The Padres have been actively pursuing superstar free agent infielder Manny Machado. On Thursday we learned they're actively pursuing superstar free agent outfielder Bryce Harper.
Multiple reports confirm San Diego is meeting with Harper in his home town of Las Vegas, making them the 4th confirmed club (alongside the Nationals, Phillies, and White Sox) kicking the tires on the 2015 National League MVP. The Dodgers have also been rumored to be interested in Harper, who has already turned down a lucrative deal to stay in Washington and test the free agent waters.
With most teams reporting to Spring Training in less than two weeks we should start to see some movement on the stagnant MLB free agent market. But would Harper be a good fit for the Padres?
He's a right fielder and San Diego has a plethora of corner outfielders in Hunter Renfroe, Franmil Reyes, and Wil Myers. Of course none of them is the offensive force that Harper is so one or two would have to be moved in a trade or left at Triple-A El Paso, which is not a major obstacle when you're talking about landing one of the game's most talented hitters.
At the age of 26 Harper already has 184 home runs and career OPS of .900 with a 30.7 WAR (according to Fangraphs). Average out his 2019 projections and he's expected to hit 34 homers with 95 RBI and an OPS of .928. Plus he's one of those guys whose mere presence puts rear ends in seats. The Padres fan base would get awfully excited about a lineup that features him, Fernando Tatis Jr., Luis Urias, Francisco Mejia, and Eric Hosmer.
Another thing to consider is Harper sees the ball extremely well at Petco Park. In 12 career games there he has 4 HR, 11 RBI, 11 runs scored, and a ridiculous 1.122 OPS. Yes I know he did that against Padres pitching but still the numbers are nothing to sneeze at.
HOWEVER ... and this is the author's pure speculation here ... I'm not sure the Padres are really trying to land Harper. My gut tells me this is them doing a solid for Scott Boras to land that other 26-year-old stallion (Machado).
The market for Harper hasn't exploded like Boras hoped so what if he's asked another party (the Padres) to jump in as a scare tactic for Washington, Philadelphia, and Chicago? Their pursuit of Machado shows the Padres are willing to spend money right now and those other clubs know it. Boras, the master manipulator, could very well be trying to make one of them panic and reach Harper's asking price.
What do the Padres receive in return? Boras leaning Machado in San Diego's direction.
Manny is the guy who fills a more immediate need for the Padres, who have really no solution at 3rd base (or shortstop until baseball's #2 overall prospect shows up). An infield of Machado, Tatis, Urias, and Hosmer is sure looks like the makings of a World Series contender. If Machado is hell bent on playing shortstop, let him and move Tatis to 3rd base. That's what Baltimore did when Machado first came upand they already had Gold Glover J.J. Hardy at short and it worked out pretty well for everyone.
And if the scare tactic doesn't work with those other teams trying to land Harper? Heck, the Padres just might end up with him.