We’re more than a week into January and Bryce Harper and Manny Machado don’t have contracts. Harper and Machado are the centrepieces of what was supposed to be the Big Free Agent Class of 2019 that everybody was saving up to go completely HAM over. Yet, here we are. Nobody wants to spend the money to bring them in.
According to Joe Bowden, only four teams are seriously in on Harper and Machado. Four teams! That means 26 teams in the Major League Baseball simply aren’t interested in adding two MVP-calibre players to their lineup through free agency. Teams have pushed away because they aren’t interested in signing on for the 10-year deals worth $300 million that both players are looking for.
I can see why teams are skeptical of mega deals. The deal Albert Pujols was handed by the Angels is an albatross, as, to a lesser extent, are the deals that were given to Joey Votto and Robinson Cano. That said, Harper and Machado are both 26 years of age, meaning you’d be buying their late-20s and early-30s, rather than late-30s and some of the early 40s like those other aforementioned mammoth contracts.
Bowden mentions Toronto as one of the teams not in on Harper who should be in on him.
How about the Blue Jays, who have one of the best farm systems in baseball? That farm system is about to produce some of the best infield prospects in the game. You’re telling me that signing Harper right now wouldn’t be a good move for Toronto? The Jays have the best prospect in the game in Vladimir Guerrero Jr., along with other rising stars like shortstop Bo Bichette and infielders Cavan Biggio and Kevin Smith. What they lack are top outfield prospects. Harper would give them an incredible 1-2 punch with Guerrero for years to come and put Toronto back on the map as contenders.
I mean… he isn’t wrong. The Jays are loaded on the infield in terms of prospects, but there isn’t much going on in the outfield.
The group pencilled in thus far for next year’s outfield isn’t really inspiring. Randel Grichuk is the best of the bunch, but he only has two control years before he can hit free agency, which doesn’t really coincide with Toronto’s contention window. Kevin Pillar is a decent two-win player, but everyone wants him gone, and it’s fair to expect his defence will deteriorate as he ages and his bat won’t be able to compensate. Billy McKinney and Teoscar Hernandez are interesting young players but neither profiles to be anything more than a solid everyday type, at best.
Beyond next year? Like I said, Grichuk can become a free agent after the 2020 season, as can Pillar. In the higher levels of the system, there’s Anthony Alford, Dwight Smith Jr, Jonathan Davis, and Forrest Wall. Alford is the only one with real upside, but he had a terrible 2018 season that resulted in his status as a prospect taking a major hit.
After the 2019 season, the Jays’ books are pretty much wiped clean save for a $14 million sunk cost on Troy Tulowitzki. As the Large Adult Sons like Vlad, Bo, Danny Jansen, Lourdes Gurriel, and so on become the focal point of the team, the Jays will be dirt cheap, giving them a lot of financial flexibility to flesh out the roster. Mark Shapiro has said that the Blue Jays will spend money when they’re ready in order to argument their core of internally drafted and developed talent. But why not dive in right now? Obviously, adding Harper won’t make the Jays a contender like that, but it would be an addition that matches up with the organization’s long-term contention plans.
Will a player as good as Harper be available to the Jays when they finally decide it’s time to dive in after the 2020 or 2021 season? Will they be available at the price Harper is going to be available at this winter? We have a possible lockout on the horizon for the 2022 season as the current MLB CBA expires in December 2021 which could result in free agent contracts skyrocketing beyond what they are right now.
If other teams around the league aren’t interested in spending money, swoop in and take advantage. In no normal world would Bryce Harper signing with the Blue Jays being a thing, but this weird, anti-FA market has made it possible. I know it’s a pipe dream, but it actually makes a lot of sense. Get Bryce Harper in the mix. He fits a positional need, he would take pressure off the Large Adult Sons, he would inject life back into the stadium, he would drive ticket and merchandise sales, and he fits with the team’s contention window.