Friday, February 5, 2016
For the sake of argument, though, say they don’t. Hell, say they sign Strasburg for $28 million a year. After the 2017 season, Sabathia is gone, as are Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, Michael Pineda and Dustin Ackley. Even factoring in generous raises for Dellin Betances, Aaron Hicks, Didi Gregorius and Chasen Shreve, that would leave the Yankees at $152 million. And if Masahiro Tanaka were to opt out of his contract, which he has the option to do following 2017, that would shave another $22.1 million in taxable money off the budget.
Here is where the Yankees’ resolve will be tested. The free agent class of 2017-18 is far better than the previous mess, with Jake Arrieta, Tyson Ross, Todd Frazier, Eric Hosmer, Justin Upton, Lorenzo Cain, Johnny Cueto, Brandon Belt, Lucas Duda, J.D. Martinez, Alcides Escobar, Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn, Wei-Yin Chen, Chris Tillman, Mike Moustakas, Trevor Plouffe and others available. If the Yankees can manage to stay competitive enough in 2016 and ‘17 to ward off compulsively spending in the offseasons after, the confluence between their patience and the bonanza awaiting in the class of 2018-19 could save them tens of millions of dollars in luxury-tax payments.
Calling the 2018-19 offseason a bonanza might be selling it short. Though it’s more than two years away, teams already are banking cash in anticipation of it, multiple sources have told Yahoo Sports. The deluge of talent that could be available – Josh Donaldson, Clayton Kershaw, Manny Machado, Andrew McCutchen, Jose Fernandez, Matt Harvey, David Price, Dallas Keuchel, Adam Jones and Jason Heyward – is led by Harper, the reigning National League MVP who will just have turned 26.
Nobody with the Yankees dared comment on Harper, even off the record, because their future marriage is considered so inevitable by most in the sport that the team dare not trifle with tampering charges. Considering the pains to which the Yankees are going to tighten finances, Harper as the endgame makes worlds of sense.
His age – and the ability to cull prime years from a free agent, a rarity – is as much of a selling point as his ability. And Harper’s transformation from enfant terrible to the most marketable player in baseball by a large margin fits the Yankees’ ethos. Star power matters to the Yankees more than any other team.
The Yankees should be planning to bid on Harper if he makes it to free agency. But I hope they aren’t planning everything with the idea that Harper WILL be a Yankee as soon as he can be signed.
If you were to put odds on Harper being a Yankee, what would you put it at? 50%? 25%?