The New York Yankees are back in a familiar spot, sitting in first place of the AL East. But while the Yankees have an outside shot to win their first World Series since 2009, the franchise and their fans may have to wait until 2019 before the team gets it swagger back.
While the Yankees are playing well, they are sitting on top of a weak division and they are doing with a bunch of older players who are playing out the end of contracts that everybody knew would be terrible at this point. The Yankees are also doing it without a face of the franchise, or at least one most people like (sorry, A-Rod).
That’s where 2019 comes in. The early speculation, led by Buster Olney of ESPN, is that Bryce Harper will eventually become a New York Yankee and that the move is not only possible, but inevitable.
Harper still has three more seasons after this one before he can become a free agent, and while a lot can happen in that time, there are few things moving in favour of the Yankees.
1. Bryce Harper is represented by noted free agencyphile Scott Boras.
Scott Boras is Harper’s agent and is well known for pushing his clients to not accept contract extensions, meaning they almost always at least test the free agency waters. This is terrible news for the Nationals who will lose the ability to control the negotiating process and will eventually have to compete against teams like the Yankees.
Boras also has a knack for not only convincing big market teams that they need his clients, but he also has a well-earned reputation of being able to get big market teams to bid against themselves, out-pricing the rest of baseball.
2. Bryce Harper’s marketing potential is Derek Jeter-ian.
Harper will never be Derek Jeter. But he has a personality that moves needles and that means he has the potential to be the face of the franchise that the team sorely lacks right now.
Not everybody loves him, but everybody has an opinion. In that sense, he is more Reggie Jackson than Jeter but that will still resonate in the Big Apple.
On top of that, he will be just 26 years old entering the prime of his career when he hits free agency.
3. Bryce Harper is the perfect player for Yankee Stadium
With that powerful left-handed stroke and the short-porch in right field at Yankee Stadium, Harper would thrive offensively and give Yankees fans a player who regularly challenges for the league lead in home runs.
There is also the minor detail that Harper grew up a Yankees fan and it a noted admirer of their history.
4. The Yankees may be the only team that will be able to afford Harper.
Here is where it gets interesting. Olney speculates that Harper may be worth “north of $US40 million per year” when he hits free agency.
On the surface that sounds absurd. But both Clayton Kershaw and Jon Lester will make $US30 million this year. Meanwhile, Harper will likely be one of the two of three best position players in baseball, and he’ll hit free agency at a much younger age than most.
More importantly, the Yankees’ ageing roster is setting up perfectly to make a run at Harper after the 2018 season.
Here are several key (and expensive) players who have contracts that will expire before 2019:
- CC Sabathia — $US24.3 million salary in 2015 (contract through 2016 season)
- Mark Teixeira — $US23.1 million (contract through 2016 season)
- Alex Rodriguez — $US22.0 million (contract through 2017 season)
- Brian McCann — $US17.0 million (contract through 2018 season)
- Carlos Beltran — $US15.0 million (contract through 2016 season)
- Chase Headley — $US13.0 million (contract through 2018 season)
- Brett Gardner — $US12.5 million (contract through 2018 season)
That is $US126.9 million worth of annual salaries that will no longer be on the books in the 2019 season. On top of that, pitcher Masahiro Tanaka is making $US22.0 million and has a clause in his contract that would allow him to opt out after the 2017 season.
In the meantime, the Nationals still have more than three seasons to enjoy the growing greatness that is Bryce Harper. But that may be it and the end is in sight.
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