Bryce Harper, beginning to rub Yankees fans the wrong way

MIAMI, FL - JULY 10: Aaron Judge
MIAMI, FL - JULY 10: Aaron Judge /

Prior to Aaron Judge‘s emergence as a superstar, many Yankees fans were excited about the possibility of Bryce Harper signing as a free agent in 2019.

With each passing day, the possibility of Bryce Harper becoming the next great Yankees outfielder becomes less and less a reality.

With Aaron Judge set to become the next face of the game (no pressure Commissioner Rob Manfred), it’s highly unlikely he’s moved out from right field. Would Harper then entertain the notion of returning to centerfield where he spent time during his rookie season?

I’d venture to say not. As you could tell by Harper’s All-Star Game swan dive and subsequent hair flip, the guy thinks he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. An NL MVP Award and five All-Star game appearances by the age of 24 will do that to you.

Truth is, Harper is an extraordinary talent. Most teams would be lucky to have him. But maybe the Yankees don’t need him.

Sure he and Judge could split time between right field and DH — which would keep both of them rested for long stretches of the season, but that too seems unlikely.

Because of Judge’s easy-going nature and do anything for the team spirit, I wouldn’t be surprised if he offered to move to left field to make room for Harper, but what about Clint Frazier — who seems to have a bit of Harper in him already?

Frazier, who was drafted by the Indians as a center fielder projects more as a corner outfielder in the big leagues — hence the Yankees playing him there to date.

Dustin Fowler, on the other hand, is a natural center fielder. With immense range, great closing speed, a solid throwing arm and a willingness to risk his body, Fowler has all the tools to replace Jacoby Ellsbury sometime next season.

Obviously, this is dependent on how quickly he heals from the gruesome leg injury he suffered just last month in Chicago. Initial reports are positive, though, that he should be ready to go by next Spring Training.

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Then there’s the little matter of what to do with incumbent starters, Ellsbury, Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks.

I’ve been steadfast in my belief that the time to trade Gardner is now — before he loses another step and his trade value diminishes anymore. I get that he’s a true blue Yankee. Gardy will always have a special place in pinstriped lore, but the time has come for his departure.

Before Hicks’ oblique injury, he finally showed the promise of a legit two-way player. And at only 27-years-old, his best playing days are still in front of him. Unless the club can package him for a frontline starter, I’d keep the switch-hitting fleet-footed outfielder at least until Fowler proves he is fully healed.

As for Ellsbury, it would appear that unless the Yankees eat a huge portion of his remaining $63 million, he is either destined to become the highest paid bench player in the history of baseball or a candidate for an A-Rod type buyout.

Back to Harper and his failure to endear himself to the city of New York. Clearly, he plays for Washington, so his concern for the Big Apple is minimal.

Although, as a businessman, Harper should be keen to the things he says today coming back to haunt him later.

On Monday, before Judge’s Home Run Derby party, Harper spoke to media.

"“Going to New York City for a couple days … I want to get out of there in about three days. You go there for three days, it’s pretty crazy and hectic and I want to go back home. I want to go back home to DC. There’s nothing like (DC).”"

In all fairness to Bryce, he did have some complimentary things to say about the Yankees.

"“I don’t really think about it much. I try to focus on what I can do to help my team on a day-to-day basis. Judge is a great player. (The Yankees) have a lot of young talent out there with (Gary) Sanchez, (Clint) Frazier and Didi (Gregorius). Greg Bird, when he comes back … he’s a great player.“They’ve got a lot of great talent, but that’s their team and Judge is doing a great job being a leader of that team. He’s paving the way for all of those guys out there. But I just try to focus on doing what I can to help my team win on a daily basis.”"

Then came what the New York papers deemed “Bryce Harper bashes Dellin Betances during All-Star Game.”

"In the third inning of the All-Star Game, Harper worked a walk against the Yankees’ reliever.While on first base, Harper’ microphone picked up him giving the NL’s first base coach a rather simple and blunt scouting report on Betances.“I feel like he’s a guy you can go up there and just take,” Harper said. “He’ll walk you.”"

While I certainly don’t see it as “bashing,” I understand this will only further fuel the fire that is Harper pissing off Yankee fans. Truth be told, Harper wasn’t exactly wrong in his scouting report on Betances — as the 4-time All-Star allowed one hit, walked two and struck out two during his third inning appearance against the NL’s best.

A lot will happen between now and 2019 — when Harper can officially hit the free agent market. And no one is saying he won’t simply re-sign with the Nationals. But if he really does want a $400 million contract, he’ll need to cozy up to the city that never sleeps.

Next: An old face returning to the Bronx?

Otherwise, the Yankees can spend their money on the other dozen or so All-Star caliber players that’ll be available at that time.