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Perspectives on the Bryce Harper Signing

Well, they made this difficult in so many ways that my perspectives and thoughts are muddled and all over the place. Anyway, here goes…

I remain convinced that Bryce Harper would have added tremendously to the Yankees’ line-up. I still think he was the player to get. A young 26-year old superstar talent…oh, what could have been! I Believe that Bryce Harper would have thrived in New York. He is the type of player the Yankees have built their brand around – the big lefty slugger, the difference maker. He should be a Yankee. Absolutely. I’ll always have a sense of disappointment that he’s not a Yankee. If Harper helps the Phillies win a few World Series, or even just one (especially if the Yankees don’t win any), it will hurt. A lot. If Harper goes on to a Hall-of-Fame career, that too will hurt. A lot. The Yankees brand is one that celebrates the big stars, the championships, the Hall-of-Famers. Here was a chance to get one. The Yankees let it pass. More regrettably, they didn’t even try to get him. That part of this is very frustrating. They didn’t even try.

This winter, as the Yankees passed on Patrick Corbin, Manny Machado, and Bryce Harper, they made it very clear that a new era has arrived in the Bronx. I can embrace this new philosophy if the Yankees are clear about their new direction. I just don’t want to hear that the team is “all about winning,” that they’re a “fully operational death star” or any of that nonsense. Don’t play us for fools. Those days are now in the past. The Yankees spending big to get the best talent days are over. OK. I’m actually fine with that. This will all be great if the new approach works. If we see the Yankees in the post season year after year (because that’s what is supposed to be the Yankees’ goal) I’m fine with the new approach. On the other hand, if the Yankees enter a period of mediocrity after passing on generational talents, I won’t be good with it. I just won’t. The decisions made this winter were franchise defining ones. If the approach to stay out of the running for the big stars doesn’t work, this winter will have to be considered a failure. The opportunity to sign 26-year-old superstars has now passed for quite a few years – maybe forever. Who will the next 26-year old great free agent even be? When will that happen? Who knows? And when that player comes, will the Yankees also be in a position with an equally young core? I doubt it. The chance was there, in some ways, a once-in-a-lifetime aligning of the stars. The Yankees let it pass. Again, I trust Brian Cashman. He’s a great General Manager. He knows more than I do. A lot more. That being said, these were undoubtedly franchise altering decisions. If the current core wins a few championships, Cashman and the Yankees decision makers will be proven correct. If it doesn’t work, and if Harper/Machado/Corbin lead their teams to pennants, then I hope the Yankees decision makers, including Cashman say, “You know, we had the chance to get those guys and we blew it.” The Yankees had the chance to vastly improve their chances to be a dominant team over the next five to ten years. They decided to go with a different approach. I’ll trust that they are correct, but if they’re not, it’ll be only fair to point that out.

The fact that Harper signed for thirteen years seems…unreasonable. That’s a long long long time. I don’t like ten-year contracts (but I would have given him one), but thirteen years? Yikes! Because of the length of the contract it becomes easier to say, “The Yankees were right to pass on that.” I have to be fair and acknowledge that I am glad the Yankees didn’t sign a player to a thirteen year contract. The contract length seems absurd.

On the other hand, I admire Harper for not having an opt-out put into the contract. He made it clear that he wants to be a member of the Philadelphia Phillies for life. That is admirable. The Phillies committed to him and he committed to them. Good for both of them.

The fact that the annual salary was $25.3 million rather than over $30 million makes me a little frustrated that the Yankees didn’t enter the picture. Again, thirteen years is a long time and I’m not sure I would have been happy with that, but $25.3 million doesn’t seem too high on an annual basis for a player of Harper’s stature. Teams are still paying players these large sums which means that by their accounting, the players are worth this much – and more. If a win is worth $9 million dollars, in order to break even on the deal Bryce Harper doesn’t even have to be a three win player each year. Because of this, the salary and the years doesn’t seem unreasonable. Figuring inflation, that annual figure should seem a lot less by the end of the contract. Somehow, at $330 million, the Harper contract isn’t the albatross it could have been.

Still, as much as I wanted him in New York… as much as I wanted teams to see a line-up that included….Judge, Harper, Stanton – in that order, I’m not as frustrated about the Yankees not getting him as I thought I would be today. Part of me (a small part) is happy the Yankees showed some restraint. (As I said, this whole thing has caused a confluence of emotions and reactions.)

The Yankees deserve credit for seeking ways to improve the team. They actually did have an active off-season. They brought in a bunch of interesting players. They are “going for it,” just not in the ways that used to define the franchise. Again, maybe this new approach will work. I hope so. With so many teams, already looking to be not competitive, it’s hard to imagine the Yankees not winning a ton of games this year. The Yankees should have a great year and a great many years ahead of them. Maybe if there were more teams going for it, the Yankees would have seen more of a need to build a super team. That could be. With Harper, Machado, and Corbin, the Yankees would have been a powerhouse. It would have seemed unfair. With any one of those players, the Yankees would have still been much better. But maybe, and it seems likely, that those guys, together, or individually, aren’t really needed to push the Yankees to the next level. In many ways, the Yankees are already at the next level. Would those players have pushed the needle? Yes, of course, but maybe not as much as I would have hoped. The Yankees will already be competing for the pennant. No player or players will guarantee a World Series. Even signing all three (which I never advocated) wouldn’t have guaranteed a thing. The Yankees are already crazy good. Crazy good.

I just wish the Yankees had been active players in the sweepstakes. I want the Yankees to be THE YANKEES, the team that is always in on every great player. I love it when superstars are brought to the Bronx. It’s part of why I love being a Yankees fan.

One last thought on the opt-out… There were a plethora of “experts” that all but guaranteed the Harper contract would have an opt-out, or multiple opt-outs. They were wrong. We often pretend, believe, or hope that the “experts” know things that they don’t. Often times the experts are just speculating as much as anybody else. We just take their perspectives as facts even though they too are merely guessing and speculating.

I thought I’d be more disappointed that Bryce Harper isn’t a Yankee. For some reason I’m not. Maybe that’s because this process played out for so long. It was actually exhausting. This winter wasn’t a good one for baseball because the joy and fun that comes with free agency was way too drawn out. It took too long for these things to play out. Rather than creating excitement, the process created frustration, hopelessness, and boredom. Rumors can be fun, but eventually things have to happen. The fact that the biggest stars didn’t sign for so long slowed the rest of the off-season and all the trades, signings, and fun. All of that creates year round interest in the sport. It creates good discussions. That’s the fun of the off-season. Baseball, as a whole, lost out on that this winter because it was held up, for whatever reasons, by two superstar players who took forever to sign.

Again, I’ll give the Yankees a lot of credit for their efforts this winter. While most other teams did nothing, the Yankees actually made quite a few moves. They were active. They signed players. They extended some contracts. It is clear that there is a desire to build a great team. Most teams slept through the winter, to their credit, the Yankees didn’t.

I just hope the Yankees did the right thing. It’s been a long time since they have won a World Championship. In “Yankee years,” a decade is forever – a lifetime. It’s time to win.

I would have done it differently, but I do acknowledge that passing on these gigantic contracts just might have been the smart approach. Maybe that’s why I’m okay with this. I have a sense of relief that other teams will be burdened by these huge deals.

I will always want the Yankees to get all the great players. Always. When I was a kid, I liked Superman, Batman, and all those guys individually, but I thought they were even better when they were on the same team in the Justice League of America. I love it when all the best players play for my team. I guess I bring that hope to my baseball fandom, even as I get old.

It’s now time to move on. I am very excited about the 2019 Yankees. I hope this is THE year! Let’s go Yankees!!!



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