Although there are varying levels of sincerity, legitimacy, and even financial ability to each of Bryce Harper’s so-far rumored suitors, the slugger is likely to land with one of the Dodgers, White Sox, Phillies, Yankees, Nationals, Cubs, or Cardinals before Spring Training begins. Mystery teams (Giants? Mets? Astros?) are always a possibility, but at this point, those teams sure feel like the clear players.
The Yankees, however, have been one of the most enigmatic. All winter long, we’ve been told that they’re not interested in adding Harper and are instead focused on landing Manny Machado, but we refused to believe it (and for good reason!). To put it bluntly, there are two teams in baseball whose word you simply cannot trust when it comes to being out on big-time free agents: the Dodgers and the Yankees. There are other big market clubs and big spenders, of course, but no one has the long-term financial flexibility of those two organizations, especially at this juncture. Not the Cubs, not the Red Sox, not the Phillies. So, again, when the rumors suggested that they wouldn’t be involved, we just didn’t buy it. It’s the Yankees. If they want, they can figure out the money and the roster fit.
But maybe it’s time to start being a little more flexible with our thinking. Speaking from the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas today, Yankees GM Brian Cashman was pretty serious with his denials:
Asked about Bryce Harper, Brian Cashman rattled off the names of his six outfielders and said there’s no spot. Reiterated that playing Harper at first base isn’t an option for the Yankees.
— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) December 10, 2018
Cashman says that at no point has he said the Yankees want another outfielder and he's surprised he's still getting questions about Bryce Harper.
— Lindsey Adler (@lindseyadler) December 10, 2018
Cashman pretty much ruled out Harper: “The Harper stuff, I’m surprised you are still asking.” #Yankees
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) December 10, 2018
Okay, okay … we get it.
I know teams play for leverage, and things change as offseasons go on, and the Yankees have all the money in the world, and Harper loves a big stage, and this, and that, and this, and that, but I gotta say … I’m starting to believe Cashman. There’s something about how his denials were phrased and how many different ways he put it that just makes me … believe him. At least, for now.
But it’s not only that, Cashman continued on, discussing his club’s active interest in Manny Machado, and the fact that he has discussed the shortstop with his agent, Dan Lozano, on multiple occasions. That sort of revelation – and expression of honesty – sorta plays into the narrative that Cashman was just straight up telling the truth about Harper. None of this is air-tight, but I think it’s fair to say, unless New York is on the top of Harper’s wish list and he’s willing to take a lot less to go there, or something along those lines, it’s probably not going to happen with the Yankees.
On the flip side, there’s an organization that sure seems like they wouldn’t be in, out there trying to keep people believing they are:
But Rizzo reiterated once again, he’s not closing the door on Harper. Doesn’t believe anything has changed with that situation
— Jamal Collier (@JamalCollier) December 10, 2018
Not having a meeting scheduled probably doesn’t mean anything, since Harper knows everything he needs to know about Washington from playing there and the financials, well, they are what they are. The Nats know what Harper wants, so scheduling a meeting right now, with no change from that 10-year, $300M deal, is pointless.
Indeed, if the Nats and Harper do get back together, it was probably always going to be one of those let’s circle back in January and see if there’s a fit now that you’ve tested your market.
But if you’ll allow me to throw my two cents in … nah. It ain’t happening. The Nationals owner has said that their offer back in September was the best they could do, and that was *before* they gave Patrick Corbin $160M. Indeed, the Nats owner recently implied that he wasn’t even sure their original offer for Harper was even realistically on the table anymore given what they’ve spent elsewhere. Rizzo can say what he wants, but I just don’t think it’s going to be the case.
And that’s the end of the objective analysis. Now, if you’ll allow me, let’s have a little fun and do some educated speculating. Who were those seven teams again?
- White Sox
If the Yankees and Nationals are actually out, the list shortens to just five teams fairly quickly. From there, I think we can further eliminate the Cardinals, who, according to both Derrick Goold and Ken Rosenthal, are out on Harper after acquiring Paul Goldschmidt, which leaves us with just these four teams:
- White Sox
Earlier today, we caught word that the Phillies are actually prioritizing Manny Machado over Bryce Harper. If that is indeed the case, and the Yankees don’t want Harper no matter what, Machado to Philly might be the best case for the Cubs, especially because I think if it comes down to it, the Cubs wouldn’t even have to out-bid the White Sox to land Harper.
But those pesky Dodgers are lingering in my nightmares. They have the money, the need, the market, the right type of city for a star like Harper, and the geographic proximity to his hometown in Las Vegas. And if they’re able to successfully send one of their outfielders to Cleveland for Corey Kluber, they might be in the PERFECT position to strike on Harper.
Brett was an early adoptee of the Harper-to-Dodgers theory, and I’m starting to suspect he’s been right all along (just don’t tell him, he’s such a sore winner). But for today, let’s just call this Yankees news, good news.