Bryce Harper Signs with the Phillies

After a long, drawn out off-season, Bryce Harper has finally signed.  It’s a doozy of a deal at 13 years, $330 million total.  After much speculation that the Dodgers were on their heels ready to pounce, it turns out the Phillies were able to get a deal done.

I’m split on how to feel about this as a Braves fan.  Bryce Harper is definitely a very good player, and the Phillies have improved more than any team in Baseball this season.  I was hoping Harper would go out to the West Coast or the AL to avoid him.  While I’m not as down on Alex Anthopoulos as some are, I’m a little annoyed that the Braves haven’t done more after dramatically increasing revenue in consecutive years and being told we would be able to shop in any aisle this off-season.  The one big splash they made was at what I would assess as their 4th biggest position of need entering the off-season (OF, Starting P, and Relief P rank higher than 3B).  While there’s still a chance the Braves go out and get Craig Kimbrel or Dallas Keuchel, it appears the Braves still let themselves get outgunned by every both the Phillies and Mets when there was absolutely no reason to let that happen as reigning Division Champions.

On the other hand, it’s important to keep things in perspective.  While it’s only 1 year, a healthy Josh Donaldson is probably going to play better than Bryce Harper.  And while it’s only a 1 year deal, a 1 year deal is better than a 13 year deal.  The Phillies are going to be around half-way through this deal just as Acuna, Albies, Swanson, and whichever young Pitchers pan out are hitting their prime.  Most of these long-term deals have gone sour for the teams signing them well before the end of the contract, and I doubt this is an exception.  While the Phillies are big-market spenders, this contract will most likely limit their options for building their roster going forward.  Those are all hopeful points for Braves fans.

Harper is presumably going to be a short-term boon to the Phillies.  That roster is stacked and will be difficult to compete with.  At the same time, the Braves will still be able to compete, and having the Phillies stuck with this contract for years to come could eventually be helpful.  That said, it would still be prudent for the Braves to shore up their Pitching depth before the season starts in order to be in a position to improve on their impressive season last year and make a deeper run in October.

Room for Braves Roster Improvements

As we get closer to the start of spring training, some Braves fans are getting a little nervous.  While the Braves added Josh Donaldson, they haven’t really improved anywhere else, all while the Phillies and Mets have made serious moves.  With free agency winding down, Gabe Burns of the AJC asked on Twitter today, are there any free-agents outside the Big 3 (Harper, Machado, Kimbrel) you would like to see the Braves bring in?

Looking at free agents, I’m a little skeptical.  The 3 needs I can see the Braves looking for outside help for at this point are OF, Starting P, and Relief P.  There really aren’t any Relief Ps left in free agency who strike me as a significant upgrade.  For the first two positions, I wouldn’t mind either Marwin Gonzalez or Dallas Keuchel on team-friendly deals.  That said, there were rumors Gonzalez was coming on a 3-year/$53 million deal earlier this off-season, and I definitely wouldn’t want him at that price.  Additionally, while Keuchel wouldn’t be a bad addition to the rotation, I think I might rather trade for a different P with perhaps more team-friendly terms (Madison Bumgarner and Corey Kluber are both names that have come up).

That said, I don’t think there’s not room for the Braves to still make improvements with the right creativity.  For example, David O’Brien of the Athletic threw out the suggestion that the Braves trade Ender Inciarte + Prospect for Kluber, dump Teheran’s salary somewhere, and then sign Bryce Harper.  That’s the type of thinking that could upgrade the Braves roster while still keeping a mid-market payroll.  My biggest concern with that specific scenario is still having Harper on the books when it comes time for the Braves’ young core (Acuna, Albies, etc) to resign, but I do think creative trading is probably the best route for improving the Braves roster at this point in the off-season.