The hot rumor from yesterday is that the Giants are likely to make a run at Bryce Harper next off-season.
First, let’s temper any enthusiasm this might engender.
- Several teams are going to go after Harper next winter.
- All the big $ teams will be in play to some degree.
- The frontrunner is currently the Cubs with the Nationals a close second.
- This contract is going to be absolutely insane (I’m going with somewhere between 10 years, $350 million, and 12 years, $500 million. Insane).
- Finally, John Heyman is not a Giants’ beat writer, comes from the national perspective, seems to enjoy linking the Giants to every free agent, and almost is never right (or always right because of his widely thrown nets).
Which raises an interesting question for me: do the Giants seem to fail at signing the big names because they aren’t really that interested (and the interest is manufactured by national writers like Heyman looking to fill column space and get some clicks), or is there a real issue here with not being able to close these deals?
That’s a question for another post. For now, let’s indulge some sweet, sweet Bryce Harper fantasies.
Could/Should/Would this happen?
Let’s start here: the Giants have worked really hard this offseason to get under the competitive balance tax (the “cap”). If they stick to this plan it will prove to be a very wise move when it comes to signing a Bryce Harper type mega-contract. The reset will allow them to go over the threshold again, but with a fresh start. The CBA will be redone in a few years and who knows what that will look like. At least the Giants will be in good shape for a couple of years, and potentially really good shape depending on how the next negotiation goes.
While much has been made of the amount of money the Giants already have tied up in future contracts, they might actually be in decent shape to do this deal and extend Bumgarner, and, here comes the real crazy part, continue to get younger! This is where this off seasons moves really begin to make sense.
Next winter the Giants will say goodbye to Hunter Pence and Andrew McCutchen. That’s almost $33 million in AAV (average annual value) contracts gone right there. They also will likely say goodbye to Nick Hundly, and a few other small contracts, so let’s say that’s another $3-5 million off right there.
So, saying goodbye to those 3-5 players more or less creates room for Bryce Harper. Since this is an entirely optimistic post, let’s say he signs for the 10 year/$350 million deal.
But then, the Giants also extend Madison Bumgarner for, say, 10 years, $300 million. The press conference would champion how the team has the most expensive player and pitcher together for the next decade!
If going $30 million into the tax is too much for the Giants to handle, they will be in a much better position to trade a couple of players next offseason.
If this is your preferred vision of the future, you need to root for Brandon Belt to be healthy and have a good year. Brandon Belt for 3 years and $45 million might look pretty good to a few teams after the winter of 2018 dust settles.
Also, root for Jeff Samardzija and Mark Melancon. They will both have 2 years left on their current deals, and again, those deals may look pretty good to some teams come January of 2019.
I’m going to say the Giants move Samardzija and Belt next offseason (thanks to the emergence of Chris Shaw and Tyler Beede), which would mean that they would still have flexibility to add a few other pieces if need be.
Now, here’s where I really want to go with this post. The Giants always get slammed for going after veterans and this offseason is no exception. But, if Harper is the long play, this offseason’s moves are quite brilliant in their ability to stabilize the franchise and make the team competitive in the short-term (and it is very important to the long con that the Giants have a good 2018…Harper is not coming to a non-contendor/rebuild), while enabling them the flexibility to go big and kick open another decade long window of competitiveness by getting better and younger at the same time.
For the sake of example: the 2018 opening day lineup vs 2019 opening day lineup by age:
- Panik 2B…27 Duggar CF…25
- McCutchen RF…31 Posey C….32
- Posey C…31 Harper RF…26
- Belt 1B…29 Longoria 3B…33
- Longoria 3B…32 Shaw 1B…25
- Crawford SS…31 Slater LF…25
- Pence LF…34 Crawford SS…32
- Jackson CF…31 Panik 2B…28
Average age of 2018 starting lineup: 30.8 years old
Average age of 2019 starting lineup: 28.3 years old
Then there’s the potential, come 2020, for that lineup to get even younger with the addition of Heliot Ramos, who would be 20 years old for that season’s opening day.
Furthermore the pitching staff would get younger, most likely, with the subtraction of Jeff Samardzija.
This is obviously looking too far ahead, because who knows what will happen, but the main reason this rumor is interesting to me is not because I love Bryce Harper so much, but because if the Giants pull this off, it sheds a whole new light on the moves they’ve made in the past couple months.