The highly-anticipated free agent class that’s headlined by Bryce Harper is finally upon us. There’s been plenty of speculation along the way, and that was recently at the forefront when MLB Trade Rumors predicted Harper would sign for an astounding 14 years and $420 million.
Not only that, but the prognostication was that the Los Angeles Dodgers would be who signed Harper to the mega contract. Should that be something the Dodgers consider?
For all of the reasons one can think to say ‘no’ — and there are plenty — the answer that keeps coming to mind is yes, actually.
Sure, the Dodgers already have a glut of outfielders. Yes, they have far greater needs on their roster. And of course there are concerns about Harper, who is now three years removed from his transcendent 2015 season in which he hit .330/.460/.649 with 42 home runs (not to mention his off-field antics).
But, we’re talking about a 26-year-old who has the potential to be a Hall-of-Famer when it’s all said and done and who can be had for nothing more than a dump truck full of cash. We’re talking about someone whose “down years” involve an on-base plus slugging percentage of about .900 and whose wRC+ has hovered around 130 since the ridiculous 197 he posted in 2015.
For context, the Dodgers’ third-best hitter this season posted an .843 OPS. Did I mention that Harper is 26? That he’s probably just entering his prime and not anywhere near leaving it?
Of course, the idea of giving anyone a contract of 10-plus years sounds insane. And it’s difficult to fathom Harper receiving a 14-year contract, but we are talking about a player who is 26.
Sure, it isn’t the most responsible decision to pay someone lavishly as they get late into their 30’s (well past their prime), but it helps when it’s someone who walks with plenty of frequency. Harper’s career on-base percentage is .388, and he isn’t a player who only relies on athleticism.
But how does Harper fit in with the Dodgers? As of today, they have the following outfielders on their 40-man roster: Kiké Hernandez, Matt Kemp, Cody Bellinger, Chris Taylor, Joc Pederson, Tim Locastro, Yasiel Puig, Andrew Toles and Alex Verdugo.
As crazy as it sounds, the Dodgers have Major-League level starters. But, well, none of them are as good as Bryce Harper.
I’ve always said the Dodgers are overdue for a trade, and I think the paragraph preceding this is exactly what I’m talking about. Bellinger makes a ton of sense in center field, but beyond that, there are some question marks.
Puig has one year left with the Dodgers, Toles has been good but inconsistent from a health perspective, Verdugo is an exciting young prospect who makes sense (from a cost perspective) next to a guy like Harper.
Meanwhile, Pederson, Taylor and Hernandez are either platoon players or could be attractive trade pieces. (Do I need to explain where Kemp fits in here?)
For the last two seasons the Dodgers have come up juuuuust short of winning the World Series. They have an exciting young core with the likes of Bellinger, Corey Seager, Walker Buehler, Julio Urias and others.
In addition to Justin Turner, Max Muncy, Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, etc. The prospect of adding a bonafide superstar to that mix is simply too good to pass up.
Maybe this would be different had the Dodgers won one of the past two World Series, but they haven’t, and a move like this would give the team the motivation and fuel they need to ramp back up for 2019 with the same type of excitement and intensity as they’ve had heading into the last two seasons.
The opportunity to add someone like Harper without having to mortgage the future is honestly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Dodgers, and I think they need to take a long, hard look at pulling the trigger.
The financial cost would be great and, heck, even the cultural dynamics could be risky, but in the long run the pros so far outweigh the cons that when it comes to Bryce Harper, I’m ready to be all-in.
Let’s make baseball fun again, right?