowns, the Dodgers have worn the headpiece the last two years in a row with nothing to show for it. After losing the last two World Series, the addition of Bryce Harper could finally get them over that last seven game series of the year. With the boys in blue losing Manny Machado to free agency, they’ll be looking for both the bat — and the star power — to fill those cleats.
The only team in the A.L. with rumblings of Bryce Harper lottery tickets is the Chicago White Sox. Reportedly, they have sent Hall of Famer Jim Thome to Las Vegas for the winter meetings to schmooze both Harper and Boras on the thought of coming to play in the windy city. If Harper heads to the A.L. Central, his team will become an instant favorite as that division is the weakest in all of baseball. With minimal resistance from the Indians, the White Sox could be staring an A.L. Central title in the face after losing 100 games in 2018.
Of course, this could all just be smoke. That’s the best part of the Hot Stove League…THE RUMORS!