Yankees fans are flying high after trading for James Paxton, but New York doesn’t seem to be interested in paying up for Bryce Harper.
There’s a team out there who is going to spend a small fortune to acquire Bryce Harper this winter, but don’t expect it to be the New York Yankees. Brian Cashman is going out of his way to downplay any chance his team has of bringing in the former Nationals star.
Specifically, the crafty GM recently told the media that fans shouldn’t bet on the Yankees signing Harper because of the “amount of money he’s expected to get.” Most baseball industry insiders expect the bidding for the slugger to land somewhere in the neighborhood of a 10-year, $300 million contract. That might be an issue for the Yankees in terms of both years and dollars.
Harper is absolutely a player who could give Cashman’s team a boost, but it’s pretty obvious the Yankees have other priorities. Even after adding James Paxton to the rotation on Monday, Cashman has made it clear that his top priority is to add one more top-end starter to the mix.
That acquisition will likely come via free agency. Patrick Corbin and J.A. Happ are the two players at the top of Cashman’s wish list. Corbin is the top free agent pitcher on the market after enjoying a career year in Arizona in 2018.
Happ came to the Bronx just ahead of the Trade Deadline and was crucial for Aaron Boone’s club down the stretch. His poor start against the Red Sox in the ALDS might have damaged his stock with the Yankees slightly, but he’s still drawing significant interest from Cashman and company.
Neither player is going to commit his future to the Yankees without seeing a pretty substantial financial commitment coming their way. Corbin is likely going to seek a minimum of a five-year contract that will pay him in excess of $20 million per season. Happ will be a little cheaper due to his age, but he’ll still be looking for a multi-year deal that will pay him somewhere around $15 per year.
Don’t expect price to be a big issue when it comes to finishing out the rotation. Cashman has clearly identified starting pitching as this team’s weakness. If the Yankees want to catch the Red Sox in 2019, they’ll need at least five quality starters to deploy against their AL East rivals.
That puts Harper’s free agency in an awkward spot. At the very least, his representatives would like to use the Yankees as leverage to drive up his price for other teams. It’s obvious Cashman isn’t going to be leveraged in that way.
None of this means Harper coming to the Bronx is impossible, it’s just highly unlikely. The only way a move can realistically happen is if Harper’s market doesn’t quite materialize in the way he hopes it will. If the price disappoints, the Yankees may try to swoop in at the last moment and sign him.
In the end, Yankees fans should look elsewhere for their favorite team’s next move. The next transaction Cashman makes should be for another starting pitcher. That means the odds favor Harper signing a big money deal somewhere else this winter.