The Red Sox sent out a tweet on Saturday that they would probably like to take back right about now. The Sox’ official account sent out “Rivalry,” complete with fire emojis, after it was learned that the Yankees would be landing Giancarlo Stanton in a trade.
Many Red Sox fans took that to mean something big was on the horizon for the Sox, like the team signing JD Martinez in MLB free agency, or perhaps even trading for Nationals superstar Bryce Harper.
Harper won’t be an MLB free agent until a year from now, but the Nationals and their fans are really beginning to worry that Harper is a goner. Harper has given several indications that he wants to play in a bigger baseball market than Washington, for a team with “a long history” and one that is “high profile.”
The Yankees were always thought to be a shoe-in to sign Harper next winter as they fit all the above criteria. Plus, Harper is something of a Yankees honk (he worships Mickey Mantle). It also seemed as though the Yankees were saving up all their resources to make a run at him. But this past weekend’s Stanton deal likely put the kibosh on Harper to the Bronx. The Yankees have the deepest pockets in MLB, but paying out around $60 million per year for two players over the course of the next 10 years is a bit much.
Harper will still obviously have suitors lined up at the door next year in free agency, but would the Nationals think about being proactive regarding the matter and look to trade Harper ahead of free agency in an NBA-style deal? Likely not, according to Nationals beat writer Jamal Collier.
Perhaps [Harper trade discussion] was sparked by the latest comments from Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, who said at the General Managers Meetings that he has not had any conversations with Washington about a contract extension for Harper. Or maybe people are just on edge as Harper enters the final season of his contract. But there is virtually no chance the Nats will trade Harper. Even if the Nationals are convinced Harper will leave for free agency after the 2018 season, they still will have one of the best players in baseball and a perennial MVP candidate in the prime of his career for next season, when they will try to win the World Series.
It would be extremely difficult to get any sort of real return on value for Harper in a trade. Why would teams trade anything substantial for a guy they could just sign in a few months? The only conceivable way for the Nationals to trade Harper next season would be if they completely underachieved and were out of the playoff race by the All-Star break. And the way the NL East played out last season and in the era of the second Wild Card, that seems highly unlikely.
The Nationals are going to try to win with Harper next season and they are going to try to re-sign him.
So while trading for Harper is out of the question for the Red Sox (it would have been nice to rent out Harper for a few months and use that time to convince him Boston is the place to be), expect the Sox to be major players for his services next year around this time despite payroll amounts. The Boras connection is fascinating in that if the Red Sox were to now, say, overpay for Martinez in free agency this year, Boras might be open to do them a solid with Harper next offseason (if the numbers are close with another team, he’d pick Boston).
Obviously the Red Sox payroll would be jumping through the roof at that point like the Yankees’, but New York’s trade for Stanton this past weekend has dramatically changed the financial landscape in the AL East. It seems like we’re again going to be headed to an early-2000s like era where both the Red Sox and Yankees are throwing ridiculous gobs of money at the top players on the trade and free agent market.