Are the Dodgers Really Interested in Bryce Harper?

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Since the moment last season when the Dodgers appeared they would stay under the 2018 Luxury Tax threshold, rumors began to swirl linking the team to Bryce Harper, one of the headlining commodities of this winter’s free agent class. And, as impractical as it would be to sign the 26-year-old, indications suggest that the club is still doing its due diligence in pursuing the outfielder, despite the onslaught of criticism from pundits and fans.

According to multiple reports, Magic Johnson has done his part in the courting process, having recently paid Harper a visit in his hometown of Las Vegas. Johnson (who later denied visiting Harper) has had a stake in the Dodgers’ ownership group since 2012, when he bought into the Guggenheim group’s investment with $50 million of his own money. Johnson’s recruiting efforts last summer of LeBron James paid dividends when the superstar ultimately decided to sign with the Lakers.

It may be worth mentioning, though, that Harper turned down an extension offered by the Nationals before the 2018 season came to an end. The exact numbers of the proposition were not revealed, but reports showed the deal to be worth somewhere in the 10-year/$300 million range, which is definitely atypical of a contract favored by boss Andrew Friedman. Several media outlets believe that Los Angeles will aim to stay under the threshold for its 2019 campaign, so a $30+ million paycheck to Harper would seemingly be unrealistic, being that staff ace Clayton Kershaw is already on the books for an even $31 million next season.

Some pundits actually believe that Harper could command a pact in the range of $400 million.

As far as number go, like clockwork, Harper’s offensive output has teeter-tottered over the past four seasons. After a monumental 1.109 OPS and an MVP award back in 2015, he posted a .814 OPS and a paltry .243 batting average in 2016. Consequently, he rebounded and impressed with a four-digit OPS of 1.008 in 2017, but fell back down to earth a bit last season with an OPS of .889, despite leading the majors with 130 walks.

Many followers of the Dodgers have compared Harper’s 2018 offensive campaign to the numbers put up by Max Muncy last year. Muncy led the Dodgers with an astronomical .973 OPS, suggesting that Harper may not be as much of a significant upgrade as many perceive.

Furthermore, while Harper has always ranked well-above average in defensive metrics and range factors, Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs put together a story several weeks back showing some not-so-impressive numbers from last season. Harper played a lot more center field in 2018, however, which could have played a part in his regression in 2018.

While it’s certainly impossible to know Friedman’s intentions of filling out the roster over the winter, I still feel like a genuine interest in Harper is unlikely, based on his prospective salary and Friedman’s personal philosophies. Yet, if the Dodgers found a way to bring the superstar on board, an overhaul of the existing outfield crew would almost be mandatory.

In the end, maybe Magic decided to get the ball rolling on his own—just in case Friedman has a change of heart.


52 thoughts on “Are the Dodgers Really Interested in Bryce Harper?

  1. Just what we need another swing for the fences player. We need a lead off hitter who gets on base and can steel a base. Yes Harper OBP (walks) are great but he doesn’t bat lead off. Pass on Harper

  2. No way Dodgers sign Harper. Nor should they. Harper will not live up to that contract and it will sink the team that signs him. Magic meeting just window dressing.

  3. This just in: After reading TBPC, Friedman realizes he can sign Muncy for less than Harper and signs Muncy to a 10 year, 250 million dollar contract. Harper has been advised Dodgers no longer interested.
    Breaking news: Magic signs Harper to play point guard for the Lakers in Rondo’s absence
    Dodger Press Release: To our wonderful fans – we weren’t able to sign Bryce but we just want you to know we tried real hard so give us credit for that. We’re willing to do whatever necessary to win another World Series and money is no object. Bryce just really wanted to play for the Phillies.

  4. Well Muncy did have a better year! But in all seriousness Harper has had only one great year and I think the risk is too great. Also for the length he’s looking at he probably ends up a DH. Already his defensive metrics are down. He’s a better gamble for an AL team.

    1. Wouldn’t have helped anyway. The Yanks brought Gehrig, Babe and Mickey. DiMaggio was busy and couldn’t make it.

  5. For some reason I have always been a realist. I do not dream up trade scenarios I know will never happen and I do not wish for things that all the signs point to never getting. I have never not once thought the Dodgers would seriously go after this guy. If they wanted him, he would be signed already. They would have been aggressive from the get go just to keep from waging a bidding war which is one of his agents favorite things to do. I also do not think there is a player on this planet worth that kind of money. I think Friedman and whoever are just doing due diligence as Dennis said. I think they also want their fans to believe this nonsense.

