When the Yankees acquired reigning NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton and the $286 million remaining on his contract in December 2017, most assumed Bryce Harper would by no means put on pinstripes. With Stanton complementing Aaron Decide and a payroll nudging in opposition to the posh tax threshold, GM Brian Cashman was seemingly snug with a lineup that featured the 2 high energy hitters of 2017 surrounded by the very best younger hitting catcher within the sport (Gary Sanchez) and two budding long-term infielders (Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar). Earlier than the season began, the Yankees had been betting favorites to win the pennant,even over the defending AL champion Astros.
Then the rival Crimson Sox bounced the Yankees within the ALDS and claimed their fourth World Sequence since 2004. New York followers can nonetheless croon concerning the franchise’s 27 rings, however a extra uncomfortable actuality is seeping in: Boston has received two championships for the reason that final time the Yankees received the pennant, and baseball’s most spoiled fan base is getting stressed.
Yankees postmortem day is among the most entertaining and ridiculous days in sports activities media, and the takes had been aflame the morning after New York’s ALDS ouster: Commerce Stanton to the Dodgers. Signal Manny Machado. And the spiciest one in every of all: Signal Bryce Harper.
Sources throughout the group insist that Harper shouldn’t be within the Yankees’ plans to the baseball media’s most prominent reporters. Cashman stated in a press convention this week that he doesn’t need to exceed the posh tax threshold, which the Yankees are solely $49 million away from reaching.
However historical past—from the acquisitions of Reggie Jackson to Alex Rodriguez to Stanton—tells us by no means to rule out the Evil Empire. On Wednesday, it was reported that Harper rejected a 10-year, $300 million deal from the Nationals. So let’s deconstruct it: Are the Yankees a match for Bryce Harper, or as Scott Boras places it, “Harper’s Bazaar”?
Routinely close to the highest of the MLB payroll, the Yankees have 4 main monetary commitments getting into 2019 inside their group payroll of $101.eight million (sixth in MLB). Essentially the most onerous contract belongs to Jacoby Ellsbury—owed $21 million subsequent 12 months and a complete of $47 million over the ultimate three seasons of his contract. After that’s Stanton ($26 million in 2019), Masahiro Tanaka ($22 million) and Aroldis Chapman ($17.four million).
Cashman is all however caught with Ellsbury, the perpetually injured 35-year-old outfielder who hasn’t performed since 2017. It’s unlikely any group desires him as a starter, and positively not at his value. Cashman is revered for his potential to win trades. His greatest latest work was when he unloaded Chase Headley and his $13 million wage to the Padres someday after buying Stanton in alternate for minor league outfielder Jabari Blash; San Diego would reduce Headley in Could after he hit .115 in 27 video games. If Cashman can get anyone to take even half of Ellsbury’s contract, he’ll re-confirm that he’s extra sorcerer than entrance workplace government.
DICKEY: The Giants Make a Daring Transfer to Repair Their Roster
Signing Harper would ship the Yankees hovering over the posh tax, which Cashman indicated he’d like to remain beneath this 12 months. That’s seemingly bluster; Boras cited the Yankees’ public lack of curiosity in Mark Teixeira before they signed him to an eight-year, $180 million deal in 2008. However keep in mind that it is a totally different possession group, one with extra fiscal restraint and higher concentrate on participant growth. What was one of many league’s most barren methods a decade in the past has now produced a wealth of high expertise—Decide, Sanchez, Andujar and Luis Severino for starters—now that they spend much less freely on free brokers.
The distinction is that Harper is a generational participant whose ceiling is as excessive as anyone’s (together with Mike Trout) within the sport. His 2015 MVP season is among the best offensive accomplishments ever, and he’d be hitting in one of the hitter-friendly environments in baseball. If there’s a participant definitely worth the huge cash, Harper looks like the best gamble even when it ties up payroll for the foreseeable future.
