We’re not even halfway through the 2017 season, so why not speculate about the 2018 offseason?
Bryce Harper, the Nationals’ MVP outfielder, will hit the open market in two seasons. A Scott Boras client, Harper isn’t expected to reach an extension with Washington before that time (despite the Nationals’ relationship with Boras).
The Dodgers, perhaps unsurprisingly, might be preparing to make Harper a historic offer, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. Note: Heyman cites “some believe” there’s interest; he didn’t concretely report such.
The contract could exceed $400 million, per Heyman and other sources.
Inside the NL: how about manny to philly? notes on all (amed, harvey, bryce, zim, cole, holland, colon/mets, etc.) https://t.co/fjG31tdyCp
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) May 20, 2017
Harper, along with fellow upcoming free agent Manny Machado, is expected to reset the market for superstars in a loaded free agency class. The Yankees, Phillies and Nationals will expectedly join L.A. in the bidding, increasing the odds of (if not guaranteeing) record-setting deals.
Harper is arguably the most talented player in baseball. After a down year in 2016, he’s erupted in 2017, appearing to have regained his MVP-form. The 24-year-old is hitting .355 with 13 homers while leading Washington to a 25-16 record – good for second best in the N.L. and a seven-game cushion in the East. Harper has already accumulated 2.5 WAR, which bests his entire output in 2016 (1.6).
— Craig Schilling (@tcraigschilling) May 20, 2017
Heyman connects a few dots. Dodgers President Stan Kasten was with Washington when Harper was selected No. 1 overall in 2010. Heyman reports that Kasten has personally welcomed Harper’s parents to Dodger Stadium when they visit. Harper is from Las Vegas, obviously giving Los Angeles a geographical advantage, if that’s in his interests.
L.A. will be in a unique financial situation. It will be out of heavy salary commitments to players such as Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Scott Kazmir by that time. Most of its building blocks – Corey Seager, Julio Urias, Cody Bellinger – will be in the early or pre-arbitration stages. The Dodgers have led the league in payroll since the ownership change, and despite whispers of wanting to dip below the luxury tax, last winter proved the organization will spend if it’s the difference in winning.
On the flip side, Clayton Kershaw will be a free agent in the same offseason. All indications are that he will be the team’s priority. Signing Kershaw and Harper would mean dishing out two contracts potentially worth $40 million-plus annually. With so much young talent eventually needing extensions, that doesn’t seem financially-wise on the surface.
The Dodgers would theoretically boast an outfield of Harper, Joc Pederson and top prospect Alex Verdugo. If L.A. replaces Logan Forsythe internally with prospect Willie Calhoun, Justin Turner would likely be the only position player over the age of 30.
It’s too early to read much into rumored 2018 free agent pursuits. It’s not a secret that New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles have money to spend and motivation to acquire another star. Even if the Dodgers hold slight or no intrigue, there is something to gain by leaking fake interest to drive up Harper’s price tag.
Expect the speculation to grow louder with each passing month until the end of next season.