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Ramifications of Dodgers actually signing Bryce Harper

It’s still highly unlikely

MLB: Washington Nationals at Colorado Rockies Russell Lansford-USA TODAY Sports

Reports from three credible baseball writers last night/early this morning confirm the Dodgers are back in on Bryce Harper — to a certain extent. Blake did a nice job of covering that for you this morning.

And while a union still remains unlikely, let’s see what the domino effect could be for the Dodgers.

The Dodgers want a short-term deal. That’s a subjective term. It could mean one year, four years or anywhere in between. Five years, while not a long time (relatively speaking), would be my subjective end point for a “short-term” deal.

If that’s the case, Harper is going to get an ungodly amount of money annually. While Manny Machado signed for an average of $30 million per season, the 26-year-old Harper would be unlikely to sign for less than that on a short term deal. For some reason, the terms sticking in my head are four years and $200 million.

Yeah, it’s crazy, but doable ... right?

Mark Walter was quoted in the LA Times yesterday saying that he has given Stan Kasten and Andrew Friedman no mandate to remain under the luxury tax. I’ll let my Dodgers Digest co-founder Chad Moriyama chime in here:

Dripping with sarcasm, it’s hard to disagree. Still, this news of the Dodgers being back in on Harper would actually mean the Dodgers don’t(?) care about the luxury tax ramifications. If so, that’d be refreshing.

What gets me is if the Dodgers are concerned about the luxury tax on some level, a longer-term, lower-AAV deal might actually easier for them to deal with. Eric’s payroll worksheet has the Dodgers at roughly $193.4 million in player salaries for the upcoming season. The luxury tax threshold this season is $206 million. If the Dodgers give Harper a deal with an AAV of $40 or more million, then they’re moving into the territory where they’ll have their first-round draft pick for 2020 moved down 10 spots. That happens when a team is $40 million over the luxury tax. It’d be a small price to pay for landing one of the game’s premiere players, but something that goes into consideration. There are also incentives in the contracts of Joe Kelly, Clayton Kershaw and Kenta Maeda that could add to the tax number, as well as any in-season acquisitions they might make.

Additionally, they’d lose their third-round pick in June’s draft and another $500,000 of international signing money for the 2019-20 period. They’d also be subject to losing $1 million of international money for the 2020-21 period if they sign any player who has turned down the qualifying offer next winter (e.g., Nolan Arenado, Chris Sale, etc.). For a team that wants to build through the draft and amateur signings, that’d make things a bit tougher.

It’d be easier to deal with a $30-33 million AAV for longer, especially with money coming off the books after this season (David Freese, Rich Hill, Hyun-Jin Ryu .. just to name a few).

Seriously, just pony up the 8-to-10 years and be done with it. #notmymoney

More likely, this is just a cruel teaser for Dodger fans who have been — on the whole — unsatisfied with the offseason personnel moves. Not only that, there would need to be some other moving parts if Harper were to sign. Joc Pederson has been rumored to be on the block, and he would be all but ticketed for a trip to the other clubhouse at Camelback Ranch (White Sox). Alex Verdugo, whom the team did not trade after a winter of rumors, would be a potential trade candidate either now or during the season. Max Muncy could be moved as well. Odds are it’d be Pederson on the move with Verdugo getting the biggest reduction in playing time (which was already suspect to begin with).

Spring Training started almost a week ago. Pitchers and catchers reported nearly two weeks ago. Bryce Harper remains unsigned. These are the kinds of articles and thoughts that happen in December or January of an MLB offseason. The system is still broken and we might be setting ourselves up for disappointment, but man, Harper would still look so good in Dodger blue. We’ll see if anything comes of this new rumor. He has no reason to accept a short-term deal.

But if I know Dodger baseball, it’ll just end up being another in a wave of disappointments, even if this one is (now) totally expected.