We’ve all heard the rumors. The New York Yankees have been linked to Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper for years. Harper is a free agent at the end of this season. The Yankees will have a lot of money to spend in the offseason because their payroll has been reduced in recent seasons. Harper is just 25 years old and is having yet another All-Star caliber season. He currently leads the National League with 13 home runs and 41 walks. Harper could be the key to unlocking a Yankees dynasty.
The Yankees are currently playing a series against Harper’s Nationals at Nationals Park. General manager Brian Cashman and the rest of the organization will get a look at Harper in the series. It is unlikely that anything that happens in the series will affect the Yankees’ potential pursuit of Harper, but it will be an interesting series nonetheless.
Harper is the headline player in the series. However, the return of Yankees outfielder Clint Frazier is another intriguing storyline. Frazier may not play in the series, but he is an important player in the Yankees’ organization. The Yankees refused to include Frazier in a trade for former Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Gerrit Cole.
In 2016, Frazier was acquired by the Yankees at the trade deadline in exchange for star relief pitcher Andrew Miller. Frazier played in 39 games for the Yankees last year and showed promise. He batted .231 and had 4 home runs and 17 RBIs in 2017. He also made several diving catches in left field.
Unfortunately, Frazier suffered a concussion during the first week of Spring Training this year. He just recently returned and began playing rehab games. He played so well in the rehab games that the Yankees decided to call him up from Triple-A. The Yankees now have five outfielders on their active roster. Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, and Aaron Judge are the starting outfielders, while Giancarlo Stanton is the starting designated hitter.
If Frazier returns and plays at a high level, the Yankees will have cornered the market on corner outfielders. Gardner is getting up there in age, but the Yankees could always have Stanton be the everyday left fielder if Gardner retires.
The Yankees are in good shape even if Gardner retires soon because they have so much organizational depth in the outfield. Billy McKinney, who got his first Major League hit in the first series of the 2018 season, has played in a few rehab games with the Class-A Tampa Tarpons. He is currently with Double-A Trenton. Additionally, the Yankees have star prospect Estevan Florial in their minor-league ranks. The Yankees refused to include Florial in last year’s Sonny Gray trade with the Oakland Athletics. Cashman and the Yankees front office think that Florial has the potential to become a solid starter or an All-Star.
If any of these outfielders, specifically Frazier, blossom into star players, Harper will not be as valuable to the Yankees. The team will have few reasons to offer Harper a long-term contract worth upwards of $30 million per year. Other teams such as the Chicago Cubs are expected to aggressively pursue Harper in the offseason. If the Yankees aren’t totally committed to going after Harper, they will not land him.
The Yankees’ new way of doing business is not to sign big-name free agents to long-term contracts. They have been burned several times in the past by making those big moves. The Alex Rodriguez and Jacoby Ellsbury contracts come to mind when thinking of long-term contracts the Yankees regret offering.
The Yankees will sign a big-name free agent or make a trade for a big-name player if they feel that player will help them become a perennial World Series contender. They only had to give up second baseman Starlin Castro and a few lower-level prospects in order to land Stanton in the offseason. The trade offered low risk and high reward, which is why the Yankees pulled the trigger.
Right now, it appears that the Yankees will be a World Series contender for the next several years. Adding Harper would make the team better, but they may be good enough to win multiple championships without him. The only reason the Yankees could feel like signing Harper is if they feel that one of their rivals is in a position to sign Harper. Currently, it does not appear that any of the other American League East teams are going to pursue Harper. Furthermore, the Yankees have been burned by signing players away from their rivals in the past. They signed Ellsbury away from the Red Sox following the 2013 season, but the Red Sox have had some great seasons without him. The Yankees also traded for Rodriguez after a trade which would have sent him to the Red Sox fell through.
If the Yankees are going to sign a big-name free agent, they will sign a starting pitcher. The Yankees need starting pitching for the future because CC Sabathia is nearing retirement and because they do not have a lot of promising young arms in their farm system. The Yankees have great organizational depth in the outfield, but they do not have as much starting pitching depth as they would like to have.
The Yankees should not and will not sign Bryce Harper after the 2018 season.
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