On Thursday, we talked about the enormous free agent class after the 2018 season and the Cubs’ expected role therein. They’ll have the money to spend big if they want, but there are reasonable questions about the luxury tax and the escalating arbitration costs the Cubs will be facing at that time.
That is to say, it’s not clear that they’ll be going after the absolute top tier of the big names that offseason, the biggest of which is probably Bryce Harper.
… or would they?
Peter Gammons was on Mully and Hanley on 670 The Score, discussing Kris Bryant’s contractual future with the Cubs, and he was asked about how the contract for Harper could have an impact on the price tier for Bryant if the Cubs wanted to extend him.
Gammons gave his thoughts on that, and then threw a tantalizing, unexpected curveball: “I have people tell me that Bryce Harper, really, would prefer to play for the Cubs.”
Whoa. Didn’t see that question turning into that comment, but it’s awfully exciting that it did.
Can you freaking imagine it? Harper and Kris Bryant in the same lineup? Arguably the two best players in the National League?
Be still my beating heart.
To be quite clear, even if we assume this is spot on, and even where there’s a player preference on where they want to play, we’ve seen it time and time again: money talks. If Harper truly wants to play with the Cubs, perhaps that gives them the edge if their offer is close with another behemoth large market team, but it’s not like it’s something that’s going to save them $100 million. Harper is going to get a mammoth contract, wherever it comes from.
To that end, Gammons went on to question whether it was going to be realistic for the Cubs to afford both Harper and Bryant on the same team. In the long-term, I think that’s a fair point, because if Bryant continues on the trajectory he’s on, his free agent deal could be in that same $400 million ballpark as Harper.
I should point out, though, that Harper is a free agent after 2018, but Bryant is not scheduled for free agency until after 2021. It’s not totally inconceivable then that the Cubs could figure out a way to get Harper, play out through Bryant’s arbitration years, and then see what’s what when 2021 actually rolls around.
Harper’s free agency was going to be a story to follow no matter what, given his game-changing presence, as well as the market implications for a guy like Bryant. But maybe now there’s an extra reason to follow closely.