There are exactly three days remaining before pitchers and catchers begin filing into the clubhouse at Camelback Ranch. Still, outfielder Bryce Harper remains unsigned.
And, believe it or not, some folks are linking him to the Dodgers, even after all this time.
On Thursday, Randy J. Miller of nj.com added fuel to the gossip in Los Angeles when he wrote, “I’ve heard that if he didn’t go back to the Nationals that his preference was to go to the Giants or the Dodgers” and that “recent rumors suggest that he may be willing to take a three-year contract.”
Of course, Los Angeles was immediately thrown back into the picture, just because people enjoy the marvel of speculation.
Yet, for fans of the Dodgers who remain on the edge of their seats hoping for the improbable, the Dodgers already have a very crowded outfield and seem content with the squad’s landscape after signing A.J. Pollock to a multi-year deal two weeks ago.
Besides, president Stan Kasten insists that there are many advantages involved with remaining beneath the luxury tax threshold, although he still hasn’t exactly explained those exact reasons to the fans.
“I’m not going to go into that because that’s real inside baseball economic stuff,” Kasten said when he was pressed for details about his comment.
Regardless, the Giants, another team labelled as underachievers as far as roster upgrades go this winter, were also thrown into the rumor mix, specifically after the whispers surfaced about Harper possibly being willing to settle for a contract—a deal that’s much shorter in length than the 10-year version he was believed to be seeking early in the offseason.
Farhan Zaidi, the current San Francisco GM and former right-hand man to Dodgers’ boss Andrew Friedman, traveled to Vegas this week to meet with Harper. Zaidi didn’t offer many details about the meeting, except stating that there was interest from both parties about a potential deal.
“There’s obviously mutual interest on both sides, so we thought it made sense to get together,” Zaidi told reporters. “We had a good conversation over a few hours, and he’s obviously got a lot of suitors and a lot of interest.”
Even San Francisco catcher Buster Posey got in on the action.
The last we heard, “at least eight teams are still checking in on Harper,” according to a tweet by Jon Heyman. He didn’t mention exactly which clubs are at the forefront, but the Phillies are among the clubs believed to be the top suitors.
It may be worth mentioning, though, that Harper turned down an extension offered by the Nationals before the 2018 season ever came to an end. The exact numbers of the proposition were not revealed, but reports guessed the deal to be worth somewhere in the 10-year/$300 million range, which is notable, considering the current state of the MLB free agent market.
Initially, some pundits actually believed that Harper could command a pact in the range of $400 million; however, due to the premise that many GMs are unwilling to spend this winter—aside from Philadelphia’s Matt Klentak—the supposition that Harper may agree to a short-term deal has now surfaced.
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 in November 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.
Perhaps Friedman took all those numbers into consideration when deciding to pass on the superstar.
And maybe the Dodgers are better for it.