Forget about the 2018 baseball season for a second. Sure, games will be won and lost. There will be trades, amazing moments, bat flips, heartbreak, champions, and everything else that comes with an MLB season. But a lot of fans (and team executives) are already looking ahead to the winter, where one of the most talented classes of free agents will be hitting the open market together.
While the likes of Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson will attract a lot of attention in the coming offseason, we want to focus on the one player who might be the biggest fish of them all. Bryce Harper will likely sign one of the richest contracts in baseball history, if not the largest one ever — the number $400 million has been thrown around without any degree of exaggeration.
Harper is still just 25-years-old and already has five All-Star appearances and a National League MVP trophy. He can do it all — hit for power and average, field, throw, and even steal a few bases. A lot of teams have been stockpiling their spare dollars in an attempt to woo Harper into their clubhouse. The way we see it, these 12 teams are the front runners.
12. Philadelphia Phillies
Yes, the Phillies have been among the worst teams in the MLB lately, so why would Harper want to go there? Well, the answer comes down to the almighty dollar. The Phillies are a very large market team with almost no money on the books, so can likely throw a number at Harper that other teams would be reluctant to match. They have also made some decent moves recently, like signing premier free agent like Carlos Santana and former Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta. If the Phillies are serious about contending again (they made back-to-back World Series in 2008 and 2009 but haven’t made the playoffs since 2011), don’t be shocked if they become a big player in the Battle for Bryce.
11. New York Mets
While they are definitely the “little brother” in New York, they are still a New York-based team and that’s attractive for many players seeking a large market. They were a pretty bad team on the field in 2017, but do have some talented players across the diamond and have some young talent too — especially in the pitching department. They also spend just slightly more than average for an MLB team, so they have some room to spend with the big boys if they choose. Sure, this might be one of the more unlikely landing spots in this article, but crazier things have happened and Harper could very well could become a Met.
10. San Francisco Giants
The Giants are never afraid to throw their money around. They made a couple decent moves and acquired the likes of Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria this past winter, but largely whiffed on the big players like Giancarlo Stanton and Shohei Ohtani. They are going to learn from those misses and likely throw a giant offer at Harper to hopefully entice him to sign on the West Coast. One negative is that AT&T Park isn’t known for being a hitter-friendly park. Then again, Barry Bonds managed to hit just fine while playing there. The team is in a bit of a rebuild, so only time will tell if they try and turn Harper into the face of that rebuild.
9. Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays are a talented team that are only a few pieces away from making another championship run, but they have a limited window. While they are not afraid to spend their money (they spend the 10th most out of any MLB team), there’s additional factors at play — like whether they try to retain Josh Donaldson (also a free agent after 2018) or sign young aces Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez to long-term extensions.
In 2017, right field was easily the Blue Jays weakest position as an aging Jose Bautista patrolled the outfield corner. They have upgraded (on paper) in 2018 to veteran Curtis Granderson and youngster Randal Grichuk, but if they really want to fix their right field, Bryce Harper is the best option available. Why would Harper go play in Canada? Well, why be the face of a single team or city, when you can represent an entire country?
8. Chicago Cubs
Out of all the teams on this list, the Chicago Cubs might just be the favourites to land Harper. There are a lot of signs pointing in this direction and it’s actually a decent fit. First of all, the Cubs are a great team and aren’t afraid to spend money. Secondly, Harper’s childhood friend Kris Bryant is on the team — and Harper hasn’t been shy about dropping hints he would love to play on the same side as him someday. So the Cubs could both pay him a ton of money, but they also have a personal connection to attract Harper. Plus who wouldn’t want to go to work at Wrigley Field every day? *swoon*
7. Colorado Rockies
While the Rockies aren’t at the level of the Cubs, Dodgers, or Red Sox in terms of their spending, they are still in the highest-spending half of the league. Sure, the team is solid with players like Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon leading the way, and the money could be spent to bring Harper to town. But the biggest reason Harper might go to the Rockies is because of their ballpark. Coors Field is one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the league. Paired with the elevation in Colorado, Harper could put up some ridiculous stats — and maybe win a World Series or two.
6. Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks lost one of their best power hitters when J.D. Martinez signed with the Boston Red Sox, so they have a spot for a hard hitting outfielder like Harper. Not only that, but the D-backs have a lot of money to spend after a relatively quiet offseason this year. The Diamondbacks could be primed for a deep run in the playoffs with the 1-2 punch of Bryce Harper and Paul Goldschmidt, plus decent contributors in Jake Lamb and a solid pitching staff. While Arizona are hardly favourites to land Harper, we could see it happen — they did splash out the cash on ace Zack Grienke, so it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if they did it again. Also, Arizona is pretty close to Harper’s hometown of Las Vegas, so it might be a desirable geographical location — plus the weather is great all year round!
5. Los Angeles Angels
While they have already added the most talked about player in the MLB ahead of the 2018 season when they signed Japanese star Shohei Ohtani, the Angels wouldn’t mind taking a swing at bringing Bryce Harper into the mix. While the team doesn’t have a ton of overall talent, they have a few great pieces. They’re the seventh highest spending team in the Majors, so it’s not a question of budget. It’s more a matter of shuffle the roster (and contracts) around to accommodate Harper’s expensive services. If they really wanted to, they could absolutely get Harper to come play in Los Angeles. Also, could you imagine an outfield that features both Mike Trout AND Bryce Harper? That could be something very special.
4. Washington Nationals
Of course, we have to consider the fact that Bryce Harper might just return to the Nationals. He knows the area and the staff, and is comfortable with the team after spending his entire career there. They will, of course, pony up the money to re-sign him, but the question is: does he want to be back? They have treated him well, but haven’t had a lot of on-field success during his time as a Nat. If they don’t get close to a championship in 2018, Harper might feel inclined to leave for greener pastures. A World Series ring would go a long way in convincing him to stick around.
3. Boston Red Sox
In 2017, the Red Sox were about as power hitter-starved as any team in the majors. They have a boatload of fast and high-average hitters, but they sorely missed that middle-of-the-order pop that someone like David Ortiz provided for many years before he retired. They signed J.D. Martinez and he could be the solution to their problems. So while they might not need Harper in their lineup, you never turn down a chance to get one of the best baseball players on the planet to wear you uniform. They have the highest payroll of any team in the Majors, and they’ve never been afraid to spend money. So if Harper shows any interest in going to the AL East, a deal could get done.
2. New York Yankees
Speaking of the AL East, the Evil Empire is always in the conversation when it comes to big name free agents. In many people’s eyes, the acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton meant that the Yankees were bowing out of the Bryce Harper sweepstakes. While this could very well be true, you can never put anything past the Yankees. They have an incredibly high payroll, play in the biggest market in the league, and actually field a pretty quality line-up that includes power hitters like Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. While they might not want to offer as much for Harper as other teams on this list, he could still take less money and join what would be one of the hardest hitting teams ever.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
There is no way we could write this article without including the Dodgers. Only two teams spend more than the Dodgers and they will arguably field the best team in the Majors next season. They had the most wins in 2017 and came incredibly close to winning it all, losing the World Series to Houston in seven games. Adding Harper to the mix would take them to the next level. One thing that might keep them from signing Harper this winter is if Clayton Kershaw opts out of his contract. If that happens, the Dodgers will have to focus on bringing back their ace, giving other teams a chance to romance Harper first. Plus, can they really afford to pay somewhere between $60 and $80 million a year for just two players?