Whether it’s the system’s fault or not, one thing is certain: nobody has a clue where Bryce Harper is headed in free agency. And while there are plenty of thoughts to be shared on whether or not the system is broken, that’s a conversation for another day.
Instead, let’s focus on what the Los Angeles Dodgers should do if Harper signs elsewhere. At this point, unfortunately, that seems like the likely scenario — and so it’s one we all better start emotionally bracing ourselves for.
But don’t worry, it’s not all bad news here, because the Dodgers are well-positioned should they miss out on Harper.
When the Dodgers “missed out” on Yasmani Grandal and appeared to replace him with a cather who hasn’t hit above .240 since 2014, it prompted a look at the roster. Even with the losses of Grandal, Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, etc. the Dodgers is actually pretty stacked as-is.
If the 2019 regular season were to start tomorrow and everyone was healthy, here’s what their lineup could resemble.
LF — Joc Pederson
2B — Kiké Hernandez
SS — Corey Seager
3B — Justin Turner
CF — Cody Bellinger
1B — Max Muncy
RF — Alex Verdugo
C — Austin Barnes/Russell Martin
Bench: David Freese, Chris Taylor, Andrew Toles
If it weren’t for the expectation of impact, massive trades or signings at all time, but instead teams were judged simply on what their roster is in the present time, then no one would be complaining about the Dodgers.
Yes, they shipped out Puig (a sure-fire starter) and Kemp (a role player). But the drop-off to the next-guys up really isn’t that big. Alex Verdugo has been mentioned as one of the top prospects in baseball for years now, and he has hit .314/.389/.436 (2017) and .329/.391/.472 (2018) in Triple-A Oklahoma City as a 21- and 22-year-old.
The point? He’s ready.
Behind him is Taylor, who had a breakout 2017 before regressing last season (still a 3.1 WAR player with a .775 on-base plus slugging percentage), and Toles (who missed almost all of last season with an injury, but who hit .271/.314/.458 in 31 games the year before).
What’s fascinating is the idea that the Dodgers — should they not land Harper — would still sign an outfielder. It’s fascinating because it simply doesn’t make any sense, unless some of the aforementioned players are being sent elsewhere.
Are the Dodgers really going to keep Verdugo from becoming an everyday player again? Would they really bench Pederson or Toles full-time in order to sign someone like A.J. Pollock? Why?
There is little sense to doing that, especially if the whole reason you don’t sign Harper is because of the financial commitment.
So if we circle back to the question asked in the title of this post: If Bryce Harper doesn’t work out for the Dodgers, then what?
The answer is simple. When it comes to the outfield, do nothing.
If you’re desperate to do something, then go add another high-end reliever or trade for Corey Kluber and J.T. Realmuto.