It’s time for the Winter Meetings and the biggest free agent of the 2018-19 offseason is still available. That, of course, is Bryce Harper. Harper is a polarizing figure in baseball today, fans either love him or hate him. He is set to sign a mega-contract in the next month that should make him one of the richest players in history. Should the Dodgers be the team to give him that contract? The Dodgers Nation staff discuss all that is Bryce Harper.
Should the Dodgers sign Bryce Harper?
Blake Williams (@BlakeW47): Yes the Dodgers should absolutely make every attempt to sign Bryce Harper. Free agents like Harper don’t come around very often, especially ones going into their age 26 season. Harper is a career .279/.388/.512 hitter with 184 home runs and a 140 wRC+. For some reason, there is a narrative that he strikes out too much. His career K% is 21.1%, which is nearly identical to Mike Trout’s 21.4% . Harper is a phenomenal hitter that would anchor the Dodgers’ lineup for years to come.
Defensively, Harper is not good, to put it nicely. He ranks near the bottom of most defensive metrics. While defensive metrics aren’t perfect stats, they still give a decent idea and they all say the same thing. Luckily for Harper, that shouldn’t be a problem for a team that has played Matt Kemp, Howie Kendrick, Alex Guerrero and Joc Pederson. The Dodgers have shown they believe in positioning to help make up for poor defensive outfielders.
The owners and front office have no good excuse to not go all out to sign Harper. He is going to get a record breaking contract but the Dodgers can absolutely afford it. They reset their luxury tax penalties last season so going over this season would have a minor effect on the team. Even if they do go over this season, they would easily be able to get back under next season. Harper needs to be playing right field for the Dodgers on opening day.
Brian Robitaille (@BriRobitaille): I hate to be on the fence with this but there are a lot of layers and other implications to signing Harper. How much is the contract? How many years? Who would be traded to free up room in the outfield and what do those trades look like? Would signing him prevent the Dodgers from making other moves? In other words, I’m on the fence with this.
There’s no doubt Harper is a phenomenal talent, and he’d definitely be a big boost in the middle of the lineup. But is he worth the sort of contract that he’ll likely demand? That’s a big question and I’m not sure there is any certain answer. I think the simple answer is “yes,” signing Harper would be great for the Dodgers, and it would surely make them better immediately. But again, there’s a legitimate argument against signing him too.
AJ Gonzalez (@AJontheguitar): I am on the fence. He’s a generational talent, but also a generational cost. This isn’t a knock against him, Bryce Harper is great. The problem the Dodgers have is that they have a crowded outfield. They’d absolutely need to offload some of them in a trade, and in doing so to make room for Harper they might make a deal just to deal them, without getting good enough yield in return. Beyond that problem is the obvious. He’s going to want 10-14 years at nearly half a billion dollars. If we could get him for something like that with an early opt out (3,4 years I guess) it wouldn’t be too bad, but that’s still 30-35 million a year for him.
Marshall Garvey (@MarshallGarvey): This is an absolute no-brainer in my eyes: YES!!! Bryce Harper and the Los Angeles Dodgers are a match that has “destiny” written all over it. To begin, L.A. sports is all about courting superstars. In the year where the Lakers won the latest LeBron sweepstakes, it’d be a good look for the Dodgers to make the equivalent move with Harper. He would be a clear upgrade in the outfield and a marquee name that will ensure continued record attendance at Elysian Park.
There’s also no doubt Harper wants to come here. Los Angeles is the closest he can possibly play near his hometown of Las Vegas, allowing him to see his friends and family more and for them to watch him play at the most beautiful stadium in baseball.
Of course, the Dodgers currently have a 2014-style glut of outfielders. This means they’d have to part with two of them to make room for Harper, likely Yasiel Puig and Alex Verdugo. While I can see a 300 arrows-style volley of angry tweets coming at me, I have no problem with this. Look, I love Puig, but it’s easy to forget how streaky he is offensively, in addition to his frustrating baserunning tendencies. (We would miss his cannon arm, though.) Excited as I am for Verdugo’s future, it’s hard to argue for him over Harper in any scenario.
The only drawback, obviously, is the contract length and money. I understand why many are reserved about this. My only requirement is that there’s an opt-out clause at a certain point, ideally after 3-5 years. Otherwise, luxury tax be damned, I am glad to give him the contract he wants. If anyone can afford Harper, it’s Los Angeles. That said, it’d be great if they could shed some dollars and years by emphasizing the proximity to Las Vegas and championship odds, although that’s probably wishful thinking on my part.
I admire the organization’s frugality of the past two years, and I’m still eating crow over my insistence on getting Giancarlo Stanton last offseason. At the same time, that frugality has been rewarded with two participation trophies. Last offseason’s goal of resetting the luxury tax, even with the team one game short of a title, seemed more worthwhile knowing this offseason was just around the corner. Here we are, with the greatest free agent class MLB has ever seen. It’s time to grab the top prize from it.
