It’s one of those things that leaves you speechless. Dodger fans, by the masses, shuttering at the thought of Bryce Harper, one of the games most premier power hitters, wearing white and blue in 2019 and beyond.
Bryce Harper hit the open market with an expectation that had fans raise a brow. Following the 2016 season, the former MVP told the world that he expected $400 million in free agency. Everyone laughed and moved on but Harper continued to prove that he is worth significant cash.
Only 26-year old, Bryce Harper has undoubtedly proven himself in his seven-year career. Debuting in 2012, Harper was just 19-years old but managed 22 home runs, 59 RBI’s and an .813 OPS. His efforts were rewarded with a Rookie of the Year Trophy and Harper’s career was underway.
For the next six years, Harper continued the success he found as a teenager. He is an All-Star in all but one season, he won the MVP award in 2015 following one of the most dominant performances in recent history. Harper was the star he was projected to be.
But, now, Bryce Harper has no ties to any team. The Yankees are out of the race to land him and the general feeling is that Harper is done with the Nationals, a team with no clear direction after a disastrous season. The Cubs have been mentioned as a potential suitor, as have the Giants, but the Vegas favorite is none other than the Dodgers.
This should be exciting. Bryce Harper has the potential to change this team not only for 2019 but for many years after that. Fans have reacted like Harper would be a negative burden for this team but I can almost guarantee you he would not be. Let’s delve into the stats.
Harper has been a monster from day one. He has hit the 12th most home runs ever through a players age 25 season and has the fourth-most home runs in a single season by a 22-year old from his MVP season in 2012.
Home runs, however, are not a strong enough measuring stick to make a point unless you put them in the lineup to see how the team would be changed. Bryce Harper averages 32 home runs a season. The Dodgers hit the second most total homers in 2018 so the lineup has a knack for power and not such a great one for just getting on base. Since that is the trend the team has set, the Dodgers should cater to it, providing a player that hits more home runs and provide power to a power lineup.
Moreover, Harper’s bat is not nearly as inconsistent as people think. In 2018, Harper got off to a snail’s pace start to the year. In the first half, Harper managed a .214 batting average with 23 home runs- he was completely boom or bust. Prior to the All-Star break, Harper’s OPS was fine, hovering at .833.
But, this season was a tale of two halves. Post-All-Star break Harper was unstoppable. He hit .300, a mark he has maintained for entire seasons, and upped his OPS to .972; Harper was proving he is more than just homers. Batting average aside, Harper still produced 34 home runs, 100 RBI’s, an .889 OPS and a 133 OPS+.
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In addition to the power, Harper is a hitting machine with runners on base, an issue the Dodgers had all season. With a runner on any bag, Harper has hit a career .295 with a .523 slugging percentage. Harper would bring value to the heart of the lineup.
The other concern that has been voiced by so many is the outfield restructuring that would come with a Harper deal in LA. Fortunately, any move the Dodgers make outside of trading Cody Bellinger would be well worth it for this super-star. Harper is a game changer and even if Andrew Toles or Joc Pederson turn a corner, there is almost no way they catch up to Harper.
If the Dodgers get Harper, get the outfield makeover started because it will be worth it.
If you want to voice concerns, there are two. The first of which is financial. Harper is a great player, his 139 career OPS+ backs that up emphatically. But, with a great player comes a great cost and signing Harper could put the Dodgers in quite the bind during an offseason in which the bullpen should probably be the priority.
The second concern is defense. Bryce Harper’s fielding is just downright atrocious. Last year, Harper had a -26 DRS and a -14.4 UZR. For those who are unfamiliar with those statistics, check out the Fangraphs descriptions here for DRS and here for UZR.
The moral of this story is that Bryce Harper is undoubtedly a game changer. His thunderous bat could get the Dodgers to where they want to be in the next few seasons. With Seager coming back and Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger and Yasiel Puig already in the lineup, adding another All-Star cannot hurt this team.
If you do not want to make room for Harper just compare the numbers and it will be easy to see just how great this move would be. And, if in the end you still are opposed to pulling the trigger on this, be opposed to it for the right reasons. Staying away from Harper because Joc Pederson is here is not the correct reason; staying away from Harper because of his defense and contract is.
Bryce Harper is a star on the open market and the Dodgers should make the move to get that much closer to the promise land.