  6. Just read an article on peak ages of MLB players. Mantle peaked at 25, Pujols at 27, Schmidt at 32. Also mentioned was the peak years of generations – before 1930 it was 28.5, 1930-1970 it was 27.7, 1970-1990 it was 27.9, since then about 28-29. Journal of Sports Science agrees with that analysis. (I believe it’s lower than that now but I have no evidence to prove it). Baseball Prospectus, Bill James, and a few others look at Peak Age by Skill…… hitters peak in batting and slugging average at 27-28, while continuing to improve in home runs and walking abilities until 30-32. Pitchers are different of course. Conclusion – most players are declining by age 30, all players are declining by 33. There are differences in rate of decline, but those differences are far less significant for the assessment of future value than are differing levels of ability.

    There is no real way to predict future WAR from a guy like Harper. His talent level is off the charts, but his production so far has been all over the map. In 7 seasons he has put up 27.4 WAR, but as Rich mentioned here, he’s had only one great year – 10 WAR when he was 22. Since then it’s been 1.5, 4.7, and 1.3. He projects .900+ OPS next year, 30+ HR, 96 RBI, roughly what he did this year to put up the 1.3.

    My bottom line is I don’t think he’s worth $400 million. I doubt he’s worth $300 million, but, maybe. Who knows where $/WAR will be in 2029. A 10 year guaranteed contract sounds crazy to me, for a number of reasons, not least of which is most of those years come several years after Peak Age by Skill. This just does not look like a Friedman move. For $400 million he’s more likely to sign 15 Rich Hill’s and 10 Brett Anderson’s. If we are going to get into a contract like that now, I’d rather have Stanton, who has been more WAR consistent and will average $27 million until he’s 38. But I don’t see Friedman going after either of these guys.

  7. Well one of the biggies off the market as Corbin signs with DC. Pretty bad ass front 3 there now, Scherzer, Strasburg and Corbin. Nats seem to be serious.

  8. Looks like the Nats didn’t like missing the playoffs last season. That should be a competitive division next season.

  9. Angels named an entirely new coaching staff today. Seems like Ausmus did not keep anyone from the staff of Scioscia. Lets play a little game. Who on the present 40 man roster are the least likely to start the season with the Dodgers? Either through trades or just not lasting through spring training. # 1 on my list would be the guys who were just placed on the 40 man, Rios, Ruiz, Sierra, Sborz. Gale, Garcia, McCreery, Stewart, Beaty, Toles, and Kemp. I think they will really try to find a taker for Kemp, I believe Toles is a numbers victim. The others, well, some are not ready and the others are probably trade bait.

      1. I didn’t hear it but someone on another site said that Peter Gammons was on MLB network this morning and was really touting Van Scoyoc. Says he incorporated a lot of Ted Williams’ philosophy into his approach. Gammons also said that the Dodgers want to focus on solid contact with runners in scoring position instead of this constant home run or nothing approach. If any of that is true, we may be in for something good here.

    1. You should probably wait to ask that question at the close of the Winter Meetings next week. Some of those guys might very well be traded by then. And didn’t Andrew just name Gale our starting catcher next year? I would trade Rios right now before his value goes down. Some AL team would be happy to have him. Unless we plan to trade Joc or Verdugo, we should trade poor Toles and put him out of his misery. You list Sierra but I assume you’re speaking about Alvarez?

    2. Brock Stewart who is out of options and has no chance for the 25 man. The rest have options except Kemp (duh), but as long as he can swing a bat he will be on the 25 man. I do not see him being a Carl Crawford type release. Sierra is not on the 40 man and will not be because then his salary will go against the CBT calculation. If he has a great spring then they are going to need to do some thinking. Gale and McCreery are the most likely DFA candidates.

      I agree with you on Toles. He is headed back to OKC to be that depth.

      All this can change if anybody gets traded. I have no gut feeling as to who may be on the move. Wood is logical to be moved, and one of their OF not named Bellinger depending on the return. Maybe there will be some movement next week.

      1. I got my Cubans mixed up. I meant Alvarez. The guy has been barely useable at AA and for that reason I think he is gone after spring or maybe even before. I should probably wait, but I thought it might ease some of the boredom waiting for Friedman to do something. As for Van Scoyoc, all we can do is hold opinions until after we see what the teams approach is in spring.

