If Washington Nationals superstar outfielder Bryce Harper elects to test the open market in 2018, the bids could potentially start between two franchises currently in rebuilding stages.
At least that’s what one MLB insider believes.
In Thursday’s edition of Inside Baseball, FanRag Sports’ own Jon Heyman ranked the Yankees, Nationals, and Philadelphia Phillies as the Top-3 favorites to sign Harper, who would headline a historic free agent class in two years at the age of 26.
Heyman placed the Yankees’ odds at 9-5 (Ranked 1st):
Yankees people regret just missing out on Trout (they were poised to take him a few spots after the Angels nabbed him with pick No. 25 of the 2009 draft) and dearly miss having marquee players with the Core Four (plus Bernie Williams) long gone, and Alex Rodriguez only a spring instructor. The city buzz around them is dwarfed by that of their less-storied neighbor in Queens, the Mets, and they don’t like that one bit. They will likely be begging for marquee stars when Harper becomes free, and he’ll surely be at or near the top of their list – except in the highly improbable event the Angels make Trout available. He’s tailor made for Yankee Stadium, and right field seems open at the moment – unless Aaron Judge can prove otherwise (and even if he can, he can always move to left).
Below the Yankees were the Nationals (2-1 odds), Phillies (5-1), and Chicago Cubs (20-1).
In just five seasons with Washington, Harper, a four-time All-Star, has been the recipient of a number of accolades. He won the National League Rookie of the Year award in 2012, and was crowned NL MVP in 2015 after hitting .330 with 42 home runs and 99 RBI. His 2016 campaign was considerably underwhelming, however, as he hit just .243 with 24 homers and 86 RBI in 147 games.
While his left-handed swing seems tailor-made for Yankee Stadium, it will come at a steep price. Baseball writers and analysts have already projected for Harper to receive a record-setting contract, with money between the $400 and $500 million mark.
During November’s Winter Meetings in D.C., there was a story which reported that long-term talks between the Nationals and Harper fizzled due to the outfielder’s asking price, but that story has never been confirmed by both parties. Whether or not it’s true, Harper has also mentioned how much he loves playing in the nation’s capital.
“Two years is a long way off. You’ve just got to live in the moment,” he said. “You can’t really look into the future. And you can’t dwell in the past.”
As for the Yankees’ future, a potential goal could be to have outfield prospects Aaron Judge, Clint Frazier and Blake Rutherford assume outfield duties in the coming years. New York’s only obstruction from achieving that plan or landing a big-ticket item like Harper is Jacoby Ellsbury, who’s played center field in the Bronx for the last three seasons. The 33-year-old was signed to a seven-year, $153 million deal in 2014, and isn’t eligible for free agency until 2021.