The best unkept secret in baseball is that Bryce Harper is dying to wear the Yankees pinstripes, playing under the lights at Yankees Stadium. Sorry, he’ll have to sell his declining wares elsewhere.
The Yankees, to use the proverbial expression, need Bryce Harper like they need a hole in their head. And if the talk about possibly signing Harper as a free agent continues, maybe the Yankees already have a hole in their head.
Start with the obvious. Bryce Harper is going to cost someone a boatload of money. The Yankees, along with the Red Sox, Dodgers, Cubs, and Phillies reek with cash, luxury tax be damned. Having the money to spend and writing a check are two different things, though, as Harper’s agent, the inimitable Scott Boras is about to find out.
These other teams can dance the dance and talk the talk all winter long, just so long as the Yankees have only one foot in the conversation, and if they end up driving Harper’s price up forcing another team to put ink on the paper, so much the better.
Simply put, Bryce Harper is the showpiece a team puts in their outfield so they can tell their fans, “Hey look, we’re trying.” The Yankees are not that. Their outfield is set, with or without Brett Gardner and Clint Frazier, if he becomes a trade piece to help land a starting pitcher.
There’s no reason I know of why Giancarlo Stanton can’t play more in the field, joining Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks to comprise an outfield welcome to be challenged by any team. More and more, Gary Sanchez appears to help the team most by being slotted as a DH.
I mentioned declining skills, and you might be wondering how someone only 26 years-old is characterized that way. It’s not me; it’s the numbers. Look here…
Look at those WAR numbers. Seven seasons and only one good year to show for it, his MVP season in 2015. Where’s the value?
Numbers are only part of the Bryce Harper story, though. I gave Harper five stars for the way he has carried himself off the field, which is more than you can say for another of Boras’s free agent clients, Matt Harvey. But there’s a problem somewhere in Washington that has prevented the team from excelling, despite how they look on paper. As the “Go-To” marquee guy in the National’s clubhouse, a question at least has to be raised as to the degree Harper has contributed to what appears to be a “troubled” clubhouse.
After all, what other reason can there be for the Nationals collapsing and underperforming season after season? Let’s just say Bryce Harper is an unknown element in that regard. So why would the Yankees even want to consider introducing him to a clubhouse that is the standard bearer for how professional ballplayers should act and behave “inside the bubble”?
For me, and hopefully, for the Yankees, the risk is way too great. The Yankees don’t need his 40 home runs; they hit more than enough already. And it goes without saying, the money Bryce Harper is going to cost??….well, you can fill in the blanks.
Brian Cashman is formulating a plan to improve the Yankees. The roster in March will look different than it does now. Nothing needs to be said by Cashman or the Yankees. Let the bidding war begin. Just make sure Bryce Harper, The Lone Ranger Of Baseball, doesn’t appear on the whiteboard in Brian Cashman’s office.
Written by Steve Contursi
Editor, Reflections On Baseball