Of course there’s still time to discuss and dissect Bryce Harper’s future landing spot.
Although the Yankees have been closely linked to prized free agent Manny Machado this offseason, general manager Brian Cashman hasn’t ruled out the possibility of pursuing the other coveted 26-year-old slugger on the market. And since New York intends on keeping its winter strategy concealed, the long-standing rumor of Harper playing his prime years in the Bronx continues to swirl.
But does Harper suit the Yankees’ glaring need, outside of additional starting pitching?
One former major league general manager believes so.
Jim Duquette, who spent the 2004 season in the New York Mets’ front office and now works as a baseball analyst for SiriusXM Radio, recently told MLB Network Radio that the Yankees should be all-in on Harper, despite the franchise’s crowded outfield and roster composition.
“I think Harper is a great fit in New York,” Duquette said. “I would love to have him there. I would not let any of the other outfielders that they have get in the way of acquiring Bryce Harper.”
The question is, which outfielder would get the boot if Harper joins? Four weeks ago, the Yankees re-signed veteran Brett Gardner to a one-year deal worth $7.5 million, and this past season’s outfield trio of Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, and Giancarlo Stanton will be at the club’s disposal in 2019.
If the Yankees aren’t entirely comfortable with their current options at first base, perhaps Harper could make the switch from right field to the corner bag. Easier said than done, however, as Harper made just one appearance at first in his seven seasons with the Washington Nationals.
Duquette recommends that the Yankees should sign Harper first, and worry about his role and position later.
“Would I move him to first base right away? I would have a hard time doing that, squeezing him in there. But that’s because I’m making room for him as an outfielder,” Duquette said. “I’m not letting any of those guys get in the way of signing Harper. If my owner said, ‘Go ahead and do it,’ then Harper is definitely the better fit.”
Last week, Cashman weighed in on the idea of Harper playing first during his own interview with MLB Network Radio.
“People have talked about Bryce Harper being able to play first base, I don’t know if he can or can’t,” Cashman said. “I know he’s very athletic, but that’s not necessarily a bet I would recommend placing with the amount of money he’s expected to get…
“I’m not ruling anything out… We like to think of ourselves as very progressive and open-minded to any idea, if it’s a good idea. My main laser focus currently is on those areas of need, but that doesn’t preclude me from, with ownership obviously directing things from above, being open to any idea that makes us the best that we can possibly be.”
Harper, who is projected to receive a multi-year contract worth $300-plus million, slashed .249/.393/.496 with 34 home runs, a career-high 100 RBI and 130 walks, and 169 strikeouts in 2018.
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