By: Chris Larson
This morning, it was announced by multiple different sources that the San Francisco Giants are now showing interest in the biggest free agent of them all, Bryce Harper. Furthermore, according to Jon Heyman, the San Francisco Giants met with Harper this week which included a contingent of Chief Executive Officer, Larry Baer, General Manager, Farhan Zaidi, skipper, Bruce Bochy, and Harper himself along with his agent, Scott Boras. There is no indication how long the meeting lasted, where it took place, or exactly what might have been hammered out between both parties, but it's interesting nonetheless.
It should come as no surprise that new teams are beginning to enter the fold for Bryce Harper, given where things currently stand and the pace of negotiations this offseason. With how late into the offseason it is, teams are trying to see if they might be able to land Bryce Harper on a shorter term deal with a potentially higher AAV and not commit to a 10-year deal worth north of $300 million dollars, something that both Harper and his camp, were seeking at the start of the offseason.
More specifically, it should be no surprise that the San Francisco Giants have gotten involved either. After all, they have been connected to Harper on several different occasions over the past handful of seasons and at one point many, expected them to land the superstar this offseason, but that was prior to the team bringing in new General Manager, Farhan Zaidi.
At the beginning of this offseason, many people around the game - executives, fans, and media members alike, expected the San Francisco Giants to potentially start purging their 25-man roster, a roster full of aging players and multi-million dollar contracts, in exchange of younger players and prospects that could be used to reshape the organization moving forward. However, things certainly haven't played out that way thus far and it almost seems as though the Giants are content with the idea of trying to contend once again this coming season.
The idea of the San Francisco Giants staying focused on contending is typical given their previous history and pedigree as an organization. In a city like San Francisco, the Giants simply can't afford to strip everything down to the studs and enter into a full blown rebuild, like teams in other markets can. After all, this is a team that represents the heart of San Francisco, plays in a ballpark that every baseball fan dreams of visiting or has visited before, and a team that has a championship pedigree that cannot just be erased overnight.
If the Giants were to enter into full rebuild mode, you can guarantee there would be full outcry and backlash from the entire baseball industry, hundreds of loyal Giants fans, who have been season ticket holders for many years, would likely give up on the team, and it would not be easy for someone like General Manager, Farhan Zaidi, to deal with all of the criticism that arises. Therefore, the Giants have to come up with creative ways to continue to stay competitive with the roster they have, while looking for ways to possibly shed payroll and build up the farm, even in minor transactions.
That's where Bryce Harper comes into play and the idea that signing him would be a transaction that would further boost the Giants chances of contending in 2019 and beyond. Consider for a moment the overall landscape of the National League West. The Los Angeles Dodgers might have gotten a bit weaker given that they traded away Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, and Alex Wood to the Cincinnati Reds, even with AJ Pollock, in tow. The Colorado Rockies haven't done anything significant this offseason, outside of the signing of Daniel Murphy, which should provide a boost to their lineup, but they still have questions on the pitching side of things particularly in the bullpen.
Meanwhile, the Arizona Diamondbacks have taken a step back with the loss of multiple free agents this offseason in, Patrick Corbin and the aforementioned AJ Pollock, as well as the trade of Paul Goldschmidt to the St. Louis Cardinals. Finally, the San Diego Padres are still trying to find their identity and while they have the best farm system in all of baseball and have been looking to make a significant splash all winter long, nothing has materialized and they essentially have the same roster, as at the end of, last season.
Therefore, an argument could certainly be made that the Giants should be pursuing Bryce Harper and continuing to try to be in contention, however small, those chances might look to fans, executives, and media members around baseball on the outside. Furthermore, you have to consider the amount of money that the Giants have and their past pedigree when it comes to spending to make upgrades to the team.
According to Spotrac, the San Francisco Giants currently have a projected payroll for this season around $167 million dollars. Given that the luxury tax threshold for the 2019 season is at $206 million dollars, that essentially means that the Giants could conceivably spend $29 million additional dollars, before they reach the luxury tax threshold and face potential penalties. Although, those penalties are something that the San Francisco Giants could afford, given the financial state of the organization.
Additionally, the Giants reached a new agreement with Oracle Corporation, at the beginning of January, for a 20-year naming rights deal. According to The Mercury News, the deal is expected to bring in an additional $300-$550 million dollars in revenue for the San Francisco Giants, yet another boost of money that they could use towards pursuing Bryce Harper or adding another All-Star caliber player or two in the near future. Of course, not all of that money will be solely dedicated towards payroll and it remains to be seen how the money will be funneled out exactly, but the point still remains that there is financial flexibility there.
Finally, consider the track record of spending for the team and the lack of fear they have when inking free agents to expensive contracts. The San Francisco Giants have been one of the more aggressive teams around baseball when it comes to free agency and trying to land superstars on deals. Just take into consideration the 6-year, $130 million dollar deal the team gave to free agent starting pitcher, Johnny Cueto, three years ago or the five-year, $90 million dollar contract the team gave to free agent, Jeff Samardzija, that same offseason. When the Giants see an opportunity to do something big, they go for it and certainly do not act bashful about tacking on more payroll.
Now that the team has an additional $29 million dollars to potentially spend before the start of the season or at this year's trade deadline, anything is possible. With how the landscape of the National League West looks and the way the Bryce Harper derby has played out thus far, the San Francisco Giants see an opportunity to make a splash and one that could immediately bring the team back to contention. Now the question becomes, can the team do enough to convince Bryce Harper to sign with the organization and outspend other teams with similar interest in Harper like the Washington Nationals, Philadelphia Phillies, and the Chicago White Sox? That question remains to be seen, but should be answered over the next few weeks.