As recently as December, when the Dodgers unloaded Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp to Cincinnati to clear up room in their crowded outfield, it appeared inevitable that Bryce Harper would wind up in Los Angeles.
But that was before we knew the incredible lengths to which MLB teams would go to avoid spending big money and before the Dodgers inked center fielder A.J. Pollock to a four-year deal. So it came as some surprise that club officials – including manager Dave Roberts – met with Harper over the weekend in Las Vegas, and it proved full-blown delightful when reporters spotted a Brinks truck outside the Dodgers’ spring-training facility on Monday.
Harper is a 26-year-old superstar who fits on just about every team. But even after the addition of Pollock, he still makes a heck of a lot of sense for the Dodgers. The club, which spent over $270 million in payroll as recently as 2015, jockeyed to get under the luxury-tax threshold in 2018. Remember: It’s the compounding penalties for exceeding that threshold in consecutive years, more than the initial penalties, that changed the sport’s economy.
Signing Harper would mean paying the luxury tax this season, undoubtedly, but it would not necessarily doom the Dodgers to do so again next year – if that’s something you care about. The team has tons of money set to come off its books next year when contracts on guys like Rich Hill and Hyun-Jin Ryu run up. They’ll need to replace them, for sure, but they’ve still got a pretty solid pipeline of talent on the way, and signing Bryce Harper now would mean having Bryce Harper next season, too.
The excellent Dodgers teams of recent seasons have featured extraordinary depth. Adding Harper would not only give the Dodgers by far the longest lineup in the National League, but give Roberts enough viable big-leaguers to ensure all of them regular rest as they gear up for another deep postseason run.
About that: The Los Angeles team has not won the World Series in more than 30 years now. After six straight NL West pennants and back-to-back World Series berths failed to produce a championship, the Dodgers must feel some sense of urgency. Adding Harper means adding the very best player available on the open market this offseason. And because he’s 26, it’s not even just a win-now move.
Right? Throw an extra 35 homers and a .400 OBP somewhere near the top of the Dodgers’ lineup and all of a sudden they look way more poised to capitalize on the waning years of familiar veterans like Clayton Kershaw, Justin Turner, Kenley Jansen and Rich Hill. Add a 26-year-old megastar to a young core that already includes Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, Walker Buehler and Max Muncy and they look stacked for the future, too.
For Harper, it’d mean a big payday, a big stage, and whatever comfort comes from knowing he’ll see the postseason practically every year. For the Dodgers, it means a big bat, a big splash, and an opportunity to improve the 2019 version of the club without dooming themselves to go over the luxury-tax threshold in 2020 or beyond.
Arguably no team in the Majors has done a better job than the Dodgers of maintaining success at the big-league level while keeping their farm system stocked with talent for the future. Signing Harper to the longterm deal he’s seeking helps them now and helps them later.
Monday’s big winner: John Kruk
You may not have known, explicitly, that John Kruk owns a chain of cheesesteak places in Florida, but I think in our hearts we all kind of knew that John Kruk owns a chain of cheesesteak places in Florida. I visited the Tampa location of Kruk’s Philly Steaks last week and discovered that it is good.
Quick hits: Ripping LeBron, throwing shoes
– One anonymous NBA executive had the unmitigated gall to rip LeBron James and blame him for destroying the Los Angeles Lakers’ team chemistry. Some fans did the same. This dude is arguably the greatest player in NBA history, and you’re not going to give him a season to turn a young team around? C’mon. NBA fans who rip LeBron shouldn’t be allowed to watch him anymore.
– DeMarcus Cousins threw a stray sneaker into the crowd so no one would trip on it and got called for a technical foul. It’s one of the worst calls you’ll ever see, but because Cousins plays for the Warriors, it ultimately didn’t matter.
– Monday marked the NHL’s trade deadline, and Charles Curtis explained the Blue Jackets’ surprising decision to try to win. It’s funny that the main byproduct of this era of smart, business-savvy front offices across the major pro sports is how few teams go all-in to win. Winning is still the point, ultimately, and at some point the pendulum has to swing toward favoring the bold clubs that invest in winning immediately over those on the slow road toward success.
This day in dumb sports
Three years ago today, FIFA presidential candidate Tokyo Sexwale acknowledged that he wouldn’t win and dropped out of the race after making a funny speech. The man’s name is Tokyo Sexwale. How is that not enough to make him a favorite in every election he ever enters? Who isn’t voting for Sexwale?
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