Clint Pasillas/FRG (@realFRG): The Dodgers would be foolish to not take a look and run at Bryce Harper. The kid is a generational talent — or at least that’s what they tell me on TV — and could help any team get better. Lip service aside, I’m open to the idea of signing Harper based on a couple of stipulations.
- He’s open to a shorter term contract
- He’s open to getting better
Shorter contract: I am not comfortable signing anyone for 14-year deal. ? Hard period. My ideal is a 4-year deal, which is great for him as it lines him up for free agency again at the age of 30. Don’t ask me about the money… we’re talking about a kids game — no one deserves $40mm to play baseball. Alternatively, give me a 5-year deal with 2nd and 3rd year opt-outs.
Getting better: Bryce needs to understand that standard stats, advanced metrics, the eye test… they all hate him on defense. With a career -3.0 dWAR (Baseball Reference), he does not fit the Dodgers defensive ideology of “pls be good on defense”. I know, outside the bun thinkers. If he signs with Los Angeles, he cannot be one of these “this is how I play the game” guys. …we just had a guy that (at least) gave the appearance that he wouldn’t listen… *cough*MannyMachado*cough*
Tim Rogers (@SDDodger): I’ve gone back and forth on signing Bryce Harper. He has mostly underachieved except in 2015 when he was the MVP. He’s entering his year 26 season and I do believe he is a very special talent. He would make the lineup quite a bit better (it’s not bad right now). The contract will be insane but the Dodgers won’t get stuck bidding against themselves.
The thought of Harper in LA is exciting. Maybe there are some huge pictures of him on some downtown buildings. I think he will bring another level of excitement (not sure how long Puig stays) and will become a huge fan favorite.
Clint Evans (@DiamondHoggers): I am at a point where I’m alright with it if it happens – but I feel like it’s abusing a luxury we already have. Harper to the Dodgers would be overkill. We aren’t an outfielder away from a title, are we? I mean – for $35 million a year – what will people do when he does a 4.5 bWAR and puts up Cody Bellinger numbers? They’ll lose their minds. He doesn’t figure to age well. If you Google around, you’ll find the scouts quotes that his knees are already going. My daughter is named after the guy – I really think he’s a good kid and he loves the game. I love that about him. However, as far as fit; I think there are better fits for the Dodgers.
What would signing him mean for the team going forward?
Blake: Signing Harper would have a domino affect on the team. They would instantly improve their lineup and create even more outfield depth. With all the outfielders the team has, they would need to trade at least 1, likely 2. Yasiel Puig has the highest chance of getting traded. Reports say he is upset with the team and he is their 2nd highest paid outfielder with only 1 year of control left.
The other trade candidates with value are Alex Verdugo and Joc Pederson. Verdugo has more value and could be a key piece in acquiring another ace or J.T. Realmuto. Keeping Verdugo would set their outfield for the next 5 seasons with Verdugo, Bellinger, and Harper. Pederson has 2 years of control left and he’s a pretty valuable player, he just won’t be the centerpiece in a Kluber-type trade like Verdugo could be. Maybe they could talk the Cleveland Indians into taking some combination of Puig, Pederson, Alex Wood, and Ross Stripling but that isn’t as likely.
Getting rid of Matt Kemp’s contract is something the front office would love to do, especially if they sign Harper. There’s a chance they could find a team to take his salary for a prospect but the market for him will be incredibly shallow. Any potential return for Kemp would be minor.
Signing Harper would be the first of multiple moves the team would make to improve their roster.
Brian: The Dodgers would certainly be a better team on paper. They already have great depth in the outfield, but Harper is an upgrade from anyone else they might put in right field. Also, signing him would likely mean one or more of the Dodgers current outfielders would be moved to make room for Harper, with Yasiel Puig being the prime candidate. The bigger question is what it means for any future moves by the Dodgers. Maybe nothing. Maybe something.
AJ: Well pundits would make them the team to beat in the NL, despite the Dodgers already being the team to beat in the NL. Signing a big name like Harper brings in hype that we probably roll our eyes at. Moreover, the Dodgers would 100% rely on Harper to put up big numbers every year. That seems obvious, but right now we *assume* and *hope* that Taylor, Hernandez, Kemp, and Puig(?) have good years at way less cost. They create a better aggregate performance at much lower the cost. Could Harper be the one to boost that over the top? Very good chance, but it’s not a lock.
Marshall: It makes them a much better team, and gives them another player they can rely on every day alongside Turner and Seager. Platooning players was a solid strategy that suited the relentless grind in 2018, and will continue to benefit the team next year. But it makes more sense to have at least a few guys you expect to pencil in on any given day. Harper would be the most indispensable of all.
Practically, the team needs to find a catcher and upgrade their rotation and bullpen as priorities. But tying it together by adding Harper will make Los Angeles truly dangerous once again. It will also make them even more hated across baseball, and certify their status as the N.L. Yankees. I have no problem with this. People are going to accuse the team of buying a championship when they do win it, even if the particulars of how the team is built are more nuanced than most will admit. But if they have to outright buy it with Harper, so be it.
