Bryce Harper
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Report: The Yankees are out on Bryce Harper

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The Yankees are primed to make a splash in the free agent market this offseason, but it’s not yet clear exactly where they’ll be focusing their efforts. A recent report from Steve Phillips of MLB Network suggests that the club “will not be in on [Bryce] Harper” in 2019, but will instead attempt to court fellow free agent Manny Machado.

While the Yankees certainly have the resources to pursue the kind of record-breaking contract Harper is expected to secure, they’re not hurting for outfielders at present. The team declined a $12.5 million club option on veteran outfielder Brett Gardner last Wednesday and re-signed him to a $7.5 million contract that will keep him in the Bronx throughout the 2019 season. With Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, and Aaron Hicks expected to comprise the Yankees’ starting outfield trio next year, it seems unlikely that they’ll choose to devote significant resources to another top-tier outfielder when they have more pressing issues to address — for instance, adding rotation depth and stabilizing their infield. Then again, it’s not as if Gardner’s recent .236-average, 2.5-fWAR performance is standing in the way of them making a run at one of the best players in baseball, either.

As for Machado, Phillips’ report appears to contradict that of SNY’s Andy Martino, who alleged that the Yankees were feeling “lukewarm” toward the infielder following his head-scratching antics during the postseason. As Bill pointed out last week, however, teams have a vested interest in lowering Machado’s asking price, and no one team is expected to abandon their pursuit of the All-Star slugger simply because he exhibited poor temperament and questionable on-field antics this fall.

John Henry tries to justify the Red Sox’ trade of Mookie Betts

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Red Sox owner John Henry issued a lengthy statement to fans today trying to explain and justify the team’s trade of Mookie Betts. It’s a master class in distortion that will, in all likelihood, make no one happy.

Henry starts by talking about “challenges.” The “particularly challenging” offseason the Red Sox had, the “extraordinary challenges” the Red Sox faced, and the front office’s handling of these “challenges.” He goes on to talk about how he knows the “challenges” affect the fans and how he sees it as his job to protect the organization from these “challenges.”

There’s a lot of passive voice here, and at no point does Henry note that the primary challenge at play here was the team’s decision to cut payroll and get it below the Competitive Balance Tax threshold. It’s just a thing that happened to the Red Sox, apparently. They had no agency in this at all.

For what it’s worth, the team keeps denying that the CBT was the motivating factor:

This is laughable, of course, given that Henry himself began the Red Sox’ offseason by specifically saying the team needed top do just that. His exact words from late September:

“This year we need to be under the CBT . . .  that was something we’ve known for more than a year now. If you don’t reset there are penalties so we’ve known for some time now we needed to reset as other clubs have done.”

Three days later, Kennedy himself said it’d “be difficult” to keep both Betts and J.D. Martinez and accomplish that goal. When that all went over like a lead balloon with the fans Henry and everyone else tried to walk it back, but you have to be an idiot not to see what happened here:

  1. Owner demands team get under CBT;
  2. Team president says it’ll be hard to do that without one of the superstars leaving;
  3. Martinez declines to op-out of his deal;
  4. Betts is traded.

They can cite all the “challenges” they want, but they traded Betts in order to slash payroll and they slashed payroll simply because they wanted to, not, as we and many others have demonstrated, because of any compelling reason.

Instead of talking about that, Henry spends the bulk of the statement talking about how baseball’s financial system — free agency, basically — requires teams to make tough choices. Henry:

In today’s game there is a cost to losing a great player to free agency — one that cannot merely be made up by the draft pick given. . . . we felt we could not sit on our hands and let him go without getting value in return to help us on our path forward.”

Losing a player to free agency stinks, but nowhere in the entire statement does Henry mention that the Sox could’ve, you know, not lost Betts to free agency next November.

Nowhere does he note that the Sox had a full year to talk to Betts about a possible extension nor did he mention that the Sox — who print money at a faster rate than anyone except the Yankees — could’ve bid on him in free agency too. He simply does not allow for the possibility that a 2021 Boston Red Sox team could’ve done what the 2020 Washington Nationals did, for example, and sign one of their big, would-be departing free agents in Stephen Strasburg. Nor, for that matter, does he allow for the possibility that they could do what the 2019 Washington Nationals did with their all-but-certain-to-depart superstar in Anthony Rendon: hold on to him in his walk year and win a damn World Series. Guess it was a “challenge” to go into all of that.

Of course, as we’ve seen across baseball this past week, it’s really, really hard to explain something when you don’t want to admit the facts and accept the consequences of it all. That’s maybe the toughest challenge of them all.

The full statement: