After the baseball world realized that Kris Bryant and Bryce Harper are both Las Vegas natives and have at least a moderate friendship off of the baseball field, the Cubs were an immediate fit for Harper following the 2018 season. The Cubs, months later, are still considered one of the favorites to land the superstar right fielder when he becomes a free agent. Wherever Harper ends up, it could be on a record-breaking contract. Some have gone as far as predicting a $500 million pact. Even if his contract doesn’t meet this lofty projection, he won’t come cheap. On one hand, Harper is a generational talent who’s still in his mid-20s. On the other, he’s struggled to stay healthy some seasons. So should the Cubs be willing to empty their pockets for him?
1. Could you imagine a lineup with Harper, Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo filling the 2-3-4 holes? That immediately becomes the best 3-man punch in baseball.
2. In addition to his friendship with Bryant, Harper would fit right into the relaxed and fun culture Joe Maddon has brought to the Cubs’ clubhouse.
3. As a top-5 player in the MLB, any team would improve by adding Harper. The Cubs seem to have a window that may close within the next 3-4 years with Jon Lester reaching the back end of his contract and most of the Cubs core expected to reach free agency around 2021-2022. This may be the time to make a real run at another World Series. In that sense, he’s well worth every penny he should receive next offseason.
You probably weren’t expecting a section devoted to why Harper isn’t a smart buy, were you? Just hear me out here.
1. Did you know that Harper has only been able to reach 140 games twice in his six year tenure with the Nationals? He spent significant portions of 2013, 2014, and 2017 on the disabled list. He has shown a tendency to get hurt, and I haven’t heard anyone say that the cold spring days at Wrigley Field help reduce injuries.
2. As the Cubs continue to have more of their young stars reach arbitration over the next couple years, their payroll will keep increasing. It would be nice to sign guys like Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras to long-term extensions soon as well. Can they make room for Harper at $40-$50 million a year without compromising their pitching staff? I’m not too sure. Maybe they’d be wiser to get 2-3 guys next offseason with that money.
3. Although Harper has always had a cocky personality and been full of flare, he has a tendency to leave a little to be desired with his effort on the base paths and outfield. He infamously got into a dugout scuffle with former teammate Jonathan Papelbon over Harper’s lack of hustle to first base on a ground ball. Would his personality be detrimental to the Cubs?
All in all, Harper is a premium superstar and his talent in undeniable. If the Cubs can get creative with their payroll, Harper would be a welcomed addition to the North Side.
Photo: Greenberg/Chicago Sun Times