Bryce Harper is free to sign with any major league team he chooses this winter. Some San Diego Padres fans are really dreaming of a Harper signing, but is that even possible for a franchise that has failed to go the extra mile when it comes to competing?
It is natural. We are only human. It is completely normal for human beings to desire more in life. This unquenchable thirst to get better is what everything is all about. You cannot settle and you must always search for perfection.
When it comes to the San Diego Padres, fans of the team have felt neglected for a long time. It has been 10 years since the Padres have made a playoff appearance, and the club of that era was less than appealing to watch on a daily basis. They were a decent team, but when you lack star power on a squad, you fail to really capitalize on the magic of sports.
Not that you’d expect the Padres to break the bank for a free agent, but an effort would be nice.
Year after year, free agent class after free agent class, the team has stood pat and failed to bring in a star. An occasional James Shields-like signing here and there, but nothing substantial, and certainly not a player in their prime, ready to bring a long-awaited championship to San Diego. Despite the efforts in recent years, there has been an obvious failure to spend money consistently and the fan base is getting really tired of it. The team can do better.
The Padres are a successful business. The value of the team climbs each and every year. Each season, the club tremendously grows in value. The Padres make money. Don’t let them fool you. The club might have expenditures, but when it is all said and done, they turn a very hefty profit. So why is this money not being put back into the team? Why has the team been bad for so long?
A lot of the failures of the franchise have to do with the constant change in ownership and philosophy. The Padres have been through three separate ownership regimes recently, and each has done things in a completely different way. The ownership’s only common theme was a failure to spend money, as the Padres have been 17th or lower in payroll since 1999. That is one year after the team made the World Series, in which they were 9th in overall payroll.
Flash forward to the 2018-19 offseason and the Padres seem on the verge of actually turning the corner to relevancy. They have a fairly open payroll in the next few seasons and tons of young players knocking on the door. For once, the future really does seem bright for the San Diego Padres. There seems to be a plan. And it is starting to work.
This current free agent class has two megastars within it. Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, at the ages of 26, are the types of players you build a franchise around. Both have great value with the bat and each will cash in big this winter. There have been whispers that the Padres should explore signing one of them.
Machado seems to have stunted his value a bit with his antics this fall. In the World Series, he acted like a clown on multiple occasions and branded himself a dirty player. Under the microscope of the national attention, he struggled to “play the game correctly” and made it worse with his comments. He will still sign a huge contract this winter, but some have to wonder how much more money he could have gotten if he behaved himself in October while wearing a Dodgers uniform.
Harper comes with a lot of baggage himself. He is not known as a “hustler” and has been voted the most overrated player numerous times by his peers in the league. He is a great player though – a well-recognized one, and certainly a player who can be labeled the face of the franchise. He provides instant credibility to a team and is a marketing dream. He will probably be named an all-star the next ten seasons. That, in itself, speaks volumes to his popularity.
The opportunity to sign a player like Harper is rare. Extremely rare. But do Padres fans honestly believe the San Diego Padres are going to hand out the richest free agent contract in the history of professional sports? That is what it will take to secure Harper, who reportedly already turned down a 10-year offer from the Nationals at $300 million. It will take upwards of $350-400 million to secure Harper, and there is no way the Padres should be that team. They can’t be.
I fully understand that the team can afford to pay a player $30-35 million per season for the next ten years. They certainly have the flexibility with their future payroll commitments to do so. But should a team that is trying to find their stride commit so much money to one player? Instead of putting all one’s proverbial eggs in a single basket, why not spread things around? Use all that financial freedom to clean up in the international market come July every couple of years. The Padres will be penalty free this July 2 and could very well spend another $90 million on dozens of international players who could eventually be stars in the league. **(Under new rules the Padres are not able to spend like they did in 2016. Apologies for the incorrect information.) The Padres could also spend money on next year’s free agent class which includes Nolan Arenado and Anthony Rendon. Both would be less than Machado or Harper and could outproduce each in terms of value. I am not advocating that the team not spend money. I am pleading with them to keep spending it wisely. And no, the Hosmer signing was not wise.
The Padres must be smart with their money. Stay the course with these young players. As they emerge and establish themselves in the league, lock them up long term. Buy out their arbitration years and invest money into their free agent years. Do things the smart way and when the time is right, make that splash on the free agent market when the team is a piece or two from the promised land.
Padres fans have every right to dream of Bryce Harper. They want nice things too. But be careful to covet too much when the time is not right for this franchise. That can lead to an endless circle of inferiority. Now the time just isn’t right for the Padres to hand out boatloads of money. Dream of Bryce Harper, Padres fans. But don’t forget it is just that – a dream.