Earlier on Monday, I wrote about the upcoming Harpocalypse, when Scott Boras will officially turn into a Lex Luthor supervillain and Bryce Harper will make a half-billion dollars. We have three years to buy canned goods, but after the 2018 season, Harper will be a free agent, and he won't turn 26 until the following year. It's going to be hilarious. Unless the Dodgers sign him.
Which they might! But my point in that Harper article was that almost every team is especially well-positioned to sign him in three years. There's only one team with more than $100 million committed to their 2019 payroll (the Tigers), and that burden doesn't last for long after that. There's a reasonable path for every team to sign Harper, as long as they're willing to commit to a top-half payroll when he's finally a free agent.
That doesn't mean that some teams aren't in better shape than others when it comes to their payroll over the next few years. And that's where the Giants come in. Here's where they rank among all 30 teams when it comes to future payroll obligations for future seasons:
2017: 4th in committed payroll
Only the Tigers have more money committed to players in the 2020 season. The season after that, the Giants stand alone, with $58.4 million committed to three players. This assumes that Johnny Cueto doesn't opt out of his new contract, which he certainly might do if he has a strong first two seasons with the Giants.
Of course, if the Giants continue with the top-five payrolls (they should be #5 again this year) this isn't scary at all. They'll just have a little bit of a head start when it comes to their future top-five payroll. They're also probably hoping that at least one of Buster Posey or Brandon Crawford will still be giving them quality seasons in 2021, and they might be right.
But it's worth noting. The Dodgers don't have much more than Clayton Kershaw on the books past the 2018 season. The Diamondbacks and Padres have very little, and the Rockies have absolutely nothing. Only the Giants will have allocated a substantial portion of their 2020 and 2021 budget already. They've already committed to paying more in salary for the 2021 season than they did for the roster in their first season at AT&T Park. Inflation and era, I know, but the raw numbers are still impressive.
The real trick to making this work? Getting help from the farm. The whole reason the Giants have Cueto in the first place is because Matt Duffy and Joe Panik look like low-cost solutions for the next half-decade, and they'll need to find the next Duffy or Panik (or Posey or Crawford or Belt or) to minimize the dead money that might hinder them in six years. The highest-paid player on the Giants' roster in 2016 will be their fifth starter, but the fertile farm system over the last few years allowed them to ignore Matt Cain's contract and spend anyway. They'll need to find more success stories like Panik and Duffy.
Just keep subsidizing the team with the underpaid young players that excite the fans the most, and the Giants will be fine. It's a baseball tradition!
It's still a little surprising to see just how much more the Giants have committed to their current roster than other teams have. That's partly a function of their offseason spending spree, and partly a function of keeping their homegrown stars around as long as possible. But if you were wondering if the Giants could sign Bryce Harper one day -- and you know you were, you little scamp -- the answer is "in theory, sure, but," with the "but" bringing up the money they've already spent. That goes for every major free agent, and it also goes for the young players the Giants will want to keep around, too.
Harper sure would be a fun Dodger to hate, though. Think it over.