Dodgers: Dreaming of a Bryce Harper-Dodgers marriage

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Oct 10, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) hits an RBI single during the third inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game three of the 2016 NLDS playoff baseball series at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 10, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) hits an RBI single during the third inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game three of the 2016 NLDS playoff baseball series at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Dodgers’ front office geniuses have been doing a good job of keeping payroll on the decline despite inheriting a bunch of dead money.  The combination of low-cost rising prospects and money coming off the books every year is going to give the Dodgers a lot of flexibility to make some big signings in the coming years. That has me dreaming of a Dodgers-Bryce Harper marriage.

Jon Heyman recently posted an article that sources are saying the Dodgers could offer Bryce Harper a monster deal after the 2018 season when he becomes a free agent. The reason this possibility exists is due to the money Los Angeles has coming off the books the next couple of seasons.

After the 2017 season, LA will have $43.5 million off the books with the contracts of Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, and free agent bust Alex Guerrero all set to expire. Then after the 2018 season, the team will have $46 million clearing with Adrian Gonzalez, Brandon McCarthy, and Hyun-Jin Ryu all becoming free agents.

That $46 million also includes Yasiel Puig’s deal coming to an end which is $7.5 million in 2018. Los Angeles will still have Puig for one more year of arbitration, but if he fails to break out over the next year-and-a-half, then they could cut ties with him altogether.

This would open a spot in right field for one mega star like Bryce Harper. Harper will only be 26 years old in 2018, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he could command a 10-12 year deal.

There would probably be some opt-outs in the deal because that is what the current trend of contracts seems to be like. Kenley Jansen’s new deal allows him to opt out before the end of his five-year contract and Clayton Kershaw can opt-out after 2018.

The early speculation is that Harper could get a deal worth over $400 million, and while that is a historic amount of money to commit to one player, the front office has shown a willingness to give out record-breaking contracts. The deals to Jansen and Kershaw were among the highest paid contracts ever for their respective positions.

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Another asset the Dodgers have that would help them absorb Bryce Harper’s monster contract is a very deep and talented farm system. The Dodgers’ current regime has made lowering payroll and emphasizing minor league development a focal point and as a result, the opening day payroll for 2017 was down $30 from the 2015 season. Payroll will continue to decline with the Dodgers still being the same quality of team due to their farm system.

In previous years it’s been Joc Pederson and Corey Seager making their marks on the roster and in 2017 it has been the emergence of Cody Bellinger, who looks like the NL Rookie of the Year favorite.

Besides Clayton Kershaw and his record deal that will need to be renewed if he opts out after 2018, the Dodgers could have a thrifty but talented rotation with prospects rising up the ranks like Walker Buehler, Mitchell White, and Yadier Alvarez. That doesn’t account for current Dodgers such as Alex Wood, Julio Urias, Kenta Maeda, and Ross Stripling who will all have team friendly deals.

Besides having the money and financial flexibility to take on Bryce Harper’s record contract, some other factors give the Dodgers a boost.

As pointed out in his article, Jon Heyman also notes how current Dodger president Stan Kasten was part of the Nationals team that drafted Bryce Harper and that he has a friendly relationship with the parents of Bryce Harper and still greets them when the Nationals play at Dodger Stadium.

Harper’s parents also live in Las Vegas and the closest major league team to them is the Dodgers. So the Dodgers have the geographic and familiarity factors working in their favor.

With a payroll steadily on the decline and a talent-rich farm system to produce cost effective yet elite talent, the Dodgers should go all-in on Bryce Harper when he becomes a free agent after the 2018 season. In recent years the Los Angeles has tried to sign free agent bargains like Scott Kazmir but that hasn’t worked out very good.

Next: Which prospects could the Dodgers draft in June?

They need to sign an elite talent like Harper who is among the most elite players in the game. Not only would the Dodgers have an answer to Mike Trout who is down the freeway, but they would also possess a pitcher’s nightmare lineup with Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, and Bryce Harper all terrorizing Dodger opponents.

While this all may just be a daydream, the possibility exists and that’s what makes the future of Dodger baseball fun.

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