The beginning of a new year usually means the big names of Major League Baseball’s free agent class begin to sign. Bryce Harper is arguably the biggest name being sought after by a number of teams. Harper, and his agent Scott Boras, are sure to be looking at a record-breaking contract. MLB Insider Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic had this to say, “the prevailing assumption … is that (agent) Scott Boras wants to set new benchmarks with Harper’s free agent deal, whether in total guaranteed salary, average annual value or – preferably – both”. So how does a contract like that fit into possible landing spots for the free agent outfielder?
The rumor of the moment is that the Chicago Cubs are looking to dump salary in an effort to land Harper. General Manager Theo Epstein reportedly met with Harper and Boras at the Winter Meetings and asked that they circle back to the Cubs before signing any offer as the Cubs looked to clear salary space for the left-handed slugger. Boras will most likely be looking to drive the hardest bargain he can so it appears the Cubs will have time to clear space. With teams like the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds making moves in the division, the Cubs may be feeling the pressure to get a deal for Harper done.
The Dodgers potentially cleared space for a run at Harper on Friday, December 21 when they unloaded the contracts of Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp among others to the Cincinnati Reds to get under the $206 million luxury cap threshold. However some experts still believe the Dodgers are eyeing a starting pitcher, and Corey Kluber of the Indians is still being linked to the Dodgers. In fact, a recent rumor says the Dodgers are softening their stance on not trading their top prospect outfielder Alex Verdugo. If true, and with the state of the Indians outfield, the opportunity to land Verdugo may be the bargaining chip needed to get a deal for Kluber done.
What about the White Sox and Phillies? Both the White Sox and Phillies have been linked to Harper, and both teams are reportedly willing to pay “stupid money” to land Harper. But are they? The Phillies owner has historically been less enthusiastic about spending money than their general manager. So for all their bravado, a deal for Harper may be too rich. As for the White Sox, they seem to be more interested in Manny Machado, having acquired his brother-in-law Yonder Alonso in a trade with the Cleveland Indians. By the time Machado makes his decision, which he says will not be until after January 1, the White Sox may be shut out of the Harper sweepstakes.
And then there’s the New York Yankees (there’s always the Yankees). In some ways, the Yankees may be in the catbird seat, but not for the reason that you may think. Harper actually wants to play for the Yankees. So much so that Harper may be willing to accept less money (relatively speaking), or be willing to sign for fewer years, to play with the Yankees.