With the Yankees in town to finish a game and a half’s worth of play, superstar Bryce Harper was not only playing center field for the Nationals — but gone was his signature bushy beard.
Naturally, the presence of the clean-shaven Bryce Harper quickly led to rampant Internet speculation of Harper trying to appeal to a potential employer, the Yankees — whose own broadcast team couldn’t help but get caught up in the moment.
The timing of Harper’s new look is indeed curious, but I tend to side with a more logical explanation.
Perhaps Mrs. Harper wanted her husband to shave — to let his slight cleft chin breathe. Summer is almost upon us and temperatures on Monday reached the 90s in D.C.. Or maybe, Bryce is looking to snap out of a nearly two-month long slump.
The 2015 NL MVP, who believe it or not won’t turn 26 until October is currently hitting a career-worst .212 with a robust 72 strikeouts. His .820 OPS is respectable, especially when you look at his power numbers — 19 home runs (which lead the NL) and 43 RBI. Harper is also tops in the NL with 52 walks.
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Over the past 30 games, which coincides with the promotion and subsequent breakout of 19-year-old outfield sensation and possible Harper replacement in 2019, Juan Soto, Bryce is slashing a dreadful .193/.285/.404 with 45 strikeouts.
You’d think Soto’s presence in the Nats’ lineup would ease some of the spotlight on the career 26.7 WAR owner. Not so much.
Without a shadow of a doubt, preseason talk of Harper and his super agent Scott Boras looking for a contract in the neighborhood of $400 million put an immense level of pressure and scrutiny on the five-time All-Star.
I still believe Harper is a once in a generational type of talent, similar to Giancarlo Stanton. But you have to wonder if Stanton’s struggles at the plate this season all but put the kibosh on Harper to the Bronx.
Stanton’s $25 million AAV through 2028 is only harder to swallow when you look at his stats thus far: .252/.326/.485 with 16 home runs, 39 RBIs and a woeful 95:26 K:BB ratio. For what it’s worth, I’ll continue to give Stanton a pass because he’s in a new league, playing for a team that is expected to win.
And besides, the Yankees got him to win the World Series, so even if Stanton isn’t performing the way most expected, the Yanks have the best record in baseball at 47-22.
There’s a lot to figure out for general manager Brian Cashman before next winter, but most importantly is solidifying the starting rotation as soon as possible.
Bryce Harper, a pipe dream for some, is something fun to talk about but a ton of what if’s currently stand in the way.
- Will the Yankees pick up Brett Gardner’s $10 million option for ’19?
- DH’ing a 28-year-old Stanton for the majority of his career, isn’t ideal.
- If Clint Frazier isn’t traded in part for a pitcher, he’ll need to be an everyday player next season.
- Would the Yankees sacrifice defense for more hitting by potentially removing Aaron Hicks from center field for Harper (although he looked very comfortable in CF on Monday)?
The easy thing is to exclaim that the Yankees don’t need Harper, not with what I’ve mentioned above and uber-prospect Estevan Florial down on the farm.
However, the truth is we know nothing right now. The ultimate decision on Bryce Harper likely won’t come until the completion of this season. Anything less than a World Series title will force Cashman’s hand, especially with the luxury tax resetting, and no longer acting as a deciding factor.