  10. I would guess they have interest. I am just not sure he is worth what Boras is going to ask for. 30 mil plus a year for 10 years I have heard is the starting point. Which I find a little weird since he turned down an offer like that from DC before he became a free agent. How much bang are you going to get for your buck? How quickly will the fans turn on him if he does not produce right off the bat? How good, or bad is he going to be in 5 years when you still have 5 more years of that hefty deal to pay for?? I did read one guy who said the Dodgers should front load a deal, and have an opt out for him. That makes some sense to me, but I still think Andrew is not going to put that kind of money out there for anyone…Just my take that’s all.

  11. Interesting read Jefe. It left me with a few questions though. .

    I read Williams book many years ago. I’m sure I’ve talked about a few of the basic principles before, but in light of the conversation here I think they are worth mentioning again.

    I’ll refer to the three points I remember he emphasized. First is “get a good pitch to hit”. Of course that means don’t swing at anything out of the strike zone, but Williams takes it a step further. He knew what his batting average was on every pitch within the strike zone. A pitch thigh high inside half he hit over .400 against. Knee high outside .250, etc.. Secondly, he was big on pitch recognition. We have all heard the term “see the ball hit the ball”, but what exactly does that mean? In Dr Adair’s book “The Physics of Baseball” he speaks to the importance of understanding spin. A baseball will break the direction it spins. Williams had a pilot’s vision, I believe he had 20/10 in his right eye, the eye that faces the pitcher (very important point, keep that in mind) By pitch recognition, which direction the ball is spinning, Williams knew immediately what pitch was coming his way. Fastball, curveball slider all spin differently and the sooner you know which direction it is spinning the sooner you can diagnose where it’s goung to end up. You see these various pitches 10,000 times you get pretty good at this. And thirdly, back in his day the mound was higher than it is now and most pitchers release point was somewhere above their head aiming at a strike zone no higher tha 2’-4’ off the ground. That is plane of flight. Get your swing quickly and smoothly into that plane. It’s obviously a slight uppercut. Remember your coaches screaming “swing level” at you? I do. They were wrong.

    That’s it. There are other things of course, including hit the pitch in the strike zone (an 18” box directly over the plate) and hit it where it’s pitched etc but I found when instructing young hitters beginning with first three gave outstanding results. Repetition repetition repetition. I drilled drilled drilled, then drilled some more. Every player I coached was encouraged to take 100 cuts every day. And in doing so visualize success. An, this is important, go up ready to hit that pitch you hit .400+ against. If they give you a get it over first pitch cookie, be prepared to drive it to the parking lot. They won’t do it again. It always worked for me too. I played competitive baseball into my 50s and what was it that finally stopped me? Pitch recognition. At 56 I could no longer pick up spin out of the pitchers hand. You don’t have the vision you don’t have much of a chance. Some youngsters I coached just didn’t see that well. EVERY player in that reaches the Major League level has the vision.

    I’m sure the Dodgers coaches know all of this. I’ve been out of the game a while now, 14 years to be exact, so I don’t know what kind of new analytics might be employed, but I’m sure what I’ve mentioned here is still part of it. And we’ll see if the Dodgers cut down on the strikeouts. I doubt it, but I could be wrong. We led the NL in runs last year. You don’t want to mess with that too much.

  12. Well the Marlins are re-tooling their coaching staff also. Trey Hillman and Mel Stottlemeyer have joined the team. Mattingly will have someone new to talk to. Mets now seem to be a big player for Realmuto.

    1. BVW may become the DiPoto of the NL. If they get Realmuto, I guess we’ll just have to settle for Cervelli, LeMahieu, and Harper or Stanton.

    1. Wow. They did not get anyone I have ever heard of except Weaver. And according to most of the buzz, they are looking to trade Greinke too. Dodgers on his no trade list. So they have lost Corbin and Goldy, they also did not tender a contract to Descalzo. It is beginning to look like the Dodgers biggest rival next year is going to be Colorado. The Giants, Padres, and D-Backs in the midst of what seems to be revamping their strategy’s

    1. Well he is an offensive power house and he is also a whiff machine. Over 200 strikeouts last year. He is only a right fielder, and no where near Puig defensively. He has a huge contract that pays him for 9 more years. He is a So Cal boy, so he might like a homecoming, but unless the Yankees eat some portion of that humongous contract, I do not see him fitting into Andy’s plans. He is also 30 years old this season. You would have to believe that if the owners invested that kind of money, they would spend it on a younger player.

