Update: 1/31/19 Bryce Harper is meeting with an unidentified team in Las Vegas.
Update again: 12:30pm Mystery team is the San Diego Padres.
If there’s one thing Mets fans do better than perhaps any other fan base in sports, it’s building up false hope. And I, for one, take pride in that.
Which is why I can’t shake the feeling that we’ve yet to see Brodie Van Wagenen’s biggest move of the 2018-19 offseason. Could the Robinson Cano/Edwin Diaz blockbuster have been just an appetizer? The Jeurys Familia and Wilson Ramos signings just an undercard before the main event?
Is something even more grand on its way?
If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m talking about Bryce Harper. It’s late December, the Winter Meetings have come and gone, and the biggest free agent of the year (and, like, maybe of all time) is currently still unsigned. There isn’t even a clear front runner to sign him, for that matter.
So it’s only natural for fans to start wondering whether Harper may be making his way to Queens this spring. Some might pause to think more realistically, but I’m not going to do that. No, I’m going to instead lay out all the cold hard evidence in favor of what I’m calling the Bryce Harper Theory, for lack of a better name.
I may not be right about this, but if I am, it’ll change a lot of things – in Queens, and in Major League Baseball.
Let’s get into it.
- The Apartment
It was reported here first that earlier this offseason, Harper moved into a new apartment in New York’s own Long Island City. The building also happens to host a few other notable Mets names, including budding star and fan favorite Brandon Nimmo.
As ThatMetsChick has previously explained, there are very reasonable cases to be made that this is for marketing, or that it means very little about Bryce’s forthcoming decision. But that explanation is way less fun.
No, I prefer the more fun version: that Bryce knew he wanted to play in the greatest city in the world, on one side of town or the other. And as the Yankees continue to show a lack of apparent interest, that dream can only be made possible by the Brodie-mobile.
2. The Mystery Owner
As the Winter Meetings got underway in Las Vegas earlier this month, it became clear that Harper was going to be prominent topic of discussion (duh). One tweet in particular piqued my interest:
The “mystery owner” in question has yet to be revealed, and there’s a very real chance we’ll never have an answer.
But what we do know is that Jeff Wilpon was in attendance during the Winter Meetings, a presence which Brodie Van Wagenen specifically requested leading up to the event. Hmm.
It’s possible that the first-time general manager just wanted some guidance and support from his boss. But if a team like the Mets were to be going for a guy as high-profile as Harper…well, that would certainly call for the presence of a team owner.
Oh, and Jeff Wilpon wasn’t alone in joining Brodie in Vegas…
3. The Franchise
Former team captain David Wright was also in attendance, despite not holding an official front office position with the Mets (yet). Wright has been the face of the Mets franchise for over a decade, even through his recent struggles with spinal stenosis. He embodies everything a fan could want in a New York superstar.
Which is why he would be the perfect choice to represent the organization during a pitch for the best player on the market.
Wright’s final game in uniform was well-documented around the league, and Mets fans put on an impressive performance of their own by showing undying gratitude for their Captain. There’s no doubt that Bryce noticed. We’ve all spewed hate towards Bryce Harper the National in the past, but Mets fans would almost unanimously accept him as the new face of our team with open arms.
And the best way to win Harper over? By having the Captain pass the torch in person. At the Aria resort in Vegas.
4. The Flexibility
I think it’s fair to say that Van Wagenen has done an objectively good job thus far this offseason. He’s checked off some major boxes on the team to-do list just a month and a half into the long offseason, all without spending too much money.
In fact, he’s made a really strong and obvious effort to not spend money. He took on the Cano contract by shedding Jay Bruce and Anthony Swarzak’s salaries. He almost traded controllable talent for the financially inexpensive JT Realmuto, and when that didn’t happen, he went the relatively cheap (but effective) route by signing Wilson Ramos to catch.
And yeah, that’s nothing new. The Mets have long been pinching pennies, hoping to maximize performance while spending as few dollars as possible and ultimately choosing mediocrity over high salaries.
But this offseason seemed to promise change. Jeff Wilpon has been more public recently, promising to reinvest insurance money from David Wright’s contract into the payroll, and suggesting that Brodie would have more financial wiggle room than GM’s have had in years past. So why not spend on a catcher, which has been a glaring need for over a decade?
Because he wants the big fish. He wants Bryce Harper, the man who can change the perception of this organization, and who can lead an already solid roster to glory. He’s saving now so he can splurge later, when it comes time for Bryce to make his decision.
Well, I hope that’s what he’s doing, anyways.
Yeah, it’s a stretch. But I genuinely do think it’s a possibility. Brodie promised more moves after the Cano/Diaz deal, and he has already delivered by signing Familia and Ramos. But Ramos was still the cheaper route, and Familia is old news to Mets fans. If Brodie really wants to make an impression at the start of his tenure, Harper is the way to go.
And he definitely knows that.