Blue Jays GM says they're contemplating signing former MVP Bryce Harper

Jan 16 2019, 9:42 am

There isn’t one team in Major League Baseball who wouldn’t love to have a game-changer like Bryce Harper on their roster. The problem is only a handful of teams are apparently interested in ponying up the cash to sign the six-time All-Star and former MVP.

That’s indicative of a larger problem across Major League Baseball entirely, but within the orbit surrounding the Toronto Blue Jays, it presents a very interesting proposition. If so many teams aren’t interested in Harper, perhaps this is the time for the Blue Jays to pounce on the free agent outfielder?

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Earlier this week, the Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins spoke to TSN 1050 Overdrive Show and said some interesting things about the team’s potential interest – albeit remote – in the former MVP.

“He would fit well in between Bichette and Vladdy at some point, there’s no question. He’s an intriguing player,” Atkins said.

At no point were the Blue Jays rumoured as suitors for the All-Star outfielder, but Atkins didn’t completely rule it out, either.

“It’s something that we’ve contemplated; we’ll continue to. There’s a lot of talent that would be able to help our organization moving forward and we’ll continue to consider all of our alternatives,” Atkins said about Harper.

The Blue Jays GM has made a living out of saying a lot without truly revealing anything during interviews, but this one was different. Not only did Atkins not completely rule out the potential of the Blue Jays signing Harper, but he also said it’s something the organization has “contemplated.”

Given that the Blue Jays are the midst of a rebuild, logic dictates that signing a free agent like Harper to a deal worth more than $30 million per season is a complete pipe dream.

If there’s a team out there equipped to take on a salary like Harper’s, it’s the Blue Jays. Their payroll commitments for 2019 are just a shade above $100 million. In 2020, the only active player on the books for the Blue jays is Lourdes Gurriel Jr. at $2.92 million.

Harper presents a very unique case, here. Since he’s only 26 years old, his age and skillset fits within the Blue Jays’ timeline for contention, which forecasts to be in the 2021-2022 season range. Ideally, that could coincide with the prime years of blue-chip¬†prospects like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette.

Who wouldn’t want a player like this in the middle of their lineup?

Here’s how Harper’s numbers rank among MLB outfielders over the past three seasons (note that this doesn’t include his 9.3 WAR season in 2015 when he captured the NL MVP):

Stat Value  Ranking
WAR 11.2 10th
HR 87 8th
OBP .391 3rd
OPS .897 7th
wOBA .375 7th
wRC+ 132 9th

Even Atkins himself navel gazed at the possibility of slotting Harper between Bichette and Guerrero Jr on a Blue Jays lineup card. If it reached the point where the front office is discussing lineup configurations, that means they’ve at least considered the remote chance of having Harper in a Blue Jays uniform.

They’d be fools not to explore that option, even if Harper’s contract demands are well outside the Jays comfort zone. It’s easy to dismiss the Blue Jays as long shots to sign the free agent phenom because there are plenty of other teams who are better fits for Harper.

Yet, if ever there was a free agent the Blue Jays should break the bank for, it’s Harper. A 10-year contract would carry him to his age-36 season, which places him on the dreaded “other side of 30” on the back-end of that deal, but the team that wins his services will get plenty of Harper’s prime years of production.

As outlandish as it sounds, Harper makes sense for the Toronto Blue Jays. I suspect the Blue Jays have given it a lot more consideration than most people think.

Ian HunterIan Hunter

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