  13. Corbin, Goldschmidt, probably pollock, and Greinke all gone it may not be a total rebuild, but they don’t look like they are trying to compete. As mad as we all get sometimes at least the dodgers are trying to compete. Wouldn’t want to be a d-backs fan this season.

  14. You are right bear I can’t see him ever in dodger blue, I was real sore last season when the CBT kept us from getting him, especially since he wanted to be here, so I like to dream about it once in a while. I think Jeff likes to throw Stanton’s name out there every once in awhile just o stir up the pot.

  15. About the trade, there are not many players in the league like Goldschmidt he’s going to help the cards a lot.

    1. Goldy will love hitting in St Louis. Best thing about this trade is that we do not have to deal with the guy 19 times a year. Royals signed former D-Back Chris Owings. I really do not expect to hear much Dodger news until the winter meetings start next week. Keep in mind that Harper lives in Vegas where the meetings are taking place. I would bet by the end of next week he has a new uni. And I doubt it is going to be blue. Most pundits still believe the real front runner is the Phillies. Trading Santana opened up 1st base so they could move Hoskins back to 1st. Adding Harper to that potent lineup would be icing on the cake for them. I am starting to believe Machado is headed back to the American league because I am pretty sure the Dodgers have zero interest in bringing him back. You are so right, Jeff loves pot stirring!

  16. The Cardinals got better. The Dbacks will be lucky to win 81.

    Stanton fits my criteria for the starting lineup in LA but I agree with Bear, he’s not of the Friedman mold. As of the moment we don’t need another outfielder. In Friedman’s orbit, Stanton and Harper aren’t needed.

    1. I just wish he wanted Realmuto as much as we fans do. Looks like the Mets are pushing really hard to land the guy before the meetings.

  17. For those who accuse me of pot stirring, I thank you for the compliment, but I must say I learned at the foot of the master, Scoop. I agree that getting Goldy was a great move by the Cards and I’m guessing that he signs an extension at some point. Greinke is as good as gone. The D’backs will do whatever necessary to move him. I could see us bringing him back in a 3 team trade that would have us sending out Kemp and Wood to someone with the D’backs getting prospects back from them and adding some cash to us. Not saying it will happen, but it wouldn’t totally shock me.

  18. If Harper tells the Yanks he wants to be there we might be able to get Stanton at a decent discount. Harper makes a lot more sense for the Yanks than Stanton does and at the right price (same as with Greinke; send them Kemp and Wood and get a fair amount of cash back) I wouldn’t mind having him in spite of the strike outs. But it has to be at a good price. Remember, he’ll have Van Scoyoc as his hitting coach and will cut his K’s in half once he gets here. (That was the sound of me stirring the pot)

  19. I’m sure they are interested in Harper but I pray they don’t sign him. He’s a very good player but he’s in no way worth $300 million. You could take that money and sign a solid #2 starter, a premiere 2B and a lockdown late inning reliever to pair with Kenley all for the money you’d pay Harper alone. No thanks I like the guys we have already in the OF. I do however wish we would have made a run at Goldschmidt if that’s all Arizona wanted. St. Louis made out like bandits in that deal and now have a legitimate top 10 hitter in MLB to anchor their lineup. At least he’s not in Arizona anymore I suppose. He absolutely KILLED us every time we faced him. Great guy and ballplayer, I wish him luck.

  20. I am pretty sure you can forget about Greinke coming back. The Dodgers are on his no trade list. I think he has had his fill of LA and quite frankly, he is not the same pitcher he was when he was in Dodger blue. I think both Stanton and Harper are pipe dreams for those who actually believe Andy has any interest is really being serious about getting either player. That’s me stirring the pot. Debate is good, but I am looking at the way Andy has built the teams that have been on the field the last 4 years. There are no high priced free agents in there. No superstar players, there are a bunch of versatile players with decent but not outstanding skills. They have some very good young players, Seager, Bellinger, a couple who came out of no where, Muncy, Taylor, and some who have re-invented them selves, Turner, Kemp, and some who are useful because they are multi positional players. Hernandez, Barnes, Freese, but real superstars? Not so much. Kershaw is not the Kershaw of 2014, Kemp is past his prime, Jansen has medical issues that we hope are resolved by his surgery. Turner is heading into his age 34 season. He can[t be expected to keep playing at a really high level without injury or time off. The two big name trades they have made were both rentals. Keeping either one of them was not in the plans, so why would one think they are going after any of the higher priced players. Just my opinion there gang…keep on dreaming.

