After remaining below the $197 million luxury tax threshold during the 2018 season, the Los Angeles Dodgers reset their penalties and were expected to be significant players in free agency.
The expected class was touted as one of the best the sport had ever seen, with Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Clayton Kershaw and Dallas Keuchel among the elite talent that was on track to hit the open market. Though Kershaw, of course, wound up signing a three-year, $93 million contract extension with the Dodgers.
It marked a second time in his career Kershaw bypassed reaching free agency in favor of inking an extension. Harper was presented with a similar scenario by the Washington Nationals, but he predictably opted to become a free agent at just 26 years old.
Though the Dodgers were linked to Harper, their interest predicated on signing him to a short-term contract. During a recent appearance on “The Jim Rome Show,” manager Dave Roberts explained how the Dodgers viewed their pursuit of Harper:
“It was kind of both sides talking about the opportunities, how it would benefit Bryce. He and his wife Kayla were there, obviously Scott’s (Boras) team, our guys. Bryce obviously vetted me, the organization. I thought it went really well. Ultimately, he made the best decision for he and his family. … We wish him well. … I think he was certainly a luxury. Bryce obviously is a player that doesn’t come around very often; on the field, off the field, what he’s done, how much he loves the game. Where we’re at right now, the depth position-player wise, infield, outfield, everything. Need (Harper)? Absolutely not. But a player like that, you’ve got to kick the tires and vet it, and that’s what we did. I appreciate Mark Walter and Andrew and all of our guys kind of going through that process.”
As Harper’s slow-moving free agency reached February, the Dodgers somewhat surprisingly secured a meeting with the All-Star outfielder in Las Vegas. Roberts at the time said talks went well but he and Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman declined to elaborate.
Even when takin the meeting into account, the Dodgers’ odds never seemed high. That was essentially confirmed when Harper went on to sign a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies days later.
Although the Dodgers certainly would have created room for Harper, their need for an outfielder was already non-existent as they’d signed A.J. Pollock to a four-year deal in January.