Why Bryce Harper will sign with the New York Yankees

This is one entry in a five-part series about where Bryce Harper will land as a free agent after the 2018 season.

Start spreading the news: Bryce Harper’s leaving next winter for New York, where he’ll sign as a free agent and achieve his childhood dream of playing for the Yankees. Of course, the Nationals could re-sign him for $500 million dollars over 10 years, with Teddy Roosevelt Island thrown in as a signing bonus, but it won’t happen for the five-time All-Star and 2015 MVP.

Why New York? Why the Yankees? It’s been a badly kept secret that Bryce Harper grew up idolizing Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle, to the point of wearing number 7 when playing youth baseball. When 7 wasn’t available one year, he wore 16 (1+6). He now wears 34 — do the math.

Even in today’s era of 30 Major League teams, the world of baseball continues to (to a point) to revolve around the Bronx and the new house next to The House That Ruth Built. Harper appreciates the game’s history, and to play every day for the sport’s signature franchise (sorry, Dodgers and Cardinals fans) wouldn’t just be the cherry on top to an already sweet career, but a ridiculously awesome sundae.

The Yanks also make sense as a potential landing spot, as opposed to the Cubs or simply staying in D.C., because they play in the American League. Harper’s MVP season is the only one in his career where he’s played 150 or more games. Having the option to be the designated hitter when he might be nicked up or dealing with a tight hamstring would be a nice bonus. It’s also 314 feet down the line from home plate to the right-field foul pole at Yankee Stadium … as opposed to 335 at Nationals Park.

Could he fit in? USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported last December that Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, would be seeking a contract in the neighborhood of 10 years with a price tag of $400 million — at a minimum. Who has money?

Naturally, the Yankees are in the No. 1 media market in the nation, but only have the seventh-highest payroll entering 2018, according to spotrac.com. After spending freely on big-name players during the latter half of Derek Jeter’s career, when it appeared they were only a player or two away, the Yankees tightened their belts this decade and focused on drafting and player development.

That has produced a talented nucleus — including a pair of right-handed hitters (Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez) who can bat before and after Harper. Both players are still in their pre-arbitration timetable: Judge is 25 and fresh off a 52-homer season; while Sanchez turns 25 over the weekend and hit 33 homers in his first full season as a regular.

Put Bryce in that mix and you have a 3-4-5 combination only fantasy teams dream about. Current left fielder Brett Gardner is 34 and would be entering a team-option year in 2019. Whether Harper or Judge plays left or right, the Yanks would be set on the corners for some time.

The New York Yankees also could present stability for a free agent looking at the landscape — whoever becomes their new manager will be just the team’s third skipper since 1995. Dave Martinez will be the fourth manager (following Davey Johnson, Matt Williams and Dusty Baker) Harper will have played for as he enters his sixth season in the bigs. Perhaps paying top dollar for a manager has its dividends after all.

The case for the …

Chicago Cubs | Los Angeles Dodgers | St. Louis Cardinals | Washington Nationals

Dave Preston

Dave has been in the D.C. area for 10 years and in addition to working at WTOP since 2002 has also been on the air at Westwood One/CBS Radio as well as Red Zebra Broadcasting (Redskins Network).

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