Clint/FRG: If the Dodgers land Bryce Harper, it would mean one: they won the offseason, and two: they’re all in on winning. Signing Harper further muddies the outfield surplus, but it also opens up the club to just about any and every trade scenario.
Puig is trade bait already, in this case, he’s gone. Signing Harper gives the Dodgers the power to package one or two outfielders with, let’s say, Alex Wood and maybe a Dennis Santana to go get JT Realmuto. Or a reduced package to go improve second base with an acquisition of a Scooter Gennett type.
In short, a Harper signing helps improve one or two other spots on the field along with him.
Tim: I’d hope they’d put Harper in left field and that he’d also start learning to play first base. Just by playing with the Dodgers he’ll see some improvement on defense. The outfield I’d like to see is Harper, Verdugo, Puig from left to right. Bellinger goes back to first base and Muncy and Joc are traded while their value is at their highest. It’s time to use some surplus to fill some gaps.
Clint Evans: It would mean you’re moving some middle of the order bats, unquestionably. An outfielder or two and maybe Max Muncy? Also it could mean there are troubles down the line with keeping some of the young core you see today (Bellinger, Seager, Buehler, etc.).
What are your personal feelings on Harper?
Blake: Harper is they type of player baseball needs more of. Fans pay to go see him because he’s an exciting player to watch. Baseball desperately needs to get rid of the “fun police” that get upset when another player shows emotion or, you know, actually has fun. He brings a passion to the game that makes it much more enjoyable to watch. Who wants to see emotionless robots play a game? It also doesn’t hurt that he’s really good at hitting homers, because homers are fun.
Brian: Well, I was rooting for him in that match-up he had with Hunter Strickland last year, but that goes without saying. Seriously though, I don’t have many personal feelings about Bryce Harper. As a ballplayer, I know he’s a good one, and that’s all that really matters. I mean, it’s not like we’re talking about Trevor Bauer here… but I digress.
AJ: Fairly neutral for a guy I should probably dislike. He’s been treated like a god since he was a teenager, and when you consider that, he’s a pretty decent player with not a ton of baggage. That often gets overlooked. If we signed him to that contract and he repeated his MVP season a few times you can bet I’d buy his jersey. Defensive metrics are confusing so I have honestly not watched him enough to know how good or bad he is on defense. He’s got a great arm is all I really know.
Marshall: As unequivocal as I’ve been praising him in the first two parts of this piece, I actually haven’t always loved him. I did find his cocky attitude off-putting for a time, but my real problem was how much he seemed to overshadow Mike Trout. While I am not an Angels fan, I am a huge fan of Trout, and passionately defend his status as the best position player of his generation. For a time, it seemed like the ever-humble Trout was eclipsed by Harper’s flair, even though Trout is clearly the better player. (Which Harper admitted during this year’s All-Star Game.)
Over time, though, #34 grew on me. Once he put together his incredible talent enough to win N.L. MVP in 2015, I started to respect him more. Sadly, another reason my admiration grew was sympathy for him as the Nationals’ playoff futility mounted year after year. Washington had four teams that easily could have won the World Series in 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2017. Each time, they collapsed in brutal fashion in the first round, with Harper making the final out of the ridiculous fifth game of the 2017 NLDS. He deserved better.
I do get why some dislike Harper’s personality. Not to mention, we’re fresh off dealing with Manny Machado’s mercurial shenanigans. But I don’t see Harper being a clubhouse cancer. He’s not going to punch the clock and daydream about playing for the Yankees for a few months like Manny did. This is the contract he’s been seeking for years, during which he never got to win a World Series when he had many chances.
This is his best chance, and L.A.’s as well. Let’s not let it pass.
Clint/FRG: With Harper, here in LA, all we have is the media perception of the kid. Same as every other fanbase (unfairly) feels with Yasiel Puig.
We have never seen the day-to-day of Harper, we don’t know what his preparation or routine is like… we don’t know what his philanthropic efforts are like in the community.
But based on media perception, I feel indifferent-to-meh about Bryce Harper. This is where I should probably insert the “Change my mind” meme from the internet machine. He’s a big time bat. He plays the game hard when he’s into it. He’s the face of the modern MLB superstar.
He made his MLB debut and got his first hit at Dodger Stadium, I’m perfectly fine with him getting his next 700 hits in Dodger blue.
Tim: I’ve never been a big fan of his but I’ve also watched him when I can. He’s an amazing talent and it is always great to see it on display.
Clint: I have it on good authority that he’s not always the best teammate. Someone I know played with him and said he’s just not always the best teammate – which happens when a guy is a superstar. He will command different things than anyone the Dodgers currently have. That said, I think he’s a good person. I love his passion for the game and appreciation to history. I do not like how he’s a hired gun willing to go to the highest bidder, but such is baseball in the year 2019.
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