So, in spite of the tremendous excitement they generated, Peter Gammons told Rich Eisen on Monday that his comments about Bryce Harper preferring to sign with the Chicago Cubs when he hits free agency were, get this, taken out of context.
What did he actually say? If you missed it, here’s what Gammons said on the Mully and Hanley show last week:
“I have people tell me that Bryce Harper really would prefer to play for the Cubs, but somehow I don’t think that it’s going to be affordable to have Bryce Harper and Kris Bryant on the same team.
“But, it’s a great idea. I’d love to see it because I respect them both so much personally and professionally, but I don’t think it’s ever going to happen.”
How that generated the “Bryce Harper is interested in joining the Cubs” headlines it did is unclear, except, you know, the internet, but Gammons explained himself more clearly to Eisen.
“That was very simplified — it was a ‘Reader’s Digest’ version of the interview,” Gammons said Monday, interrupting the question about what he had previously said.
“The interview was about, because [it was on in] Chicago, it was about well, Kris Bryant, the Cubs reached out about doing a long-term extension and he wasn’t …I said, ‘Look, these things — Scott Boras is his agent, and Scott is great at what he does. He’s going to get Kris Bryant the greatest contract he can get him, but understand when it comes to those contracts, it’s very important for the agent — I mean, and I said, the question is, does Kris Bryant, after three or four years, want to be this generation’s Ernie Banks and be an icon in Chicago his entire life. It comes down to that [and] we’ll see.
“When you get up into that level of contract, it’s very hard to really know what the value is, is it really important to be the highest paid player, and I said, ‘For instance, there are people who tell me that Bryce Harper would love to be in the middle of the country, in Chicago.’ He doesn’t have the whole West Coast thing, he doesn’t have any more of the East Coast, ‘He’s going to be the greatest Yankee who ever lived’, and he and Bryant grew up in Las Vegas so they know one another, they’re both great guys.
“And people say, ‘Well, he would love to play for the Cubs,’ but I said they’re not going to be able to afford both guys, so it probably will never happen. But somehow that went into ‘I said he wanted to play for the [Cubs].’
“I’m sure he would love to in one way or another, but I was trying to make the point that there are so many factors that go into who makes the most money or whatever and it kind of gets forgotten after a while and I don’t think I can remember what Clayton Kershaw is making right now, just that he’s the best pitcher in the game, so that was the context of what was said.”
So, if he had to guess, where does Gammons think that Harper will sign if he does get to free agency?
“If I were to guess one place it would be the Yankees because they are going to have so much money to spend by 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.
“But I think that he can handle New York and I think that they would pay huge money.
“And by the time he would get there, I’m of the feeling right now — at 2:00-something East Coast time, that the Yankees are going to end up winning the AL East, but I think two years from now when Gleyber Torres is there, and a couple more kids come along, I think they’re going to be an absolute monster powerhouse for years. And add Harper to that, it could really be something. It’s a great investment because they could own the city, and we know that all the television ratings and attendance go with it. I think it would be a great fit.”
Boras talked in an MLB Network Radio interview last week about how many of his clients end up going to the team that simply outbids the rest.
“I always tell journalists,” Boras said, “because we’ve done a number of record contracts for very deserving and great players, but the truth of the matter is, I think in over 60-70% of the times, the players have not taken the ultimate offer, they’ve taken offers that were competitive, but not the top offer and they’ve gone to cities that have more met the requirements for other reasons.”
The other reasons, he explained earlier in the interview, included comfortability, a belief that the player would play well in a particular ballpark, and, he added, “... there’s economic considerations, there’s winning considerations, so all those things are really up to the athlete’s decision.”
Money will, of course, be part of that equation, and the numbers being thrown around at this point, less than two years before Harper has a chance to become a free agent, are staggering.
Earlier this season, FanRag’s Jon Heyman talked to a rival GM who told him that he pegged Harper’s, “... value on a long-term deal at ‘closer to $500 million than $400 million.’”
ESPN’s Eddie Matz talked to an AL GM for an article published on Monday, who said that Harper, “... is going to get paid. Like, paid paid." He did put a dollar figure on “... paid paid?”:
“Four hundred million is light,” the GM said. “It's going to be more than that. If you could sign him to a 15-year contract, you do it. I would say something in the range of $35 million a year, maybe closer to the high 30s. It could approach 40 million dollars a year.”
That’s [checks math]: 15-year/$525-$600M. Giancarlo did, of course, sign a 13-year/$325M deal with the Miami Marlins, and the Arizona D-Backs are paying Zack Greinke — ... yeah, it’s still kind of a ridiculous figure.
ESPN.com’s Buster Olney wrote earlier this season, after Harper and the Nationals agreed on a 1-year/$21.625M deal for 2018, removing the possibility of arbitration next winter, about the tough decision Harper will have to make:
“He knows this: No matter where he lands, he will make plenty of money. The Nationals will be willing to give him a record-setting deal. But he should weigh the relationships he has built in Washington, the safe zone. He has a strong relationship with GM Mike Rizzo, who is, like Harper, under contract through 2018. He’s beloved by Nationals fans.”
Olney suggested talking to Cal Ripken about taking less to stay in Baltimore his whole career.
Or Derek Jeter, who, “... never bothered testing the market when he became a free agent late in his career,” even when Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman advised him that he probably should during tense negotiations.
Then there’s Alex “A-Rod” Rodriguez, who signed his 10-year/$252M deal with the Texas Rangers and was traded to New York three years later with the Rangers explaining that they needed “financial flexibility” to start rebuilding the franchise and making the deal allowed them to begin that process.
Will the Nationals be able to build around Harper and supplement elsewhere on there roster if they have that much money committed to one player? Can they afford to let him walk and get into a bidding war with the rest of the league? Should the Nats try to explore trade options this winter if they don’t see a deal getting done? How would fans in the nation’s capital react to a trade?
Would they understand the history of how these mega-deals can hamstring a franchise and keep them from building a competitive roster?
Are we really going to have to talk about this for another year-plus?