NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Bryce Harper will undoubtedly be the crown jewel of free agency, should he make it there following the 2018 season.
With the superstar’s future looming over the sport, it’s natural for baseball fans to imagine where he might end up.
Yankees fans, included.
Harper has long been linked to the Bombers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the Bronx will be his ultimate destination. Speaking Monday from the All-Star Game festivities down in Miami, the Nationals outfielder took a very diplomatic stance when asked about where he might call home in less than two years.
“I think that’s just part of people talking and hearing what they want to hear,” Harper said of the rampant speculation. “I think that’s Yankees fans and all of baseball. If it’s not the Yankees one day, it’s the Cubs the next day. If it’s not the Cubs, it’s the Phillies or the Dodgers.
“So I think that’s part of human nature and people guessing what’s going to happen, but I don’t try to pay too much attention to it,” he added. “We’ve still got a long way to go. And like I said, and I say this all the time, I do love playing in D.C. It’s a great place to play.”
Harper, who is only 24 yet will make his fifth All-Star Game appearance Tuesday night, is having a huge bounce-back season. After batting just .243 with 24 home runs and 86 RBIs a year ago, he’s off to a .325/20/65 start to 2017. He will make in excess of $21 million next season. On the open market, he could come close to double that per season.
It has long been speculated that the Yankees will make a very strong push for Harper, but most of those rumors surfaced long before they put together an unbelievable stable of young players, including a few outfielders who appear to have what it takes to become mainstays in the Bronx.
Aaron Judge and Clint Frazier are among those whose futures look extremely bright. Both are corner outfielders, as is Harper. If the young Yankees continue their meteoric development, general manager Brian Cashman might be better suited using his vast financial resources to address more pressing needs.
Veteran starting pitchers Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia will be free agents after this season, so, assuming neither is re-signed, that would leave the Yankees with sizable holes in their rotation. New York has something with youngsters Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery and should have Masahiro Tanaka for at least three more seasons, assuming the struggling right-hander doesn’t opt out of his contract at season’s end.
It’s quite possible the Yankees load up on power arms in the upcoming years to complement what has become a baby-faced-yet-formidable lineup, one that could receive upgrades any day, given the nature of how the Bombers have traditionally operated.
Cashman said Monday he plans to be a “careful buyer” at the trade deadline, assuming the Yankees are still in a playoff race.
The Bombers started the 2017 season with 21 wins in their first 30 games. They reached their high-water mark of 15 games over .500 on June 12 (38-23), but have since lost 18 of 25, failing to win a series in their last eight tries.
But the offense hasn’t been the problem.
Keep that in mind as talk of Harper’s future home takes over online or at the office water cooler.