John Harper, for SNY.tv | Twitter |
Just because Scott Boras is making the case that Bryce Harper could solve the Yankees' first-base problem doesn't mean Brian Cashman should come running with an open checkbook.
But at the very least it's an intriguing thought, one the team in the Bronx can't afford to dismiss.
After all, can anyone say with certainty that Greg Bird will overcome his recent injury history and slumping ways at the plate to become the star slugger the Yankees once envisioned?
And if not, who will be their lefty thumpers, especially with Didi Gregorius out for at least the first half of the season?
Aaron Hicks and Brett Gardner?
A franchise famous for its lefthanded home-run power has never featured a lineup as righthanded as the one shaping up for 2019. And while the likes of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton obviously can take advantage of the short right-field porch, we've also seen that elite righthanded pitching can make Stanton practically a non-factor.
So imagine hitting Harper in the No. 3 spot, between Judge and Stanton. Or simply imagine the numbers he could put up at the Stadium.
I can't say the Yankees would be foolish to pass up the opportunity, because obviously it's going to take a huge commitment. Indeed, with reports emerging that the Nationals made a big offer late in the season and remain interested, along with at least a few other teams, Harper might just get a 10-year deal worth well north of $300 million, as so many have suggested over the last couple of years.
Furthermore, I've already written that I think Daniel Murphy is a perfect fit for the Yankees as the type of high-contact lefthanded bat that made the Red Sox so tough to beat in October.
Still, there's no denying that Harper could have a greater impact, never mind the rock-star factor that he would add, which always matters in the Bronx.
Indeed, that's a big part of the reason Stanton is here, except Harper is a better hitter who won't necessarily be overmatched in October.
All in all, then, perhaps the most important point is that after so much speculation about Manny Machado, I think it would make more sense to sign the lefty power hitter.
For one thing, while Harper has long been considered the more polarizing personality and doesn't always run hard on routine ground balls, Machado's glaring lack of hustle and dirty play on the big stage of the post-season would give me far more pause about how he'd handle the scrutiny of playing in New York.
Meanwhile, Harper wants so badly to play with the Yankees as a way of honoring his father's idolization of Mickey Mantle, as he has indicated over the years, I believe he'd embrace the culture of accountability in the Bronx and fit in well.
And I base that that opinion at least partly on what a former teammate of his with the Nationals, someone who didn't want to be quoted by name, told me.
"The thing about Bryce is that he's always wanted to lead but he really doesn't know how," the ex-teammate said. "He's a little awkward like that, and he was immature in some ways.
"But he really does have a thing about Mickey Mantle and the Yankees, everybody in Washington knows that. I think if he went there he'd do everything he could to make the right impression.
"And they have big names and established leaders in that clubhouse, which would be good for him. He could relax and just go do damage."
The Yankee brass has always had reservations about Harper, seeing him as a self-centered personality, but if the ex-teammate is right, maybe it's more about him growing up and presenting a more likeable image.
Remember, he just turned 26 in October, which is a huge part of the appeal of signing him.
Even with a few significant injuries and a couple of extended slumps, he has a career .900 OPS to go with 184 home runs, and his best years could still be ahead of him.
And while he's almost certainly not going to give the Yankees a discount, Boras was practically begging for their interest on Tuesday when he talked on MLB Radio about how he believed Harper had the elite athleticism to easily make the transition from the outfield to first base.
For the moment, however, it's clear that Cashman's priority is pitching, to the point where it's possible he'll avoid making any type of big-splash move to add to the offense.
And that's OK if he is still absolutely convinced that Bird is the long-term answer at first base. In truth, though, as the injuries have mounted and Bird's long slump last year finally forced the Yankees to turn to Luke Voit, it's awfully hard to be sure of anything with him anymore.
Which leads to another question: Can this team win a championship without some big-time lefthanded power in the middle of the lineup?
If that question leads to sleepless nights for Cashman this winter, well, I wouldn't count him out just yet on Bryce Harper.