Should the Astros Pursue Bryce Harper?

Jason Lyons on Oct. 30, 2018

Would the Astros even consider chasing Bryce Harper?

The 2018 Major League Baseball offseason is shaping up to be one of the biggest free agent pools that we’ve had in quite some time. Unlike past years where there were noticeable shortages in certain free agent positions, this winter boasts big names at nearly every single position. Below is a list, by position of just a few notable names via CBS Sports.

  • Catchers: Martin Maldanado, Kurt Suzuki, Matt Wieters, Jonath Lucroy, Wilson Ramos,
  • First Basemen: Joe Mauer, Matt Adams, Mark Reynolds, Steve Pearce,
  • Second Basemen: Jed Lowrie, Ian Kinsler, Daniel Murphy, Brian Dozier, D.J. LeMahieu
  • Third Basemen: Josh Donaldson, Eduardo Escobar, Adrian Beltre, Pablo Sandoval
  • Shortstop: Manny Machado, Elvis Andrus, Alcides Escobar, Jose Iglesias
  • Outfielders: Michael Brantley, Marwin Gonzalez, Curtis Granderson, A.J. Pollock, Leonys Martin, Adam Jones, Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen, Nick Markakis, Jason Heyward, Carlos Gonzalez
  • Designated hitters: Evan Gattis, Nelson Cruz
  • Starting Pitchers: Patrick Corbin, Dallas Keuchel, Clayton Kershaw, (who has an opt-out clause) J.A. Happ, Charlie Morton, David Price, Lance Lynn, Nathan Eovaldi, Gio Gonzalez, and sixteen other starters who give you a positive WAR.
  • Relievers: Adam Ottavino, Jeurys Familia, David Robertson, Craig Kimbrel, Jake Diekman, Andrew Miller, Kelvin Herrera, Mark Melancon, (has an opt-out clause) Greg Holland, Zach Britton, Cody Allen

The list is massive, and it seems as if once the 2019 campaign comes along, the landscape of baseball will be different. Expect only a handful of these impending free agents to sign back with their previous teams. The talks will be fast, the negotiations will be frequent, and this will be one of the best times, as a free agent player, to get the contract that you’ve been dreaming of since you broke into the league.

The most intriguing player

There is one name though, on the list, that seems to stand out more than most, and whether that be due to his antics when he was first breaking the rookie barrier, his outright cocky nature, or the fact that one General Manager in 2017 said, “Four hundred million is light.” "It's going to be more than that. If you could sign him to a 15-year contract, you do it. I would say something in the range of $35 million a year, maybe closer to the high 30s. It could approach 40 million dollars a year." Bryce Harper is certainly going to be a hot commodity this offseason, but is he worth the trouble, and the finances, to try and persuade to come to Houston?

The Pros

Bryce Harper is dynamic whether on or off the field. Only really rivaling Mike Trout in most known names in baseball, Harper is a spark plug. Coming into the league at only nineteen years old, Bryce Harper has made a career for himself, and he’s still only twenty-six years old, barely into his prime. In seven seasons with the Nationals, he has already compiled a nice list of achievements.

He’s attended six All-Star games, won rookie of the year, collected a silver slugger, and won the Most Valuable Player award in 2015. He’s hit over thirty home runs, twice, and nearly hit thirty once again in 2017, only missing the mark by one. He’s hit 184 home runs total, 183 doubles, and is a career .279 hitter. With a career 27.8 WAR according to Baseball-Reference, there’s no doubt that Harper is a game changer on the baseball field.

The Cons

The contract and the injuries. If you talk about potentially signing Bryce Harper, there are two main issues that you must have in the back of your mind. How much am I going to be paying him? Will he be able actually to stay on the field? He’s played seven years in Washington, and four out seven years, he’s played 139 games or less. He’s dealt with more than four or five injuries, two being to his knees.

If you’re going to be paying a player potentially, you need to know that he’s going to be able to be healthy and contribute, and according to Greg Kirkland of Pinstripe Alley, “Take Bryce Harper for example. The young 26-year old superstar outfielder is apparently looking to start the signing discussion at ten years, $350 million.” That’s $35 million a season, roughly. When you look at that amount of money, you have to ask yourself, if Harper can’t stay on the field, does his production, and his power, and his ability to hit the ball, outweigh the risk he might not even be in every game down the stretch.

Should the Astros go for it?

It’s not an easy decision, and Jeff Luhnow and Jim Crane are undoubtedly going to make a lot of tough choices come the winter meetings and into next season. Do you bring Dallas Keuchel back? Do you bring Marwin Gonzalez back? Do you bring Charlie Morton back? Do you sign one of the biggest young stars in the game to such a lucrative contract?

The decision will ultimately come down to, what happens with Marwin Gonzalez. If they can’t re-sign Gonzalez, it’s going to be very intriguing not only because he played much outfield, but he played many positions everywhere, and he produced everywhere. If you want a sure-fire productive player to replace Gonzalez, there are no shortages.

However, as stated, Harper is only twenty-six years old, and still very early in his prime, meaning, what we’ve seen so far out of him might just be the beginning. What can happen if he’s in a lineup surrounded by a healthy and thriving Carlos Correa? If Bregman, Altuve, Springer, all get on before him. It’s a short porch in left, and Harper can make many fireworks go off using it to his advantage. Do you give him that much money, with Bregman, Altuve, Springer, and Correa waiting to be paid?

There is no right answer to give, but this can be said in place of one. Winning team’s windows are often limited. The Astros have a deep system that can last for the next four or five years, and that’s their advantage. It’s going to be a fun offseason, and I trust Crane and Luhnow to make the right decisions, no matter what happens.

**Stats and quotes courtesy of CBSSports, MLB.COM, Baseball-Reference, Pinstripealley**

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