Looking Some More at Harper
Want to be Historic, Do You?

Well, four days without SSI content means you get something from me to keep things somewhat going.

Let's look a bit harder at Bryce Harper as a potential Mariner.

Obviously, the Ms have not seemed to be a logical destination for him. New York, Philly, L.A., Chicago.... all of these have seemed more probable.

But think for a minute about something Harper and Boras know, that we might consider....

The best way to become an historic superstar (which Harper seemingly intends to be) is not to go to a contender and play well -- it's to go to a building team and MAKE them a champion. Putting up historic numbers in that context is what makes a Griffey-type franchise icon.

Look at the Braves in 1954. They had Spahn and Eddie Matthews - two HOF players. But the addition of Henry Aaron made them a contender, WS champion in 1957, and the first non-New York team to be taken seriously year after year in the years after the war, other than the quixotic teams by Bill Veeck in Cleveland from Negro League stars and good pitching.

The Baltimore Orioles had been a good team in the early 60s, with good pitching and Boog Powell. In 1966, Cincinnati traded Frank Robinson to the Orioles, and suddenly a champion was born.

These are only two examples, but the point remains that taking a team "over-the-top" can make a star player an historic player. Going to play for a team, and in a park, that gives the player a real chance at historic stats is the way to be a star and an icon in the game.

If the addition of Harper would make no real difference -- if he displaced a very good player, so the improvement was fairly nominal, then this discussion might be academic. But putting a 5+ WAR player into the Ms mix at either LF or 1B, both of which are recent Ms performance wastelands, would mean virtually all that 5 WAR is improvement. And, adding that to a young team with a group of solid players puts a different light on things.

Do the Ms need another Starting Pitcher (preferably RH) that is more than a .500 innings-eater type in the rotation? Certainly Yes. Might a pitcher like that be available at a doable price from FA (Shelby Miller?) or trade (Michael Fulmer? Sonny Gray?) while still affording Harper? Do they need some BP arms? Do they need a mentoring backup C? All these are still available, and that is true whether or not Harper is signed.

Shedding some of the $50M owed to Encarnacion, Bruce, and Leake would make a run at Harper even reasonable in payroll terms -- Felix comes off after the next season, and other long-term obligations are certainly affordable. And, more pointedly, getting more butts in seats would allow more payroll anyway -- and what gets butts in seats? WINNING!

The Ms ownership group has given Seattle some good teams and some nice nights at a beautiful ballpark. Might it be time for a year after year .600 winning percentage and some October baseball? It seems there's a possible path open. Is it the right one? I don't think anyone knows. Does it hold more promise than todays' roster? I'd say so.

Comments

1

Thanks for the article Bat571. I agree with you in terms of the credentials that make a great player a historic player.

But it nags at me that in our more recent sports culture players don't often look at things that way. Players see their path to greatness as postseason success and acclaim (true enough). But in order to achieve that they need to be part of a championship-level team, one that's always front and center in national attention. 

I will admit there are players who do not fit this profile (Trout), but I don't know enough about Harper's personality to judge whether he fits the profile or breaks it. My suspicion is he fits it. It's fun to imagine the M's pulling a fast one and making a big splash, but I don't think it fits with DiPoto's mindset as he reimagines this team. 

As an aside, I can't imagine what it would be like to have Mike Trout in CF. The epitome of a humble superstar. That said, I'll take a superstar of most any ilk. 

2

If the Mariners wanted someone who hit .250/.400/.500 in the lineup, they should have just reupped Nelson Cruz for $15 million bucks or so.  OK.  Cruz's OBP was only .350.  But, Cruz hit 37 HR last year, 21 of which were at Safeco.  Bryce Harper can make no such boast. Also, Harper was hitting in the better lineup, and I think OBP is slightly easier to get in the NL because the lack of DH shortens the lineup.  NL Pitchers are more prone to walk the most dangerous bat. 

Dang.  We had quite a lineup anchor last year, didn't we?

3

I agree with your general supposition that the greatest lore in the game for building a reputation as a champion is taking a incomplete team and making them great.

I don't think Harper is that guy, though. I think he's massively overrated. Inconsistent, prone to long stretches where he seems to stop working hard and coast...

I think he isn't going to have the staying power people assume he will.

4

Hitting adjacent to Haniger just sounds so good.  He's the only LH FA bat in the upper echelon available in the next few years.  There's upper echelon RH bats coming up in the next 2 years at every position on the field.  Do we need a LHB in particular for the rebuild?

The 3 positions Dipoto just filled up the middle with young players (C,SS, CF) are all LH.  Kelenic, Thompson-Williams and Fraley were also acquired in this reimagining as not only LH but OF.  LH OF are one of 2 things we're fairly stocked in the minors on, the other being RH OF.  This is not the position that Dipoto should be looking outside the org to supplement today.  I'd much rather be looking at the next years FA classes for a Gregarious or Bogaerts at SS, Rendon or Arenado at 3b.  Or in another year there's Realmuto at C or Mookie Betts who just turned 26 and had 35 WAR already or Mike Trout and his 64 WAR at 26 if you're going to sign an OF.  Those are the OFs I'd prefer and Betts has some professional experience at every defensive position except 1b and C.

Gerrit Cole, Chris Sale, Madison Bumgarner, Rick Porcello and a rather long list of other not so old starters who could look enticing after next year join Gregarious, Bogaerts, Rendon and Arenado as free agents in about 9-10 months.  Is it possible this FA class is a part of why they're talking about just stepping back 1 year?

After 2020 there's so many guys that could look very good for needs then but we don't yet know what those needs will be.  Some of the other guys that year like Jurickson Profar and Julio Teheran would look very good then with a couple stronger years between now and then.

The idea I've understood is to fill the roster with young talent and supplement that with Free Agents because trying to do the opposite is much more problematic.

https://www.spotrac.com/mlb/free-agents/2021/

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