Let’s get this out of the way before we start:
1. Bryce Harper will be the 1st MLB Player to command $400 Million
2. Bryce Harper will be a New York Yankee.
It’s crazy to believe that me and my well known disdain for Harper would ever write anything like this, but let’s entertain the idea for a second. After seeing Washington make a push for former Brave Jason Heyward, it got me thinking “Man, if they sign him they won’t be able to afford Harper.” Seeing them push for J-Hey begs the question, how confident are they that the 22 year old MVP will ACTUALLY re-sign? In 2015, Harper led the NL in Runs, Home Runs, OBP and slugging. He posted a .330 Average with 38 doubles to compliment his 42 home runs. Pretty nice numbers. I don’t think there is a baseball player on this planet worth $400 million, but Harper will likely be the first to get it. He would thrive at Yankee Stadium as well; most left handed batters do with the short porch.
Now, on to the Braves. Even though Harper is a well known Atlanta hater, they seem to be a perfect match. The Nats are 6th in payroll for 2015, and have a lot of guys signed through 2019. It may be difficult to afford him, and I think it’s clear he won’t give them a discount, ESPECIALLY if they miss the playoffs more than they already have. The Braves will have some amazing financial flexibility in 2019, and the question begs to be asked: Will the Braves end the rebuild and join the Harper sweepstakes in 2019?
We just watched the Cubs do it. They went after Lackey, Zobrist, and Heyward to make their team even better. They have also quietly acquired a lot of nice bullpen pieces like Rex Brothers and traded away Starlin Castro to free up cap space. Theo Epstein has been working magic over there, and they are now my World Series favorite. Could the Braves take the same path? Nick Markakis (if he’s still around) is a free agent in 2019 too, which leaves a hole at right field. Swisher and Bourn’s combined $26 million per year will be gone in 2018, and Aybar’s $8.75 will be gone too to go along with Markakis’ $11 million; all before 2019. That’s a lot of spending cash, boys and girls. An extra $40 million per year is about what Harper would be commanding, but let’s be real with ourselves. Would you rather have Bryce Harper or those 4? Not even up for debate. It’s not as simple as I’m making it out to be, but the idea is there. The 2018 Free Agent class is pretty weak and full of older guys, no real names are of interest besides Wade Davis, Carlos Gonzalez, Jaime Garcia, or Tim Collins. If we aren’t going to spend on a big name in 2017 or 2018, saving for Harper may be a great strategy.
Other Free Agents in 2019? Fernandez, Bruce, McCutchen, Harvey, Machado, Donaldson, Goldschmidt. Just to name a few. 2019 is the year to spend. Atlanta’s projected payroll for 2019? POTENTIALLY UNDER $50 MILLION. The Braves have the funds to get Harper, but there are a few hurdles in the way.
1. Scott Boras. Scott is a leach on Major League Baseball and should be banned from the sport. He’s already drooling thinking about Harper’s 2019 contract. Atlanta tends to avoid dealing with the devil himself, but we may make an exception.
2. The Yankees. New York has enough to outbid us with guys like Beltran, A-Rod, and Tex off of the books. They may actually get Goldschmidt AND Harper.
3. Attitude. Harper has had spats with Julio Teheran, his own teammate in Papelbon, and others. He doesn’t run out fly balls and he only hustles when he feels the need to. He should mature with age, just like Chipper did.
4. Financial Inflexibility. This is the big one. Tying up all this money in Harper may lead to us being unable to re-sign our young guys. Big contracts are what forced us to rebuild in the first place.
5. Braves Hater. Least of my concern, money talks and bullshit walks.
After all of this, if the Braves STILL manage to ink Harper, this is our potential lineup for Opening Day in 2019:
CF Mallex Smith
LF Ender Inciarte
1B Freddie Freeman
RF Bryce Harper
3B Hector Olivera/Austin Riley
2B Dansby Swanson
SS Ozzie Albies
C Ricardo Rodriguez (Because I don’t know who else)
All of these guys have hit .300 at some point in the Majors, Internationally, Minors, or College. They still have to play the game, but if they all play to the hype, this has potential to be the best offense in baseball. Combined with Sean Newcomb, Allard, Julio, Blair, and Fried/Wilser/Sims, this team could potentially be one of the best all around teams of all time if this group sticks together. Combined with the likely signing of Kevin Maitan and the #3, #37, and #46 overall picks in the draft, this team could be one of the best baseball has ever seen.
Harper is what Atlanta has been missing since Chipper left us. He is an impact player. He is a playmaker. Like him or not, he’s one of the best in the game, and will be paid like one. What do you think? Let us know in our Twitter Poll if you think spending on Harper is a good idea.