Boras instructed that Harper can be open to taking part in first base for the best group and that he takes grounders simply to maintain the choice open. It’s exhausting to think about a participant with Harper’s arm and vary shifting to a place he’s by no means performed, however it is a speculative column, so we’ll think about it. However since he’s an outfielder right now, let’s see if there’s room for him there.
With the emergence of Aaron Hicks because the on a regular basis centerfielder, with Brett Gardner returning and with Decide and Stanton dealing with rightfield and designated hitter, there isn’t an open spot for Harper. Add Ellsbury and regarded prospect Clint Frazier to the outfield depth and there’s a robust likelihood that Cashman will transfer one outfielder even when the group doesn’t signal Harper.
However there isn’t a logjam, and the variety of outfielders doesn’t preclude New York from signing Harper. Hicks is among the Yankees’ most respected property: he has established himself as a worthy on a regular basis starter via his protection alone, he hit 27 homers final season and he’s estimated to make solely $6.5 million in arbitration. The beginning centerfielder is a superb discount for the Yankees and can be for any group prepared to commerce for him. As Jon Tayler famous earlier this week, the Yankees have to bolster their beginning rotation earlier than contemplating a splash transfer like signing Harper or Manny Machado. Hicks is the sort of centerpiece who may assist execute that sort of commerce.
An much more priceless commerce chip is Frazier. He’s simply 24 years outdated and confirmed a few of his high prospect flashes in 39 video games throughout 2017. Stanton’s arrival functionally boxed the younger slugger out of New York’s fast plans and restricted him to simply 15 huge league video games in 2018, however he nonetheless initiatives as a participant with 30-homer energy. The issue for Cashman is that different normal managers know Frazier is a superfluous piece, in order that they know they received’t must give up their greatest property to get him.
The group had the chance to say no Brett Gardner’s group choice, however Cashman signed the profession Yankee (and one in every of his private favourite gamers) for an additional season, which means the veteran will maintain down leftfield. With Decide as a fixture in proper, Harper would both change Hicks in middle (unlikely) or transfer to first base.
First base? It’s in all probability the one spot for Harper on the group.
The persistent accidents hounding Greg Chicken, lengthy thought of the primary baseman of the longer term, compelled the Yankees to search out no less than a first-base platoon in the course of the second half of final season. They landed on Luke Voit, the beefy Cardinals export who thrilled the Bronx along with his mammoth energy and torrid second-half efficiency. There’s no purpose to punt on Voit but: he hit .333/.405/.689 with 14 homers in simply 148 plate appearances with New York earlier than including huge hits within the Wild Card Sport in opposition to Oakland and Sport 1 in opposition to the Crimson Sox. Whether or not he’s a long-term match is unclear, however he earned one other shot on the beginning job along with his exceptional efficiency.
TAYLER: The Yankees Have to Make Daring Strikes to Repair Their Pitching
The prospect of Harper at first is tantalizing. He’s younger sufficient that studying a brand new place isn’t a wholly radical concept; the Dodgers morphed Cody Bellinger from a primary baseman and part-time outfielder into a good centerfielder this season due to his uncooked athleticism. Harper is able to taking part in the place, and the considered him bopping homers over the brief leftfield wall is a terrifying prospect for any opponent.
In brief? He can study to play first base. And the Yankees are undoubtedly going to look into the thought of shifting him there.
With Decide, Sanchez, Torres and Voit nonetheless of their pre-arbitration years and Severino reaching arbitration for the primary time this 12 months, the Yankees are benefiting from some unbelievable expertise with out an excessive amount of spending. Opposite to many followers’ needs, Stanton received’t be going wherever along with his large contract, and Ellsbury’s deal might be much more tough to maneuver. Decide isn’t a free agent till 2023, however he’s already the preferred participant the group has featured since Derek Jeter. The entrance workplace should begin budgeting for him, and Sanchez is one other blossoming participant who will ultimately command a giant contract.
Harper isn’t essentially the most wise transfer for the Yankees proper now, and the chance that they signal him is low. No person, nevertheless, thought they might emerge as a participant within the Stanton negotiations both.