2018 MLB Free Agency: Which Team Will Sign Bryce Harper?

by Taylor Smith
on June 20, 2018
10

Minute Read

We are just about halfway through the 2018 Major League Baseball campaign, so it’s probably still too early to be talking about the offseason. While most teams are still hunting for potential playoff spots, there are a few teams out there that are already out of the race, for all intents and purposes. Those teams that are out of it are surely already looking forward to the upcoming winter, when they can attack free agency with aggressiveness.

The past winter’s class of free agents was lacking in terms of marquee talent, which likely explains why it took so long for some of the bigger names to find homes. J.D. Martinez, Jake Arrieta, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and others had to wait around for months before ultimately getting suitable contract offers.

Based on some of the names set to be free agents next winter, we can safely expect a more action-packed hot stove. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are certainly the headliners, but Clayton Kershaw, Josh Donaldson, Dallas Keuchel, J.A. Happ and others will also likely hit the market. We may well see a feeding frenzy, and there’s a chance Harper signs the most lucrative deal in the history of the sport.

Where will they wind up?

Bryce Harper (next team odds)

  • Chicago Cubs +150
  • Washington Nationals +250
  • Los Angeles Dodgers +350
  • San Francisco Giants +500
  • Boston Red Sox +750
  • New York Yankees +750
  • Field +225

Bryce Harper was arguably the most-hyped position player in the history of the game when he was drafted first overall by the Washington Nationals back in 2010. While Harper hasn’t gone on to become the best player in baseball – that would be one Mike Trout – Harper isn’t far behind. Since debuting from the Nats at the age of 19, the left-handed hitter has gone on to make the National League All-Star team in 5 of his 6 seasons, and he was named 2015 NL Most Valuable Player.

Not many players reach free agency at the age of 26, so Harper will have a chance to cash in on a massive contract. One potential red flag is that Harper has already gone on the disabled list 3 times in his career, so he does have some injury background. Still, one would imagine most teams will gladly overlook that in any contract negotiations. He is also represented by super agent Scott Boras, who famously helped Alex Rodriguez land a 10-year, $252 million deal from the Texas Rangers 18 years ago.

Most believe Harper’s next deal will surpass baseball’s current most lucrative contract, the 13-year, $325 million pact Giancarlo Stanton inked with the Miami Marlins in 2014. Harper will also almost surely surpass the league’s highest average annual value record, held by Arizona’s Zack Greinke. Greinke will make $34.4 million per year with the Diamondbacks.

When you think of which teams are capable of breaking the bank for Harper, the and Los Angeles Dodgers immediately jump to the top of the list. The Yankees adding Harper would almost be unfair, especially considering this year’s team is already on pace to break Major League Baseball’s single-season home run record. An outfield of Harper, Stanton and Aaron Judge sure does sound ridiculous.

It won’t be easy, however, as the Yanks already have huge money committed to Stanton. That said, most of the rest of the big league roster is young and inexpensive. Outside of Stanton, Masahiro Tanaka, Aroldis Chapman and the Jacoby Ellsbury albatross, the Yankees really aren’t on the hook for a ton of money moving forward. New York is a tremendous value to land Harper here at +750. If there’s an American League franchise out there that can take on Harper, it’s New York.

The Dodgers are also monied, and their moves from this past winter indicate that they’re setting themselves up to be players on the market this time around. It’s interesting that the Cubs are listed as favorites. Chicago is another team full of youngsters that isn’t paying more than a few players big money, and Harper does go way back to childhood with third baseman Kris Bryant. Could the allure of teaming up with his childhood pal be enough to lure Harper to the Windy City?

The Nationals would surely like to retain their franchise cornerstone, but they may not have the funds necessary to keep him around. The Nats have already committed big money to a handful of players. While losing Harper will obviously hurt, there is enough talent already on the roster to where his departure wouldn’t necessarily be a devastating blow. This appears to be his final season in Washington.

The Yankees make for the top value play here at +750. I also like the Dodgers at +350, followed by the Cubs at +150.

