Bryce Harper’s free agent market receives an early preview by FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, who lists the eight teams he feels have the best chance at signing the star outfielder when he hits the open market after the season. The Nationals and other big-market usual suspects are cited, though the Braves are a new addition to the list of candidates, as both Sirius XM Radio’s Steve Phillips and an unnamed friend of Harper’s feel Atlanta is a logical possibility. It should be noted that the Braves are only being named here as a “makes sense on paper” type of candidate, as it isn’t known whether Harper himself would consider the Braves, or if the club is actually preparing for a run at the outfielder. Still, a case can be made — Atlanta is known to be preparing for the end of its rebuild, with a large array of young players that could position the team as a contender for years to come. Signing Harper would certainly be about the biggest splash possible in announcing a return to contention, though it remains to be seen if the Braves would be open to spending the record-setting contract Harper will seek in free agency.
Here’s some more from Heyman, in his weekly notes post covering all 30 teams…
- With Delino DeShields Jr. on the disabled list due to a broken hamate bone, the Rangers are looking for center field depth. Drew Robinson and Rule 5 draft pick Carlos Tocci have been platooning in center field with DeShields out, though that may not be a tenable situation given that DeShields could be sidelined into the middle of May. Jose Cardona and Brett Eibner are available in the minors, but Texas would have to create a 40-man roster spot for either player.
- Heyman provides some new details on Jay Bruce’s free agent market, reporting that the Indians offered Bruce a two-year, $18MM deal while the Blue Jays discussed a one-year deal in the range of $5MM-$7MM. It’s interesting to note that both teams ended up signing somewhat similar veteran left-handed bats for similar price points — Cleveland inked Yonder Alonso for two years and $16MM in guaranteed money, while Toronto signed Curtis Granderson to a one-year, $5MM deal. The Jays didn’t actually make Bruce an offer, however, and neither did the Astros, though they also had some talks with Bruce about a two-year deal. Heyman speculates that Houston may have been considering Bruce only if top prospect Derek Fisher was dealt, and thus the Astros’ interest waned since they were able to acquire Gerrit Cole without parting ways with the young outfielder. As it turned out, Bruce ended up landing a three-year, $39MM deal to return to the Mets.
- Speaking of the Mets, Heyman writes that the team would still be willing to deal Juan Lagares if a trade partner could be found. Lagares had been a frequent subject of trade rumors over the winter, and the Mets’ outfield situation has once again become overly crowded now that Michael Conforto has returned from the disabled list. With Conforto and Brandon Nimmo both capable of playing center field, Lagares’ contract ($16MM guaranteed in 2018-19) and lack of hitting makes him expendable, though Lagares is a superb defender. It’s possible the Mets could find an interested team later in the season as injuries or pennant race needs emerge, though one would think New York would have to eat at least some of the contract to make a deal happen. On the flip side, Lagares could provide valuable depth if the Mets are again hit with injuries, or if Bruce is needed at first base in the event that Adrian Gonzalez can’t hold up over regular playing time.
- Jarred Cosart will soon throw for teams in a showcase, as the free agent righty looks to catch on with another team. Elbow surgery limited Cosart to just 24 MLB innings in 2017, and the Padres outrighted him off their roster after the season rather than pay him a projected $1.3MM via the arbitration process.