The New York Yankees are once again on the cusp of championship contention, making the postseason in each of the last couple of years with their young core and power hitting. After failing to turn those postseason appearances into championships, though, should the Yankees have given stronger consideration to doing whatever it took to get Bryce Harper onto their roster in an attempt to get over the hump in a crowded American League?
This offseason for the Yankees has been all about keeping the core that the team has built together. The team inked extensions for Aaron Hicks and Luis Severino, showcasing their commitment to the players that have helped get them to this point. And that is an admirable strategy, given how well the team has played with the current crop of players leading them. But there is still an opportunity for the Yankees to get better, and signing Harper could have gone a long way in helping them get there.
If there was one practical argument for Harper not becoming a Yankee, it is that he plays the same position as Aaron Judge. The team could have moved one of those two stars to left field or rotated them as the team’s designated hitter to give them a break from playing the field, but that situation would have created a headache as the team figured out where to position their two biggest stars.
Last season, the Boston Red Sox had to make a $12 million luxury tax payment as the highest spending team in Major League Baseball. And that spending resulted in a championship, as the Sox tore through the Yankees in the Division Series en route to a World Series win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. This season, many MLB picks have the Red Sox as their 2019 champion as well because they have spent their money on enough talent to reach the top of the mountain.
In order to break through for the first time in a decade, the Yankees need to be unafraid to spend as well. They don’t need to do so in the reckless way they did in the early 2000s, where the team brought in any player they deemed to be a star without much regard for how those pieces would fit together. But adding Bryce Harper to one of the best young cores in the game today would have been vastly different than hoping that Gary Sheffield and Tony Womack would equal a title with no questions asked.
Without Harper, the Yankees are still one of the best teams in the American League and one of the best teams in all of baseball. They are on the short list of legitimate contenders to win the 2019 World Series, which is a great place to be. But if they fall short of their ultimate goal of winning a world championship in 2019, that would mark a decade without a title, during a time when the team’s rivals in Boston have been piling them up. Bryce Harper may not have been able to solve that, but the team will have to ask themselves “what if” now that they didn’t get more involved in trying to bring him to New York.