- Sources inside the Yankees organization insist Bryce Harper is not in their plans. Agent Scott Boras thinks he is. So what's the answer?
Recently, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman indicated that he would like the team to stay under the luxury tax to avoid, as he put it, aiding his competitors. Harper's agent, Scott Boras, scoffed at that assertion, and suggested that the Yankees will be one of Harper's top suitors. So what's it going to be? Our baseball staff offered their thoughts on whether New York will be a major player in the year's marquee free agency.
Tom Verducci: The Yankees will kick the tires on Harper. He's 26, a lefthanded power bat and a premier drawing card. You expect the Yankees to not even inquire about signing him after a season in which they re-set their competitive balance tax rate for the express purpose of being able to spend more freely? A lefthanded power bat at Yankee Stadium with a righthanded-heavy lineup? One of the highest profile players in the game who can sell tickets, create buzz and boost ratings? And the Yankees have .... no interest? Not buying it. Doesn't mean they sign him (though write down a Yankees lineup with Harper at first base; wow), and indications are they have some reservations about the player. But it does mean they will monitor the long game of the Harper sweepstakes.
Stephanie Apstein: Sure, to some degree. All teams are interested in all good players. But the Yankees are well-stocked in the outfield, with the newly-resigned Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks and Aaron Judge (plus DH Giancarlo Stanton in a pinch), and have real weaknesses elsewhere. I expect them to spend more time discussing Manny Machado, to bolster a questionable infield, and starting pitchers such as Patrick Corbin and Dallas Keuchel, who could shore up a deeply unimposing rotation.
BAUMGAERTNER: How would Bryce Harper fit in New York?
Ben Reiter: Do we believe that the Yankees pinched pennies (relatively, anyway) to get under the luxury tax threshold last year in order to not take a shot at one of the greatest 26-year-old players in the history of the game? It’s possible, I suppose. Things might have changed since they instituted their plan several years ago; they need pitching, and will spend a lot on it, whereas their lineup is formidable already. Still, these are the Yankees, and at the end of the day it’s hard to imagine they won’t at least play for Harper, even with the idea of putting him at first base. They like Luke Voit—but they can’t like him that much. By spring, there’s a good chance that we’ll view recent reports as to their disinterest as nothing more than an attempt at negotiating tactic, one which the savvy Boras has already seen through.
Emma Baccellieri: I don't think the Yankees are particularly likely to end up as the ones who sign Harper, but I absolutely think they'll still be players in the sweepstakes, to one degree or another. I don't put too much stock in Brian Cashman's assertion that the team is committed to staying under the luxury tax threshold—plenty of front offices push that in public comments early in the offseason, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they'll stick to it. Meanwhile, the question of how they'd fit him on the roster is a bit trickier.
The outfield is already full, but someone like Aaron Hicks or Clint Frazier could be shipped out as a valuable trade chip. (Perhaps for starting pitching, the club's biggest item on the winter to-do list?) Harper moving to first base has also been floated, though that strikes me as a little less likely. In one way or another, there would have to be some pieces moved around—but, of course, Harper is exactly the sort of player worth moving pieces for. All said, the most natural fit here doesn't seem to be the Yankees. But while they aren't the frontrunners, I'd be surprised if they're ultimately not involved.
Jon Tayler: Will they? It doesn’t seem like it, though how much of that is genuine and how much is possible negotiating tactic is unknown. Should they? That’s trickier. The outfield is full, between Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, and Brett Gardner (plus Giancarlo Stanton, the regular DH). But I’d rather have Harper in leftfield than Gardner full-time; I’m sure Brian Cashman would too. It’ll all come down to cost and the luxury tax and whether or not Cashman would rather spend his money on the likes of Manny Machado, or a pair of pitchers, instead of on a player whose position is taken. Then again, it’s the Yankees; why should money concerns ever stop them? Sign them all and let Aaron Boone sort them out.
Connor Grossman: “Harper’s bazaar” is in full swing, and it’s impossible to imagine any deep-pocketed, big-market team sitting on the sideline while 26-year-old Bryce Harper searches for a suitor. You’d have to think the Phillies, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, and of course, the Yankees, will at least check in on the Harper sweepstakes. The Red Sox have the passable excuse of a talented and fully-stocked outfield.
Brian Cashman says the Yankees are weary to drift into luxury tax territory, which may be true, but so is this: New York’s history of rich payrolls, star-studded rosters and affinity for titles would indicate the Yankees will pull up a chair to the Harper negotiations. Will they cough up one-third of a billion dollars? That’s the real question.