    1. Just humor me here Bear. If Greinke were on the Dodger roster tomorrow and you were putting together the rotation, who would the 5 guys be and in which order (this assumes that we don’t get anyone from Cleveland).

      1. Good question Jeff. If he were a Dodger, I think he is no better than a # 3. Kershaw, Buehler, Greinke, Ryu and Hill. I think Wood and Stripling would be trade bait. I think Urias and Maeda would be in the bullpen. Maeda would be the long man. You also have Ferguson in the mix in the bullpen. But as most, I do think catcher and a bridge to Jansen needs to be found and should be the main focus.

      2. Right where I had him, #3, but he pitched over 200 innings last year, so that adds to his value. And he’s done that 4 of the last 5 years. His WAR was actually higher than any Dodger starter last year, probably in some part due to his innings pitched. I really don’t know in the grand scheme of things what a #3 should be paid in Andrew’s budget, but I believe Greinke is owed about 95 mil. If we make them take Kemp and Wood, that’s about 30 mil which brings the investment down to about 65 mil. Our current #3 (Hill or Ryu) is being paid 16-17 mil/year. So if we say Greinke is worth more than Hill/Ryu maybe we could say 18 mil/year. That rounds out to 55 mil over 3 years so they throw in another 10 mil and we’ve paid fair value for Greinke. They save 55 mil of the 95 mil and we pay Greinke 18 mil per year for a guy who has averaged over 4 WAR for the past 6 years. Plan B if we can’t get Kluber for a reasonable trade cost.

      3. Jeff… Last year, you were a believer that the Dodgers had enough starting pitching to get the job done, while I was preaching that they didn’t have enough talent to get through the playoffs. Heading into 2019, I feel that they do have enough talent, while you seem to think they need to add a frontline starter. Why the change of heart heading into 2019?

      4. I guess I’ve got three answers to your question Dennis: 1) They didn’t have enough to get the job done. You were right. 2) Keith had my answer before I ever saw your question. Just put me down for his answer. 3) Just stirrin’ the pot, my friend.

  21. Jeff, I’m not saying he would, but that seems like the kind of deal Andrew likes to make. Kluber is still plan A, for me, but that talk/ rumor has died down a little.

  22. For me Dennis, it would be I’ve lost faith in Wood to be the pitcher I thought he was in the first half of 2017, and the inconstancy of Hill, he can dominate some games then not find his curveball in the next.

  23. It is all moot unless Greinke were to waive his no trade and agree to come back. His favorite catcher is gone, so that’s one strike, the Dodgers would not give him the extra year that the D-Backs did to lure him away, so that’s 2 strikes, and I think he genuinely does not like the franchise that much or living in LA. So that’s strike 3, the Dodgers are out of any Greinke sweepstakes, and the D-Backs would not trade him to LA anyway.

    1. Last things first. I agree he probably wasn’t thrilled living in L.A., but most important to him is winning and he won’t be able to do that in AZ any longer. If you look at his no trade list he picked teams that would most want him because he’s a sharp negotiator. That will wind up benefitting him when he’s finally traded and I also agree they would probably not want to send him here if they could help it. But…………………… save 50-55 million, they would definitely go for it if we were the only ones who would do a deal for him. Odds that Greinke is a Dodger in 2019, probably about 10-1 against, but hey, this is the pot stirrer stirring the pot.

  24. A lot of posters on twitter honestly believe that the Dodgers are seriously going after Harper. Like I have said many times, I will believe it when I see a press conference with him in a Dodger uni. Also, they are making a mountain out of a molehill about Magic booking a flight to Vegas. They seem to forget that the meetings next week are in Vegas. It has nothing to do with wooing Harper.

    1. People on Twitter?

      twit: verb – taunt, ridicule, berate. noun – an insignificant, asinine, bothersome person

      Twitter: a place where asinine bothersome people taunt, ridicule and berate

      I think Friedman will kick the tires and generate scuttlebutt but only because he’s expected to. He will then figure out how to spend $40 million to generate more than 1.7 WAR. Frankly I believe that is a a task any twit can do.

      1. Hey there fella, I represent that remark! Seriously I know where you are coming from. But I usually go on there to read what Heyman and Rosenthal are talking about and a couple of other baseball writers. Gurnick seems to be convinced that if the Dodgers do make a deal for a pitcher the most likely trade piece is Verdugo.

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