Bryce Harper with the Jays?


The reason I decided to do a Bryce Harper article in this post is twofold – first, Alex Athopolous has said he will spend like as much as it takes to get the best talent on the Jays club during the 2010 draft, approximating the expenditure to about $26 million, and second, because Bryce Harper might just price himself out of everyone’s range. Now, there’s a catch to all that I’m about to say – Bryce Harper is a client of Scott Boras, and the Jays have never been a team to aggressively pursue Boras clients, so all of this could be for naught.

Also, there are some arguments that a ton of teams don’t want someone with his attitude on their roster. Not because he doesn’t have the talent, we all know he’s a phenom that has progressed beyond anything we’ve seen at his age. It’s because he’s extra cocky (makes it an art form), is the making of Scott Boras in a baseball uniform, is extremely influenced by all that Boras says (sort of like Johnny Damon and Alex Rodriguez), and he could fall flat on his face because of this. Before I quote Jim Callis from Baseball America, I just thought we should consider this: Travis Snider was hyped up, glorified, and was told that he was “the franchise” when he made the big leagues. His bat was unquestioned and he was supposed to step into the lineup and be a huge part of it right away. He didn’t come close (so far) and admitted himself that his problems were attributed to his refusing to take on instruction and the fact that he’d never failed before and didn’t know how to handle it. Instead, he painted himself into a corner, ignored what everyone said, and tried to swing his way out of it. I would argue that Snider is more level headed and about half as cocky as Harper is, so how in the world can any team expect to teach Harper something once teams find holes in his swing? How do you approach a phenom? How would he react to being 7th or below in the lineup?

So I guess the biggest question of all is: are there going to be holes in Harper’s swing and can he adjust or be taught how to get out of it? If there are few, and he can adjust or be taught, then great! Select him ASAP in the draft, because it won’t matter who his agent is. However, if there will be issues with both, is he worth the headache and attention?

Jim Callis was asked the following question and answered it on an ESPN Chat:

“Tim (Durban South Africa)

Could Nationals go with Taillon or Ranaudo over Harper?

Jim Callis
(2:12 PM)

Sure they could. I’ll do a column on this at some point, but I don’t think it’s far-fetched to conceive of Bryce Harper falling out of the first round. It’s going to be almost impossible to live up to the hype, and if he falls short and is looking for big money–is Strasburg’s contract a starting point–he may scare off clubs, who know he can re-enter the 2011 and 2012 drafts and still have lots of leverage. It’s also possible that after spending $15.1 million on Strasburg, the Nationals don’t want to spend huge money on another No. 1 overall pick.”

Jim Callis knows a lot more about baseball, prospects, the draft, and team mentality in approaches to the draft than I do or ever will know. So if he’s saying that Harper could fall out fo the first round, could he also be grabbed in the 11th spot by the Jays? I say: why not?

The first 10 drafting teams are as follows:

  1. Nationals (could conceivably sign him, but they may be leery to spend that much, as Jim said, and they do have Derek Norris coming up the ladder – a very promising catching prospect)
  2. Pirates (selected Tony Sanchez last season, so they don’t need a catcher and are “cheap” most often in the draft)
  3. Orioles (already have Matt Wieters, but could play Harper elsewhere)
  4. Royals (the first team on this list I believe could go for Harper – although they passed on Wieters in ’07 to grab Moustakas instead……the price difference there was $2 million… I still doubt they’ll take him)
  5. Indians (always have money issues – hence the trading of Sabathia and Lee, so I can’t see it)
  6. Diamondbacks (see Indians)
  7. Mets (It certainly would make them more appreciated and would bring attention in NY. Whether or not the $$$ woes hurt their chances remains to be seen, but I could see them grabbing Bryce)
  8. Astros (No way, they have Jason Castro as their catcher of the future and the money isn’t there)
  9. Padres (See Astros – they’d rather spend $7 million on 15 international players than more than $15 million on 1 guy)
  10. Athletics (Did spend big on Ynoa, but Kurt Suzuki is there, young, and cheap, but I’d never count Billy out)
  11. Blue Jays – Have already committed $26 million to the draft….18 to Bryce and 8 to the rest?

Would Alex Anthopolous want to add a guy like Bryce Harper to the Jays? How would he fit in with the current core of players? Most importantly, listen to some of the information he gives in an interview he did with Bryson Kerr in October here. Do you want to bring in a guy who already said he wants to play for the Yankees? He mentions going to College and all of these other points, but we all know he wants the big contract. I thought I head at the end of the interview that he says “hopefully I don’t go to the Orioles”, in reference to the presence of Matt Wieters who is there catching. Just before that, Bryce complimented his catching skills and stated that “he can swing it a little bit”. Hmmm, really?

If you want more insight into his story, you can visit “The Bryce Harper Insider” site and get some pretty detailed information. It’s unclear who is doing the writing, but the site is decent in getting to know how he got to where he is.

In my mind, I have to admit that I believe there’s a 5% chance he could drop to the Jays in the 2010 draft. However, also in my mind is the fact that if he does make it to the Jays, that there’s a 70% chance they will grab him and sign him. It’s hard to see any team pass up a chance at a phenom. The Nationals didn’t pass up on the first one that crossed their path, and the Cubs have been known to allow themselves to overspend if the player is right (spent $7.25 million on Jeff Samardzija who was selected 149th overall in the 2006 draft).

What would it potentially mean for the Jays if they did land Harper? It would mean the Yankees, Orioles, Red Sox, and Rays don’t get him. It would allow them to build a very potent lineup for the 2013 or so season, with matured bats in Brett Wallace and Travis Snider, a powerful 2B in Aaron Hill, and Adam Lind‘s bat at DH. It would give them a powerful 5 players that could help them compete a lot more effectively in the AL East. Should Henderson Alvarez, Chad Jenkins, and Kyle Drabek provide the support we expect to the pitching staff, the Jays would solidify their competitiveness for a very long time. Do I think it will happen? No. Would I like it to happen? Definitely. Drafting Harper would bring so much media, money, and attention to Toronto that other teams would envy them. Ratings would go up, jerseys would sell like crazy, and the Rogers Center would have a lot more butts in the seats when he makes his debut.

I still give this a 5% chance of happening. And I still contend that there are viable reasons to not want Harper on the Jays. However, he is perhaps a once in a generation talent, and the Jays have the money. There isn’t much time left before the draft, so we’ll keep an ear to the ground to see what his expectations in terms of a contract are and whether some teams fall out of the market for him. Even if there ends up being holes in his swing, and if he rattles some coaches because of his attitude, he’ll still bring back a very good return on investment for the Jays financially and should at the very minimum match the skills of a Jesus Montero if we’re to believe what the scouts are saying.

Who can afford Harper? Whoever wants to and has the patience and fortitude to help him through the pressure and process. Who can’t afford him – anyone who doesn’t believe they can and that will end up losing him to the Yankees due to contract demands as a result.

Updates on this will follow, along with a full draft preview!