Did Yankees passing on Bryce Harper throw this era of baseball off course?


From the moment baseball fans found out about Bryce Harper as a 16-year-old, he was ticketed to join the New York Yankees in free agency 10 years later. As obnoxious as it was, you couldn’t deny the likely fit and the fact there was no chance he would remain with the Washington Nationals once he was no longer under team control.

Then came judgment day when the 2018 season ended. The Yankees, who had came within a game of the World Series in 2017 before getting punked by the division-rival Red Sox in 2018 thanks to their magical championship run, really could’ve used another groundbreaking move to send a message to the rest of the league.

But the offseason prior, they already unofficially announced they’d be bowing out of free agency the following year after acquiring Giancarlo Stanton in a trade with the Miami Marlins. Still, though, fans figured there’d be a chance.

It’s Bryce Harper. He was destined to be a Yankee since he was born. You’re really going to pass on signing a perennial MVP candidate?

Though Aaron Judge was clearly the team’s right fielder, that shouldn’t have mattered. You sign great players and worry about the lineup/roster construction later.

There’s no reason Harper couldn’t have played left or center. He didn’t have a ton of experience at those positions, but he still played them for a portion of his career in Washington. Nope, instead the Yankees were willing to roll the dice with Aaron Hicks and Clint Frazier. They were fine. Thanks for asking, though.

Did the Yankees passing on Bryce Harper screw up this era of baseball?

There are just so many “what ifs” here. What if the Yankees went with Harper and didn’t give Hicks a seven-year extension? What if the Yankees had Harper in 2019 when they were missing Stanton in the postseason and fell to the Houston Astros in six games in the ALCS? What if they had Harper in 2020 — would they have gotten past the Rays? And finally, what if they had an MVP candidate on their 2021 squad with both Judge AND Stanton healthy? That team wins over 100 games, right?

Instead, we were forced to deal with Frazier’s never-ending drama (some nonsensically contrived, some brought on by him), which culminated with his release, and Hicks’ injury woes (after a lengthy account of such issues) that limited him to just 145 games over the last three years. That paved the way for the need for Joey Gallo as well as Brett Gardner playing in 140 or more games again.


It’s nearly impossible to have seen all of this coming at once, but at the same time, there was seemingly an unrealistic belief that the team’s very much shaky outfield situation would simply be serviceable despite little evidence to suggest that. Additionally, the Yankees needed to spend money on pitching, which they did the next offseason with Gerrit Cole, but we’re sure some mid-tier acquisitions and a few trades could’ve been enough had Cashman pressed the right buttons.

It couldn’t have been more anti-Yankees to pass on a talent like Harper, and it couldn’t have been more unlike them to put so much trust into largely unproven/non-elite commodities and make that their reasoning for doing so.

Just because the puzzle pieces didn’t fit without a hitch at the time shouldn’t have forced the Yankees to remove themselves here. And if you remove Hicks’ $10+ million salary as well as DJ LeMahieu’s extension, that comes close to what Harper’s making annually right now. This could’ve worked, but instead the Yankees decided to pay for it after we had to watch Frazier, Miguel Andújar, Tyler Wade and a collection of minor leaguers log more outfield reps than we were comfortable with in 2021 when the tale of that season could’ve been much different.