Bryce Harper currently commands the attention of all 30 teams in Major League Baseball. Projected to shatter the record books by signing the most lucrative contract in baseball’s history next offseason, the former National League MVP will have to embrace the circus that comes with being the most-sought slugger in the game.
While every baseball team in the MLB team might have some level of interest in the 25-year-old Harper, only a handful of teams have a legit shot at landing the superstar.
Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports recently released an early breakdown of the market for Harper. Unsurprisingly, big-market teams dominated the list of potential suitors with the Los Angeles Dodgers placed at the top of the totem pole.
The Dodgers also seem to be loading up for a massive deal after trading the lucrative contracts of Adrian Gonzalez, Brandon McCarthy, and Scott Kazmir to the Atlanta Braves for Matt Kemp. This particular transaction has put the Dodgers in position to avoid paying the luxury tax next season, enabling them to make a run at several big-name free agents or possibly lock up ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw to a long-term deal.
Heyman put the Dodgers a 3-1 favorite to land Harper next offseason, and it’s not only because of the team’s buying power. The FanRag baseball scribe thinks Dodgers president Stan Kasten would play a factor in the recruitment since he was the one who drafted Harper and another potential free agency target, Stephen Strasburg, during his time with the Nationals.
“Or they could sign Harper, who’s from Las Vegas, this winter, then Stephen Strasburg, who has the first of his two-opt outs next year. Dodgers president Stan Kasten was in Washington when both Harper and Strasburg were drafted.”
The Dodgers are coming off a World Series stint, succumbing to the Houston Astros in a thrilling seven-game series. Despite losing some of their key pieces in the offseason, this year’s team still has enough talent to make another serious run. However, acquiring a big bat like Harper would significantly extend their competitive window, keeping them in championship hunt for the next four to five years.
Of course, Kershaw’s ability to opt out from his contract after this season looms as the biggest hindrance to the Dodgers’ pursuit of Harper. As reported by Spotrac, the former Cy Young winner will pocket $33 million for this season and is eligible to earn roughly the same amount for the next two opt-out years. Dodgers owner Mark Walter wants his ace pitcher to play for his team for the remainder of his career, but locking him up now would put them out of contention for Harper.
There’s still a strong likelihood the Nationals retain the service of Harper. Then again, if they play small ball in contract negotiations, other teams like the Dodgers, the Phillies, the Cubs, the Yankees, and even the Red Sox are expected to take their chance on the game-changer.