The Yankees were projecting to be Bryce Harper’s angels next offseason. Sorry, Mr. Harper, you’ll have to find that $400 million elsewhere.
The tremors following the Yankees earthquake signing of Giancarlo Stanton are underway, and they are bound to reach epic proportions, especially when the much-anticipated appearance of Bryce Harper as a free agent reaches its conclusion at about this same time next year.
Back in June, legendary baseball scribe Peter Gammons appeared on The Rich Eisen Show, making it clear he thought the Yankees would be the slugger’s ultimate destination.
“If I were to guess one place, it would be the Yankees,” Gammons said, “Because they’re going to have so much money to spend at the time he’s out there. And there’s no doubt in my mind that Bryce could take the pressure of playing in New York. I mean, this guy was on the cover of Sports Illustrated at 16, was made out to be a divisive figure by the time he would have been a freshman in college — which, he wasn’t a divisive figure, but that’s the image because he’s brash.
The trouble is the shoe is now on the other foot, and Bryce Harper isn’t in the driver’s seat if he intends to collect his $400 million wearing Yankees pinstripes. There might be a team out there ready to step up and offer that kind of money, but without the Yankees in the bidding war, Harper’s dreams may turn out to be just that: ego-driven dreams.
ESPN was all-in, though, when this video appeared in April 2017:
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman could once again turn the baseball world upside-down, with himself dreaming of a Judge-Stanton-Harper outfield which would almost be cartoonish on the baseball landscape today. But there’s a limit to even the Yankees coffers, not to mention if they continue to be mindful of avoiding the luxury tax.
Manny Machado? Not so much
The Stanton fallout could extend even further than Harper as the Yankees move forward in the early stages of planning for the 2019 season. Manny Machado, the Orioles All-Star third baseman, is reportedly on the trading block and is also in his final season before entering free agency.
The Orioles are listening but do not have the same zeal or need as the Marlins did in trading Giancarlo Stanton. Still, Machado would seem to be an ideal fit for the Yankees to bid on at this time next season.
Even with the Yankees having Miguel Andujar and, potentially, Gleyber Torres to play third base, Machado is a special talent—and Torres could very well be entrenched at second base replacing the now-departed Starlin Castro, leaving third base open for Machado.
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Yankees luxury tax wiggle room
Finally, a note of significance about the luxury tax. It’s not a stretch to assume Hal Steinbrenner will insist on holding Cashman to the threshold beyond this season. The way the MLB rule is written does, however, allow a bit of wiggle room for the Yankees if Steinbrenner allows for it on a temporary basis.
The rule is progressive in the way it assesses penalties for being over the cap, which, by the way, is a football and basketball word MLB hates. Here’s a brief excerpt from MLB describing how the threshold (see, that sounds better, doesn’t it?) works:
“A club exceeding the Competitive Balance Tax threshold for the first time must pay a 20 percent tax on all overages. A club exceeding the threshold for a second consecutive season will see that figure rise to 30 percent, and three or more straight seasons of exceeding the threshold comes with a 50 percent luxury tax. If a club dips below the luxury tax threshold for a season, the penalty level is reset. So, a club that exceeds the threshold for two straight seasons but then drops below that level would be back at 20 percent the next time it exceeds the threshold.”
So conceivably, with the reset the Yankees will earn this season by staying under the cap, the team could bounce over the cap next season, under the following season for another reset, and so on without too much long-term damage financially.
Of significance as well, the cap does increase progressively as follows:
2019: $206 million
2020: $208 million
2021: $210 million
All of which reinforces the conclusion that the trade for Stanton by the Yankees did not just add another All-Star to their lineup, but the trade has far-reaching implications in the future, not just for the Yankees but baseball as well.
And with that in mind, it might be a good idea for Scott Boras, Harper’s agent, to reset his clock and salary demands with the Yankees not likely to engage in a bidding war for his client’s services.