Everyone in Major League Baseball is itching to know where superstar Bryce Harper will sign, but there is a growing sense he will sign with the Yankees.
The long-anticipated 2018-19 offseason has just begun, but it is already shaping up a bit differently than some may have thought, say, a few years ago. The prizes of this offseason were always thought to be former MVP Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, both at 26 years old.
Of course, there was Josh Donaldson, who is coming off of a disappointing, injury-riddled season, and just signed a one-year, $23 million deal, and Clayton Kershaw who quickly re-upped with the Dodgers on a hefty three-year contract.
As for Machado and Harper, both are young generational talent position players who were long considered to seek MLB’s first $500 million+ contracts this winter. Now that we are here, and Machado has potentially cost himself some money with his hustle comments and questionable on-field antics.
Harper, however, walks into the offseason with an MVP under his belt, and a much better image. He did see some struggles in 2018, especially with his batting average and declining defensive metrics, but likely not enough to deter a major payday.
Interestingly enough, both Machado and Harper have long been linked to the Yankees for years. Whether it’s Machado’s nephew announcing he’d like to see his uncle in pinstripes this past all-star game & his admiration for former Yankee Alex Rodriguez, or Harper plain and simple saying his dream is to play in the Bronx.
That’s right, in case you live under a rock, Bryce Harper sat down with Sports Illustrated in 2009, the Yankees last championship year, and when asked about his goals he said, “Be in the Hall of Fame, definitely. Play in Yankee Stadium. Play in the pinstripes. Be considered the greatest baseball player who ever lived. I can’t wait.” He even mentions Yankee legend Mickey Mantle as one ofhis idols.
Understandably, people have assumed that Harper would waltz to the Bronx once he became a free agent, but as time has gone on, it hasn’t seemed quite as obvious. Certainly, after nine years in the Nationals organization, the emergence of his childhood friend as an MVP in Chicago, or the Phillies chasing after him and potentially throwing money at him, his path to the Bronx isn’t so clear-cut as it once was.
A move to New York isn’t only hindered because of Harper or his blossoming market, but also on how the structure of this current Yankees team has developed. The face of the Yankees, and potentially of baseball, superstar Aaron Judge currently anchors right field in New York. Roaming center is the Yankees ‘diamond in the rough’ Aaron Hicks who is a plus defender and broke out with his bat in 2018.
Left field is likely not locked down per-say, but the Yankees shockingly traded for 2017 NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton last winter, and while he premiers as the team’s DH, he could be sharing duties in left with Brett Gardner who just re-signed for a year, Clint Frazier who is working his way back from injuries and Jacoby Ellsbury (yes Jacoby Ellsbury still exists) potentially back in the fold with multiple years left on his deal.
Now, the Yankees could always make room for a mega-star, who would obviously be an upgrade in left field, but the mantra of the Yankees has shifted and making the sexy splash isn’t necessarily high on Brian Cashman’s priority list…
But these are still the New York Yankees.
Their pockets run deep, and just about every top free agent has expressed some form of interest in suiting up in pinstripes in 2019. While the Yankees brass has downplayed the Yankees interest in Harper, it was perhaps mainly due to the rumor of him being paid to plug-in at first base; a position he has played once.
As the offseason goes on, people in the baseball world, including top insider Ken Rosenthal, have said that they will only believe Harper won’t be a Yankee once he inks another contract and holds up another jersey.
According to a rival executive, the growing sense around baseball circles is that, as each days passes, the likelihood of Bryce Harper signing with the Yankees becomes more likely
— Dan Federico (@DanJFederico) November 30, 2018
Others have gone as far as to say that it is becoming more and more likely, as Dan Federico reports.
The Yankees are hopeful to close a deal with Patrick Corbin to finalize their rotation, shore up their bullpen, and replace Didi Gregorious (perhaps with Machado). So while Cashman has his intentions set in other areas, it’s hard to believe the Yankees won’t play a role in Harper’s market, at the very least.
Asked Brian Cashman if he was ready to say Bryce Harper was a "no" but he instead said he's "Not ruling anything out, but we're currently looking for more SP" Take that as you will. #Yankees @MLBNetworkRadio
— Casey Stern (@CaseyStern) November 20, 2018
Cashman not ruling Harper out publicly could be everything, or it could be nothing. But as Yankee twitter writes their fantasy lineups with Harper in them, it’s a straight tease to know that the Yankee’s shot callers have done the same.
So Bryce to the Bronx may not be a lock as once thought, but it could absolutely still happen, and if it does, his Yankee-fan father and 17-year-old Bryce who proclaimed his Bronx Bomber aspirations, will certainly be ecstatic, along with the majority of Yankee faithful.