A couple days ago Cespedes Family BBQ tweeted out its Bryce Harper Free Agency Matrix. They do these for a lot of guys. Take a look:
It’s pretty self-explanatory. It also left me with many thoughts, feelings and opinions. Look at where they put the Cleveland logo. I just don’t have any firm position on this, but it’s definitely… something.
First of all, of course they could use him. It’s the Indians’ glaring weakness. And it’d be just neat. Coming into 2019 they have like five center fielders, none of whom can hit at any level resembling average. Even Harper at his worst (basically his 2018 season) would be the best offensive outfielder the Indians would have since 2014 and Michael Brantley. Before that, we have to look back to probably Shin-Soo Choo or Grady Sizemore. It’s been a mess for the Indians, probably more of a mess than Harper’s first half this past year. He hit .214/.365/.468 before the break, somehow hitting like the third or fourth best Tribe player over taht same stretch. Then he elevated his OPS by 150 points after the break and ended up leading baseball in walks. So yeah. The Indians could use him. No shit.
More than anything, it’s the placement on the X-axis that bothers/confuses me. Are we in some kind of world where the Indians are a middle of the road team in spending? Sure, their payroll crested $140 million in 2018, by far a club record. And also something they’re definitely not going to try to shatter in 2019. Heck, the only real chatter about the team is them trying to dump salary because Corey Kluber is too good and earned too much money. And he’s not even expensive - like pretty much the entire pitching staff he’s producing insane excess value. But apparently $18 million for a Cy Young candidate is a bit too steep.
And they do have to try to sign Lindor. If given the choice between Lindor and Harper, there is no choice. So even if they have no money, they have even less than that. But you know what makes a lot of money? You know what puts butts in seats over and over and over? Winning. The Indians are kind of the exception to that rule, but they did have to deal with LeBron taking a bunch of the expendable income the last few years, and the Browns always being around. Of course, even if they get good, it’s not going to subtract from the available pool of money the fans in the area have to spend. Cleveland has loved them through all this, how much more can the love that silly team? And the Cavs have fallen into a hole. So there’s some slack to be picked up.
Which is all a long way of saying, the Indains could totally bolster their middling attendance figures by getting Harper. If their owners would shell out anyway. Winning teams trump heartfelt love of crappy stars, and I’m all for owners spending more money. People like the Dodgers somehow, and they have the least charismatic team on earth. Like a more vanilla Yankees, they are. But the Indians, they won’t spend that kind of dough on one player, even a hypothetical “generational outfield talent” rather than Harper specifically. Which is why their placement on that line, again, is so bizarre. Also they’re right next to the White Sox! Isn’t Jerry Reinsdorf supposed to be getting old and desperate, and isn’t the White Sox outfield a heap of bleh? Everyone to the left of the Indians makes sense, but the Sox should be WAY to the right. Especially with how they’ve been linked with Manny Machado, both now and at the deadline.
This is a pipe dream of course, the idea that Harper could sign with the Tribe. It’s not the kind of place that Boras clients sign. That chart is a little disingenuous. Cleveland should be somewhere closer to the Orioles if there was any sense to the world. But there isn’t. A sentiment that actually encourages me. Because what makes less sense than Bryce Harper to the Indians? Now it has to happen.