Bryce Harper
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The New York Yankees need to take a meeting with Bryce Harper if only just for the sake of due diligence.

Josh Benjamin

Let’s talk about Bryce Harper.

Anyone reading this knows who he is. The longtime Washington Nationals star has been named to six National League All-Star teams, is a former NL Rookie of the Year, and even has an MVP trophy. Naturally, Harper entered free agency this winter as the most in-demand name on the market.

At least that’s how it was supposed to be. Pitchers and catchers start reporting to Spring Training next week, but Harper still remains unsigned. Not only that, but he hasn’t been overwhelmed with multiple lucrative offers either. The Philadelphia Phillies met with Harper last month, and the San Francisco Giants were reported as interested this week. The Nationals also remain engaged as Harper’s free agency plays out.

Meanwhile, the New York Yankees have done the exact opposite of what fans expected they would do this offseason. Rather than throw all the money in the world plus Hal Steinbrenner’s kitchen sink at Harper, the Bronx Bombers have instead been quiet. Instead of Harper and fellow free agency megastar Manny Machado, the Yankees have instead added more practical names like DJ LeMahieu and Adam Ottavino, among others.

The irony in all this is the Yankees could actually use Harper, but Brian Cashman seems to think otherwise. Still, the market has softened quite a bit since the World Series. At a minimum, the Yankees need to take a meeting with Bryce Harper to figure out just what he wants.

But there’s a catch. In taking such a meeting, the Yankees’ end goal would not be adding Harper. Rather, it’d be to accelerate his market.

Are they interested?

First things first, folks. Bryce Harper deserves to be paid well. He’s 26-years-old, is a .279 career hitter, and already has 184 career home runs. He’s about to enter the prime of his career and one would think several teams, including the Yankees, would be interested in adding those numbers.

And even though he’d be a grand upgrade in the outfield over both Brett Gardner and Clint Frazier, at least from a hitting standpoint, the Yankees don’t desperately need him. Not to sound like a broken record, but New York won 100 games last year. Not only that, but the Yankees won that many games with Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez each missing two months. Just imagine what could have been had they both stayed healthy!

Ownership's plan

Now, this needs to be crystal clear. I do not want the Yankees to sign Harper at all. His lefty bat would be nice, but Clint Frazier is too intriguing a prospect to just dump for a big name. Throw in what Harper would cost, and that’s yet another deterrent.

Except, the Yankees just might still be engaged. Per multiple sources, including Anthony Rieber of Newsday, owner Hal Steinbrenner hasn’t ruled anything out:

“Fans should keep an open mind that I’m never done until I’m done, and that’s not usually until Opening Day,” Steinbrenner said. “Proposals come to me every day with these guys, between the analytics guys and the pro scouting guys, and I’m going to consider every single one of them. But I have to look at the big picture, and it is my responsibility that my family expects and my partners expect not just to look at the present but to look at the future, too.

Maybe Steinbrenner knows something everyone else doesn’t. Perhaps he, Cashman, and manager Aaron Boone are playing coy on purpose. Maybe a video of a clean-shaven Harper taking swings does indeed mean a deal with the Yankees is coming.

Either way, for a team that hasn’t even made Harper an offer, the Yankees aren’t doing a great job of saying they’re definitely out on him.

A meeting between both parties has to take place, and here’s why.

The meeting

We all know how the Yankees roll during free agency meetings with players not previously on the team. They come to Yankee Stadium, take a tour, and even get to see themselves Photoshopped into pinstripes on the big screen.

This is the same approach the Yankees need to take should they meet with Bryce Harper, but with one change. Unlike Manny Machado and Patrick Corbin, Harper will not see himself on the big screen during his tour. This is because, and everyone probably knows this, Harper needs the Yankees way more than they need him. His market is dry and the Yankees need to make that point clear without actually saying it. If Harper is going to be a Yankee, it’s going to be on New York’s terms. Nothing more, nothing less.

Next comes the actual meeting. Cashman and his team ask Harper about what he’s looking for in the next chapter of his career. They then sympathize with how dry his market is. The meeting will probably be a short one, but that’s OK. The next part is where things really get interesting.

Endgame

Not long after meeting with Harper, let’s say two days for argument’s sake, the Yankees are going to leak a rumor. Someone “close to the front office” who can afford to remain anonymous, at Cashman’s direction, will tell the press Bryce Harper is “seriously considering” signing a one-year deal with the Yankees before trying the market again next offseason.

Now, if I know the 29 other teams in MLB the way I think I do, Harper will suddenly be overwhelmed with offers. Why? Because the Yankees, despite not having won the World Series since 2009, are still the Evil Empire. Rival GMs probably have their phones set to blast “The Imperial March” whenever Cashman calls. The idea of Harper being a Yankee for even just one year is probably more than they can stomach.

That all being said, could the Yankees still theoretically add Bryce Harper? Of course they could, but it’s unlikely.

Just the same, by just meeting with Harper, it could be enough to make another team overpay for him.

It’s a risk, but one well worth taking.

Cashman, your move.

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