Blue Jays Free Agent Fantasy Land: A futile argument to pursue Bryce Harper

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 29: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals hits a seventh inning single against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on September 29, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 29: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals hits a seventh inning single against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on September 29, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) /

I’m aware that it’s not going to happen, but believe it not, there’s a really legitimate argument for why the Blue Jays should pursue Bryce Harper in free agency.

Now that the offseason is officially upon us, it’s more realistic to start dreaming about free agent additions, and how your team could look come 2019.

To those of you who are reading this, thank you for getting beyond the title of the article without insulting me. I’m aware that the Blue Jays have next to no chance of signing Bryce Harper this offseason, and I’m also painfully aware that the front office likely wouldn’t be handed those significant resources for one player, even if they wanted to do such a thing.

So just to recap: I’m not saying the Blue Jays are going to pursue Bryce Harper this winter. Cool?

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The reason I titled this as “Free Agency Fantasy” is because we’re allowed to dream about our favourite teams. That’s why fantasy sports exist, and why grown men and women spend several hours a week playing video games. It’s fun to think about.

With that in mind, I think I could make a legitimate argument for signing Bryce Harper, even if that chances of it happening are next to none.

1) The Blue Jays could afford it

Yes, they still have to finish paying for the contracts of Troy Tulowitzki, Russell Martin, Kendrys Morales, and a few more, but they’re all coming to an end within the next season or two. In terms of 2019, they’re expected to have a significantly reduced payroll from the 160-odd million they’ve spent in recent seasons, maybe even reduced as much as 50 million.

Harper is going to be extremely expensive as a free agent, there’s no doubt about that. There’s a good chance he’s going to be seeking at least a 10 year deal, as he’s a rare premium free agent hitting the market in his mid-twenties. There have been astronomical figures thrown around in the rumour mill in the past, but I think it’s safe to say that his value came down a little bit this season after a tough first half.

The highest paid player in the game this year was Clayton Kershaw at just over 35 million, and I have sincere doubts that Harper would settle for anything less than that. It’ll all depend on the market of course, but he’s going to make a serious run at 400 million, depending on the length of the deal. I don’t think he’ll quite get there, but it wouldn’t shock me either.

It would require building around Harper’s massive salary, but with a young and inexpensive core coming up it would be a task that could be handled.

2) The perfect bash brother for Vlad Jr. 

The future of the Blue Jays is going to have a whole lot of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the highlight reels, and he will is almost certainly going to arrive early in 2019. While there are plenty of premium talents in the minor league system like Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, and more, imagine a lineup that had Harper and Guerrero hitting 2-3, or 3-4.

It appears that the Blue Jays have a pretty stacked infield picture going forward, but it’s not quite the same in the outfield. 2019 will be a big year for the futures of several of their outfield options, including Randal Grichuk, Kevin Pillar, Billy McKinney, Teoscar Hernandez, and likely several others. There is some talent there, but with all due respect, it’s not to the same level that a 3B-SS-2B combo like Guerrero/Gurriel/Bichette should provide down the line.

Harper could fit in an outfield corner in Toronto for years to come, and would be an amazing compliment to the other young talent at Charlie Montoyo‘s disposal. I realize he would fit into any lineup in baseball with the talent he possesses, but in Toronto it would make an especially good fit. Dreaming on a top three of Bichette-Harper-Guerrero is almost too much.

3) The market may not be as good as Harper hopes

It only takes one willing GM, and there will definitely be suitors, but I don’t know that Harper is going to get as much money as we all thought he would a couple years ago. Remember the speculation that he could ask for 500 million?

Things have drastically changed as far as how front offices handle things, even since then. And while the 26 year old should be immune from it to some degree, the idea of signing a contract of a decade or longer will scare GM’s, even if it’s for a talent like him.

Elite contracts like this are generally left to the major players as well, and I would expect the usual suspects to be in the conversation. The Cubs are generally seen as a possible destination, the Dodgers always have money to spend, and the same could be said for the Yankees. I wouldn’t rule out the Nationals bringing him back as long as the contract doesn’t get completely out of hand either.

However, the Nationals do have other options in their outfield, and so do the Yankees and Dodgers. Every team likes a good upgrade of course, but when you’re talking about a guy that could actually be seeking 40 million per year, you have to consider how the rest of your roster is build. both now and in the future. That could leave Harper looking for more serious suitors to drive up his value, and if a world existed where the Blue Jays actually considered such a thing, they might even get a “discount” on what some folks believe Harper should ultimately get.

4) Investing in the future has never made more sense

You don’t get elite prospects like Guerrero Jr., Bichette, or even pitchers like Nate Pearson, or Eric Pardinho all the time. I realize that none of those names have arrived at the big league level yet, and they still have a lot to prove, but I think the Blue Jays are aware that they could be on the verge of something special.

I would bet almost anything on a slow rebuild in Toronto, but if there was any splashy signing that would make sense this offseason it would be a long term investment like Harper. He would be around and in his prime by the time the kids arrived and were ready to push the Blue Jays back into contention, and he’s young enough that he would fit in perfectly with the rest of the core. They could also use the left-handed bat, as inconsequential as that sounds when you’re talking about a hitter like Harper.

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Again, I’m not suggesting that the Blue Jays will actually be in the market for Harper this offseason, nor do I think he would join a team on the cusp of a rebuild. However, if for some stupid reason all of the stars aligned, there are actually quite a few good reasons to make it happen. You have to admit, it’s fun to think about.