Oh, is it tiresome yet being told repeatedly that Bryce Harper could’ve joined the Yankees in 2019, wanted to join the Yankees in 2019, but didn’t join the Yankees in 2019? Are you tired of hearing it? Sorry. So sorry. It’ll only be 10 more years of hearing it, then a five-year gap, then a rebound bout of hearing it in conjunction with Harper’s Hall of Fame induction.
The pain is real for Yankee fans here — and the pleasure is tangible for Yankee trolls — because it’s not like Harper was just another free agent miss for a team that no longer has the pick of the litter. Like Justin Verlander on the trade market in 2017, not acquiring Harper directly torpedoed a string of possible World Series runs, removing a perfect left-handed power threat from in between Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, as well as someone who could pick up the slack in case of injury.
But unlike Justin Verlander on the trade market in 2017, Harper actually wanted to be here. Since childhood, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Shame it didn’t work out. At least the Yankees front office called him, set up a meeting, did their due dilige — oh, word? Oh, they didn’t do any of that? Not even a phone call? No text? No eCard?
Well, surely Brian Cashman’s reasoning for ignoring Harper entirely must’ve been sound. Probably worth looking back on his quote about the pursuit at the time, will likely clear up a lot of things.
Yankees didn’t sign Bryce Harper because the team already had six (mostly bad) outfielders, per Brian Cashman
Oh, COME ON. Worse than you could imagine.
Cashman also reportedly put it even harsher to the gathered media that winter, telling a gaggle of reporters, “I’m surprised you’re still asking [about outfielders]. At no time have I said I’m looking for an outfielder.” Neat.
At the time, Harper seemed like a bit of a redundant expenditure next to Giancarlo Stanton, but he also seemed like exactly the kind of “redundant expenditure” this team is typically known for — when they’re working right, at least. In no world should the acquisition of Stanton have prevented the Yankees from paying (what ended up being a relative bargain of $26 million per year!) for Harper. The sad reality is that it did, as did the promise of an Aaron Judge contract extension that … we’re all still waiting for.
Those other “outfielders” that made up the sinister six, by the way? Aaron Hicks (come on), Brett Gardner (alrighty then), Clint (Jackson) Frazier (later released), and … honestly, can’t find a sixth. Harper could’ve been that sixth! Frazier traded, Gardy stays in the lineup, Hicks to the bench, Stanton DH … it all works!
Nope. Instead, Cashman didn’t drop a line to the man who’d dreamed of being Mickey Mantle as a youth star, which he told Sports Illustrated back in high school when he graced its cover.
Nope. Instead, Cashman preferred setting aside money for Judge (which he may or may not use), touting the strength of his now-vanished six-man outfield, and spending $21 million on Josh Donaldson to stare at strike threes ad infinitum in 2022. That’s only $5 million less than it would’ve taken to nab Harper after all, for a far older player on a multi-year deal.
It’d be laughable if it weren’t also cry-able. Stay tuned for the 2023 edition of this column when Manny Machado’s Padres are ripping through the World Series and Donaldson’s still here taking up space.
…wait, did Cashman really try to move Harper to first base for a second there?