Of course I want the Giants to sign Bryce Harper. And Manny Machado. And maybe even Marwin Gonzalez. Adam Jones? Sure, why not. The Giants can easily afford to add any and all of these players, but I’ll stay on Bryce here because the Giants seem to want him, too:
Buster Posey said he plans on catching at the first workout tomorrow and will have a modified schedule this spring. When asked about Bryce Harper again, Posey reiterated his desire for the Giants to sign him.— Kerry Crowley (@KO_Crowley) February 12, 2019
Brandon Crawford on reaching out to Bryce Harper: "I texted him early in the offseason, I don’t know if he changed his number but I didn’t hear back from him..." AWKwaaarrrddd.... #SFGiants— Julie Parker (@insidethepark3r) February 9, 2019
But Bryce Harper won’t be signing with the Giants. I’m sorry. I don’t have any control over the situation and my psychic energy cannot alter the course of history in this instance. The only time that power actually worked caused The X Files revival. You remember that, right? It turned out to be a disaster buried under a tragedy. Where was I?
Oh, right. Of course the Giants aren’t getting Bryce Harper. There are two reasons:
Free agents don’t like San Francisco
A little over a year ago, the Giants were trying hard to trade for Giancarlo Stanton, who had a full no-trade clause. That basically made the negotiations with the Marlins a direct negotiation with a would-be free agent slugger, and that’s why they never really had a shot: the Giants will never be able to woo a free agent slugger to San Francisco.
As Brian Sabean has explained:
”To entice a free agent to come to San Francisco, we’re almost in an overpay situation, so why get involved in all those battles where you’re not going to be able to go up the totem pole money-wise? ... You’ve got the state of California taxes. (San Francisco) is a long way from where some of these guys live in the offseason. It’s not a hitters’ ballpark, so you can scratch that side of the fence. It takes the right pitcher to consider wanting to come there for a number of different reasons, some of them I just mentioned, even if it’s a pitchers’ ballpark in a pitchers’ division.”
Conventional wisdom is bound to change, but there’s too much data to prove his point.
Odds on where Bryce Harper will sign, courtesy of @betonline_ag:— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) February 11, 2019
San Francisco Giants +100 (1/1)
San Diego Padres +250 (5/2)
Philadelphia Phillies +400 (4/1)
Los Angeles Dodgers +750 (15/2)
Washington Nationals +1000 (10/1)
No, not that kind of data. And don’t bite on that optimism — that’s just what gambling establishments want you to do. At the same time — be optimistic! It’s fun to think about the Giants pursuing Bryce Harper. Even if you don’t like the player, it should tickle the same part of the fan brain that likes when your team tries to get better by signing a big name player.
The Giants should want to get better by any means necessary, and when there are still two 26-year old players with huge potential still available, kicking the tires is just due diligence. Theoretically, the team can pay what Harper wants or at least stay in the running with teams bidding for his services. It’s just... all the others stuff working against them.
The team has had a total of three winning months over the past three full seasons. The aging championship core is an aging core of players who will be exiting the stage over the next few years. There’s at best a meager infusion of talent coming through the pipeline, and even then it’s 1-2 years away. And Oracle Park doesn’t help left-handed hitters.
Here are your top 5 left-handed home run hitters in the post-Bonds era of Oracle:
- Brandon Belt - 42 (447 G)
- Brandon Crawford - 32 (539 G)
- Aubrey Huff - 16 (177 G)
- Denard Span - 11 (140 G)
- Travis Ishikawa - 9 (143 G)
[Pablo Sandoval (60), Andres Torres (14), Angel Pagan (12) would’ve made this list, but are switch hitters and I didn’t want to get into all that.]
Harper has hit 92 home runs in 472 home games for his career. It’s not to compare Nationals Park to Oracle, only to point out that he’d be hitting fewer home runs in the park where he’d play the most games. There’s not a strong argument to be made for a player accepting such an arrangement. So, let’s consider that the Giants, just by virtue of location, are stuck.
The Farhan Factor
The San Francisco Giants are in the entertainment business, Bryce Harper is one of the top entertainers currently on the market. The franchise is floundering and attendance will likely continue to drop over the next 3-4 years until they get their act together. Putting a big name on the marquee who’s likely to provide entertainment makes sense, but the idea is not perfect.
Current payroll looks to be around $180 million. Not great for a team projected to win anywhere between 71 and 77 games, but still $26 million below the
salary cap luxury tax threshold. That’s important because even if everybody in the world knows that Bryce Harper makes your team better, the job of the President of Baseball Operations is to field the best possible team whenever possible. The addition of Harper helps this year, but hurts every year beyond in a seemingly trivial but obviously important way.
Harper wants more than $26 million a year and even though the Giants reset their
salary cap luxury tax penalty so that they’d pay just 20% on any amount over $206 million this year ($208 million next year, $210 in 2021), and —
• A team that neither exceeded the luxury tax in the preceding season nor receives revenue sharing will lose its second-highest selection in the following year’s Draft as well as $500,000 from its international bonus pool. If it signs two such players, it will also forfeit its third-highest remaining pick. The 12 clubs that fall into this category during the 2018-19 offseason are the Angels, Astros, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Mets, Phillies, Rangers, White Sox and Yankees.
So, a Harper deal makes sense on the business and Baseball side of things, but not on the Business of Baseball side. The team has a lot of work to do, and even though the Giants have the power to improve itself through just spending money, at this point, paying more than the competition to sign a free agent is why the team is in its present condition.
Bryce Harper won’t be Mark Melancon, Barry Zito, or Aaron Rowand, but Zaidi might have put his foot down to say, “At some point, we’ve got to consider that extra $500,000 in international bonus pool money and our second-highest selection in the draft to be more important than the major league roster — even if it’s just one season.”
Still — Harper is a 26-year old superstar outfielder on a team struggling to find 26-year old players above league average. Those kinds of players aren’t usually free agents. Zaidi might agree with ownership that signing him would help sell tickets, but he might only be willing to do it on his terms, which might very well cheese the deal.
Despite rumored offers/wishes of teams, word is Bryce Harper is not signing — or even considering — short-term deals.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) February 12, 2019
Scott Boras might’ve been able to convince Giants ownership to blow it out for Harper in prior years, but they just handed over Baseball Operations to a guy who doesn’t do long-term deals. The team has a need for Harper, but not an overwhelming need, and Harper would have to compromise a lot just to get maybe 80% of what he began a pursuit of this offseason.
You better believe I’ve been writing this post with one eye on Twitter checking for breaking news. There’s every chance that Harper’s signed by the time this goes up or even very soon after, thereby Nightengaleing the hell out of this thing, but it’s totally worth.
I will now end this post as I ended last year’s Giancarlo post: with a brief letter.
Dear Mr. Harper,
I know you won’t be signing a 4-6 year deal with two opt-outs to join my favorite baseball team, but I do hope you don’t embarrass them too much when you turn them down. Please give Giants fans the opportunity to respond to leaked terms of the deal with “that’s a clown offer, bro”. We don’t have much else to look forward to for the next couple of years.