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Harper and the Yankees Need Each Other

New York Needs a Lefty

Courtesy Matthew Straubmuller/ Flickr

It's been too many years without a parade in the Bronx. Too often have Yankees fan had to look on with clenched teeth as World Series trophies found homes in Boston, and after a disappointing exit versus the Red Sox in the 2018 ALDS the clock is ticking in New York.

The 2017 Yankees were an exciting young team that exceeded expectations, in large part thanks to New York's large adult son Aaron Judge. They were as much of an underdog as the Yankees ever can be, coming back from a first-inning shelling of Luis Severino in the Wild Card Game against Minnesota, then coming back from being down in the series versus Cleveland before falling to the Astros in the ALCS.

But the 2018 Yankees were expected to take that next step. They added the reigning NL MVP, Giancarlo Stanton, to a lineup that was already predicted to murder plenty of baseballs. Severino was going to become a true ace, top prospect Gleyber Torres waiting in the wings and their bullpen was touted as one of the league's best.

Things didn't go according to plan. Most of their bats went quiet during the post season, the shallowness of their pitching rotation was exposed and the color commentator they got to manage the team made the type of moves you'd expect from a guy who until then spent his post-playing career in the booth. A historically good Boston team knocked the Yankees out of the playoff in the ALDS.

Stanton hit .222 with no home runs or RBIs in four games against Boston.

2018 wasn't a great year for Washington outfielder Bryce Harper either. The 25-year-old hit .249 with 34 home runs, while posting a WAR of just 1.3. A far cry from his 2012 MVP season where he hit .330 with 42 home runs and a WAR of 10, and not the type of year you'd want to have if you're expecting a $400 million contact offer.

Harper rejected a $300 million offer from Washington, likely in part due to the lack of opt-outs included in the 10-year deal. The Yankees had a payroll of $179.6 million dollars last year, over $30 million less than Boston's league-high $227.4 million payroll. While general manager Brian Cashman has relayed a desire to stay out of the luxury tax, the amount of Harper jerseys sold would easily offset this cost.

St. Louis and San Francisco were two of the favorites to trade for Stanton before the Yankees swooped in, while reports currently indicate they aren't interested in Harper, this wouldn't be the first time Cashman has seemingly come out of nowhere to snag a star.

And that's exactly what Harper is, a star. Baseball is plagued by lack of recognizable stars, while Harper is one of the players most likely to be recognized in public he knows his profile could be much higher. He has the skill, the hair and the personality to be the face of the sport, all he needs is the spotlight.

It's been apparent that Harper wants to be a Yankee, he said as much in his 2009 Sports Illustrated cover story when asked about his goals, "Be in the Hall of Fame, definitely. Play in the pinstripes. Be considered the greatest baseball player who ever lived. I can't wait."

He wears number 34 as a subtle homage to Micky Mantle (3+4 equals Mantle's number 7), took a photo starting longingly at the Mick's plaque in Monument Park and he even shaved and took grounders at first base when the Nationals came to the Bronx this summer. He might as well have written "sign me" into his eye black.

The beard's got to go but the Yankee mystique clearly effects Harper.

Much better.

There's a contingent of fans who oppose signing Harper, most want the Yankees to focus on adding starting pitching. They'd rather see Manny Machado who could fill in for the injured Didi Gregorious at shortstop before moving back to third base.

They cite the Yankees' "crowded" outfield following the re-signing of Brett Gardner to play left. The Aarons, Hicks and Judge have center and right locked down respectively, Stanton will cycle into the corners when Judge or Gary Sanchez need half a day off at DH. Not to mention they're still paying Jacoby Ellsbury.

But this team was forced to start Shane Robinson down the stretch last season after Judge was injured. Even if Harper wasn't willing to play first, his agent Scott Boras indicated that he is, they could easily rotate him between left field, right field and DH.

Having a 35-year-old Brett Gardner in left and either Luke Voit or Greg Bird at first are bad reasons not to sign a player with Harper's potential. Especially with Harper being a lefty, he could easily top his career-high 42 home runs with that short porch, not to mention the protection he'll have batting in the same lineup as Judge, Stanton and Sanchez.

Plus the Yankees really need a lefty-bat. Gardner and Gregorious are the team's only lefties that can be counted on to start most of the season, and Hicks is the lone switch hitter. Batters have learned to go the other way to take advantage of Yankee Stadium's dimensions, but they aren't taking advantage of them as much as they should be. By the way this team just hit a record 267 home runs without Harper last year.

Lastly, while the Yankees would have to cross over into the luxury tax to do so, it isn't Harper or pitching. They could easily sign Patrick Corbin or trade for one of the guys Cleveland has placed on the trade block, like Corey Kluber, who has an average base salary of $15.5 million per year. Not bad at all for a Cy Young contender with three seasons of team control left on his deal.

It would cost a whole lot, in payroll and prospects, but in this regard the Yankees should learn from the Red Sox, who ponied up and did what they needed to acquire Chris Sale and J.D. Martinez. Without whom they wouldn't have won it all. If Brian Cashman is serious about bringing a World Series trophy back to the Bronx next year it's time to put the Steinbrenners' money where Bryce Harper's mouth is.

There's a Contingent of Fans Who Oppose Signing Harper

Most fans want the Yankees to focus on adding starting pitching. They'd rather see Manny Machado who could fill in for the injured Didi Gregorious at shortstop before moving back to third base.

They cite the Yankees' "crowded" outfield following the re-signing of Brett Gardner to play left. The Aarons, Hicks and Judge have center and right locked down respectively, Stanton will cycle into the corners when Judge or Gary Sanchez need half a day off at DH. Not to mention they're still paying Jacoby Ellsbury.

But this team was forced to start Shane Robinson down the stretch last season after Judge was injured. Even if Harper wasn't willing to play first, his agent Scott Boras indicated that he is, they could easily rotate him between left field, right field and DH.

Having a 35-year-old Brett Gardner in left and either Luke Voit or Greg Bird at first are bad reasons not to sign a player with Harper's potential. Especially with Harper being a lefty, he could easily top his career-high 42 home runs with that short porch, not to mention the protection he'll have batting in the same lineup as Judge, Stanton and Sanchez.

Plus the Yankees really need a lefty-bat. Gardner and Gregorious are the team's only lefties that can be counted on to start most of the season, and Hicks is the lone switch hitter. Batters have learned to go the other way to take advantage of Yankee Stadium's dimensions, but they aren't taking advantage of them as much as they should be. By the way this team just hit a record 267 home runs without Harper last year.

Lastly, while the Yankees would have to cross over into the luxury tax to do so, it isn't Harper or pitching. They could easily sign Patrick Corbin or trade for one of the guys Cleveland has placed on the trade block, like Corey Kluber, who has an average base salary of $15.5 million per year. Not bad at all for a Cy Young contender with three seasons of team control left on his deal.

It would cost a whole lot, in payroll and prospects, but in this regard the Yankees should learn from the Red Sox, who ponied up and did what they needed to acquire Chris Sale and J.D. Martinez. Without whom they wouldn't have won it all. If Brian Cashman is serious about bringing a World Series trophy back to the Bronx next year it's time to put the Steinbrenners' money where Bryce Harper's mouth is.

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