After free agent infielder Manny Machado reached a deal to sign with the San Diego Padres on Tuesday, the baseball world remains in waiting for former Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper to find a team willing to offer him what — according to some reports cited by the Inquisitr — could be a contract worth in excess of $400 million. While the Philadelphia Phillies have been widely considered the top contender for Harper’s services, there could be a “mystery team” also interested.
“It seems other interested teams haven’t been told they are out,” wrote MLB Network “insider” Jon Heyman on Twitter. “That includes Padres, Nats, Giants, Chisox, multiple mystery teams.”
But which “mystery team” might that be?
Acccording to SB Nation columnist Matt Lyons, one “mystery team” in contention for Bryce Harper could be a team that had previously expressed an interest in acquiring him — the Cleveland Indians.
Lyons points out that in the 2016-2017 offseason, the Indians surprised baseball fans by emerging at the last moment to sign then-Toronto Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion, who — during that cycle — was the most sought-after free agent available.
Harper, of course, will demand far more than the $60 million, three-year deal the Indians handed to Encarnacion. But according to Lyons, the economics of even a hefty Harper contract may work for the Indians.
Lyons notes that, according to Forbes, the Indians are currently valued at $1.045 billion, with revenues of $284 million and an operating income of $31 million. In addition, Lyons notes, owners Paul and Larry Dolan have owned the team since 2000 — and have operated debt-free for years.
After shedding Francisco Lindor’s contract in 2021, the Indians have “somewhere between $30-$50 million to play with every year,” Lyons wrote — meaning the Indians have the opportunity to offer Harper “a massive deal over three years.”
“Give the man something absolutely bonkers like three years, $120 million and just accept that you’re going to [be] paying $40 million per year for the chance to win a World Series by 2021. That alone would raise the Indians’ payroll this year to around $150 million, or 10th in baseball behind the Houston Astros,” Lyons wrote.
Buzz on Twitter over the possibility that Harper could end up in Cleveland also began to heat up on Wednesday.
Bryce Harper to the Indians is picking up momentum my sources tell me
— Edward ⚾ (@iTechCaptain) February 20, 2019
Currently convincing myself that the Indians are gonna sign Bryce Harper. World Series here we come
— blake (@blake_benko) February 20, 2019
On Wednesday, one Indians fan started a GoFundMe page to — in presumably tongue-in-cheek fashion — raise money for Cleveland to sign Harper. The GoFundMe campaign has a funding goal of $40 million. But after the first seven hours, no donations had been received.
The Indians’ interest in Harper, at least in theory, is well-known. Cleveland and Washington held discussions on trading Harper to the Indians at last season’s trade deadline, but the talks fizzled out, according to MLB.com.