EDITOR'S NOTE: This week across the NBC Sports Regional Networks, we'll be taking an in-depth look at some of the top free agents in baseball. Monday is dedicated to Bryce Harper.
Bryce Harper's quest to shatter MLB's existing salary ceiling -- his agent, Scott Boras, has described Harper's "true value" as between "$400 million and $500 million" over a multiyear contract, which would explain why they summarily rejected the Nationals' 10-year, $300 million proposal to keep him in Washington -- may have a successful conclusion. If so, however, it'll happen without any help from the Red Sox.
The first thing Harper and Boras will need to get where they're aiming for, financially speaking, is a deep-pocketed suitor. Preferably several of them. The Red Sox' pockets are as deep as anyone's, and they've been known to swim in the far end of the free-agent pool before.
But not this time. The Sox have no need for, and no interest in, Bryce Harper. For several reasons.
First, the immortal words of Lou Gorman -- "Where would we play him?" -- never rang truer. The Red Sox' biggest star, Mookie Betts, and one of their rising stars, Andrew Benintendi, are both outfielders. J.D. Martinez may eventually become more DH than position player, but for now he still plays the outfield on more than just occasion. And whatever you may think of Jackie Bradley Jr., he is a Gold Glove center fielder.
Still, there are always ways around such problems if you're really interested in a particular free agent. But now comes the second, and most important, reason: Money. It's not that the Red Sox don't have it; it's that they're going to have to spend a lot of it in the next few years to keep the core of their championship team intact. So much of it that lavishing the biggest contract in the history of baseball on Harper makes no sense, not with the bill coming due on veteran stars whose contacts are either expiring or have out clauses (Martinez, Chris Sale), younger standouts about to graduate from arbitration to free agency (Betts, Xander Bogaerts), and even younger hopefuls farther down the road on the same journey (Benintendi, Rafael Devers). The Sox may not be able to afford all these players as it is -- we'll probably see the first financial casualty (Craig Kimbrel) this offseason -- and they'd definitely have to part ways with more of them to bring Harper, who they don't really need, aboard.
Even without the Sox, Harper won't have any trouble attracting attention on the open market. The Phillies are said to be desperate to add a big-name star; the Cubs have always been interested in Harper; Boras has spent recent days batting his eyes at the Giants, hoping to get San Francisco into the mix. And even the Yankees -- once thought to be the odds-on favorite to sign him, since Harper grew up a Yankee fan and wears the number 34 because the two digits add up to Mickey Mantle's number 7 -- may be a stealth player. They're reportedly keeping their free-agent focus on pitching and allegedly are staying away from Harper and the other marquee free agent, Manny Machado, but they've zigged when they said they were zagging before. Such as in 2008, when they swooped in and signed Mark Texeira after barely showing any interest. And 2004, when they nabbed Alex Rodriguez after an offseason of A-Rod-to-Boston speculation.
It'll be quite a game.
The Red Sox, however, won't be playing.
MORE ON BRYCE HARPER
- Giants might be better served by spending money elsewhere
- A's could build a whole roster with what Harper will cost
- White Sox interested in Harper, but is feeling mutual?
- Phillies could use Harper's personality as much as his bat
- Why Harper sacrifced home runs to save his season
COMING TUESDAY: Michael Brantley
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