Manny Machado

  • Philadelphia Phillies +150
  • New York Yankees +350
  • Chicago Cubs +850
  • St. Louis Cardinals +900
  • Atlanta Braves +1000
  • Chicago White Sox +1500
  • Los Angeles Dodgers +2000
  • Arizona Diamondbacks +2000

The Baltimore Orioles are mired in an absolutely disastrous season. With Manny Machado set to become a free agent after the season and with their prospects of re-signing him looking slim, a trade would seem to be in the O’s best interests. If he is moved at the deadline, will the team trading for him try to re-sign him, or will he be used as a rental?

Machado’s landing spot at the deadline could certainly go a long way toward determining where he will sign once he’s free. Whichever team trades for Machado this season will be doing so with the hopes that he’s the final piece of the championship puzzle, or they’ll be doing so in order to get a leg up in potential contract talks.

The Phillies’ front office is laden with people that used to work in Baltimore. Those same people liked what they saw in Jake Arrieta enough to sign him as a free agent this past winter. Could another Oriole follow in Arrieta’s footsteps? Philly has youngsters in Maikel Franco and J.P. Crawford currently occupying the left side of the infield. Still, the Phils could stand to add a thunderous bat like Machado’s so they’ll find a way to make it work if he wants to come to Philadelphia.

One at +1500. The Sox are in the midst of an aggressive rebuild, but some of the top prospects are starting to trickle into the majors. This team has money to burn, and Machado could come in and instantly become the new face of the franchise. An infield of Machado, Jose Abreu, Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson looks promising on paper.

Some expect the Diamondbacks to be another team with interest in acquiring Machado via trade this season. Arizona has a lefty-heavy lineup that could stand to add some right-handed thunder, and the O’s shortstop would certainly fit the bill. We saw the D-Backs get aggressive in free agency a couple of years ago with Greinke, so we know this is a franchise willing to splash the cash on players they want.

The Yankees and Cubs are understandably involved, but I could see Machado landing somewhere more off-the-board. The Phillies are the favorites at +150, and they also make the most sense. Don’t sleep on the White Sox at +1500 or the Diamondbacks at +2000, either.

Clayton Kershaw

  • Los Angeles Dodgers EVEN
  • Texas Rangers +250
  • New York Yankees +1000
  • Los Angeles Angels +1500
  • Philadelphia Phillies +2500
  • Boston Red Sox +2500
  • San Francisco Giants +3000

Clayton Kershaw will have a decision to make this winter. He has the ability to opt into his current contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers that will pay him $65 million over the next 2 seasons. That’s certainly a healthy chunk of change, so it would be somewhat risky for the left-hander to decline his option and hit the market.

Kershaw’s decision is likely to hinge on what happens this season. He’s gotten off to a ragged start, and he has already endured a couple of separate stints on the disabled list. He has still posted decent numbers this season, but they are a bit lackluster given the former Cy Young winner’s lofty standards. Now 30, Kershaw figures to have plenty of solid years remaining in his career.

One chief concern here is his back, which has flared up and given him problems again this season. Back injuries have a way of lingering, and Kershaw has been dogged by back problems for the last several years. It’s hard to imagine Kershaw’s market being all that active if he still has major injury question marks lingering.

The prevailing rumor is that Kershaw will have interest in if he is to leave L.A. The Rangers aren’t particularly close to World Series contention these days, but Texas does have plenty of money to spend, and they will be interested in adding some marquee attractions when they open their new ballpark in a few years. Adding a pitcher of Kershaw’s caliber, who happens to have Dallas-area connections, would help put butts in the seats.

The smart money is on Kershaw staying with the Dodgers, however. Even if he opts out, he could always ink a new, long-term deal to stay in Tinseltown. Dodgers owner Mark Walter has already said in the past that he wants to keep Kershaw a “Dodger for life,” and it would make sense for the team to keep the star lefty in the only organization he’s ever known. The Dodgers are primed to compete for titles for years to come, so staying in Los Angeles is probably Kershaw’s best shot at winning a World Series moving forward.

I like the Dodgers at even money here to retain Kershaw. The Rangers are the only other option that looks even halfway realistic at this point, but I’d consider Texas to be more of a long shot than a legitimate contender for his services.

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