Dodgers interest in Bryce Harper should be expected, not surprising

NBC Sports Washington
Los Angeles fits every non-financial category Harper could want. The question is if it will break with recent tradition and commit a bounty to one player.

Dodgers interest in Bryce Harper should be expected, not surprising

Los Angeles fits every non-financial category Harper could want. The question is if it will break with recent tradition and commit a bounty to one player.

Dodgers interest in Bryce Harper should be expected, not surprising originally appeared on nbcsportswashington.com

The reverse would be more surprising. If the Los Angeles Dodgers, loaded with so many of the cues necessary to chase down Bryce Harper, sat this one out, hands behind their back, head shaking, that would be a stunner.

The Dodgers wading into the situation at some point is not. Yahoo! Sports reported Tuesday that Los Angeles is among those now in pursuit of Harper, at least in a cursory nature. Harper and Scott Boras are reportedly hosting owners in Las Vegas ahead of the Winter Meetings. These are the people who will be handling this negotiation. Harper and Boras are talking to ownership groups. General managers will be mitigated in this process. It's how Boras does, and has done, high-end business for the last 20 years. 

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Los Angeles is a common-sense fit, should it decide to enter negotiations with force. It has proximity, legacy, roster flexibility and starry-eyed allure on its side. Harper could make it back to Las Vegas via a four-hour drive or a plane ride that lasts just more than an hour. His promotional opportunities would be amplified. It's easy to picture him sitting courtside at Lakers games with his fellow fame-drenched L.A. workers.

The Dodgers have reached consecutive World Series. Their baseball legacy is in line with the Yankees or Red Sox or Cubs. The situation is a prime bundle of wins for Harper each time he checks an item on his list. 

Would it be beneficial to stay long-term? Would it work for my personal life? Will we win? Can I grow my brand? All are answered with an emphatic "yes" when assessing the Dodgers. They just have to cooperate.

Past decisions by Los Angeles president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman suggest the lone speed bump. He's loathe to shackle the organization to one enormous contract since taking over in 2014. Clayton Kershaw's recent contract extension didn't even reach $100 million. Three years, $93 million for the league's best pitcher when healthy.

The organization likes depth and flexibility. Harper cuts into both. Matt Kemp, who has to play a corner outfield position, will cost the Dodgers $21.5 million in 2019. Yasiel Puig is expected to receive a pay bump to around $11 million in arbitration. Cody Bellinger moves between center field and first base. That in turn moves Max Muncy around. And so on.

Which is not to suggest Los Angeles can't simplify its stance by saying 'Harper is too valuable, we'll sign him and figure it out.' Its manager, Dave Roberts, is one of the best in baseball at varied deployment. His talent is part of the reason the Dodgers can take the approach they do. Plus, Kemp and Puig come off the books in 2020 while Bellinger, 23, and Corey Seager, 24, remain under cost-effective team control. Syncing them with a 26-year-old Harper makes billboards and sense.

The Dodgers also snuck under the competitive balance tax threshold last season, resetting their clock and avoiding penalties. That opens their ability -- along with massive revenue streams -- to chase Harper, who already turned down $300 million from the Nationals and undoubtedly wants to at least surpass Giancarlo Stanton's $325 million contract, the largest in the history of North American professional sports.

In a vacuum, the Dodgers' deliverables fit. In this specific space, they also fit. The Winter Meetings are a week away in Harper's hometown of Las Vegas. Hearing about interest from the Dodgers shouldn't surprise anyone.

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