Hopefully, this is the week the Bryce Harper saga ends.
Many Phillies players are already in Clearwater getting ready for the start of spring training, but this Wednesday is the day when pitchers and catchers are due to report, and perhaps not coincidentally, Harper is reportedly close to making a decision on his next employer.
Decision week for Bryce in Vegas....This could be over by Thursday (Valentine's Day). Heard no more meetings. 3-4 teams are serious contenders. I assume that still includes #Nats but not 100% sure. Heard a week or so ago, they would get final chance to match. pic.twitter.com/r2gHhClqXU— Chris Russell (@Russellmania621) February 11, 2019
It’s unclear how reliable this report is, but it’s plausible that all the teams that are interested in signing Harper, to whatever contract they might be thinking, have made contact with him. It’s hard to imagine someone else jumping in at this point. One of the three or four teams likely in the mix to secure Harper’s services is undoubtedly the Phillies, but one of the others is very likely the San Francisco Giants.
And it seems as though momentum is building toward San Fran as a potential destination, at least according to the latest odds out of Vegas.
At the beginning of the off-season, the Giants were seen as a decent possibility, but they remained quiet all winter as they listened to trade offers for some of their veterans, like Madison Bumgarner, and spent less than $10 million on free agents. And now, here they are, trying to swoop in at the last minute and snag him at the 11th hour.
But as was reported Sunday night by USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, the Giants do not appear ready to offer a long-term deal to the slugging left-hander.
The Giants indeed plan to offer Harper a lucrative short-term deal, but have no desire to provide a long-term contract approaching the 10-year, $300 million contract Harper rejected from the Washington Nationals in September.
Like the San Diego Padres, the Giants appear willing to offer Harper a big-money, short-term deal, but would that be enough to convince him to play in the Bay?
Looking at the roster the Giants are slated to put out there in 2019, you see a team led by All-Star catcher Buster Posey, and solid players like Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford, a solid young starter in Dereck Rodriguez and Bumgarner. But they also have a decaying Evan Longoria at third, an inconsistent Joe Panik at second base, and outfielders named Chris Shaw, Steve Duggar and Austin Slater, names I did not make up, projected as their starters.
In fact, the roster is so weak, Oddsshark has set the over/under for San Francisco wins at 73.5. Now, while adding Harper would certainly make the Giants better, it likely only helps them become a team that reaches the upper 70s.
In other words, the Giants are not a playoff team. They also don’t appear to be prepared to offer the years and money that the Phillies are willing to (we assume, as we have not learned any details about potential contract offers made by the Phils).
In addition, Oracle Park is routinely one of the worst ballparks for home run hitters in baseball. Last year it ranked as the 2nd-worst home run park in baseball, something that doesn’t seem at all conducive to Harper’s offensive totals. Citizens Bank Park, on the other hand, ranked 4th-best, and Harper has raked in Philly to the tune of a career .930 OPS with 14 HRs in 50 career games there. In San Francisco, his career OPS in 19 games is .588.
So to sum up, the Phillies make way more sense than the Giants in virtually every way imaginable. San Francisco won’t be a playoff contender, will provide one of the worst hitting environments for Harper, and won’t offer as much money as Philadelphia. So why are they now the favorite to land Harper according to the oddsmakers?
It’s mystifying. The only thing that could jam things up is if Harper really wants to stay close to his Vegas home all season long. Is that enough to take a high AAV, low-length deal over a longer and more lucrative offer from a potential playoff team who will allow Harper to hit a million dingers and play in front of an equally rabid fanbase? Is that a deal Scott Boras would allow to happen if there were other options out there? Not only that, there is a 13% tax rate that Harper would be subjected to. That ain’t nothin’.
Logically, signing with the Giants makes no sense for Harper. But since when has anything gone to plan in this crazy off-season?
Check out the latest edition of “Hittin’ Season,” in which Justin Klugh, Liz Roscher and John Stolnis discuss the Harper/Giants rumors, talk about the potential fit of Dallas Keuchel, and give detailed over/under guesses on the rest of the NL East.
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