Shelton: Blue Jays should go all-in and pursue Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper is still a free agent.

Bryce Harper is still a free agent.

By Cole Shelton

Canadian Baseball Network

Spring training is just days away, and the top two free agents in Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are still available.

It has been an off-season of very few moves, but the time is now for the Toronto Blue Jays to go out and sign Harper.

There is no question the Blue Jays payroll is going way down — like tens of millions of dollars down — and they can use that money to sign a perennial All-Star in Harper. Not only would signing Harper help Toronto out right now, but it would also help them out in a few years.

Arguably one of the greatest prospects ever, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Montreal, Que.) will likely be called up by the Blue Jays about two weeks into the season. If he lives up to the hype, the Blue Jays will have an MVP candidate and a middle of the order bat. Now, imagine Charlie Montoyo filling out his 2020 lineup where he can put Bo Bichette in the two-hole, Bryce Harper batting third, and Guerrero Jr. batting cleanup. The Jays offence would once again be one of the best in the league.

Harper, who is only 26 and won’t be 27 until October, still has plenty of good years in front of him. Last season, the Las Vegas native hit .249 with 34 home runs and 100 RBIs. As well, Harper walked 130 times which led the National League, as well as having an on-base percentage of .393. Since joining the league in 2012 as a 19-year-old, Harper has been an All-Star in every year except for 2014.

Although his batting average was down last season, Harper’s advanced stats showed promise. His exit velocity was 90.6 while his launch angle was 13.9. Meaning he isn’t getting under the ball for pop-ups. Instead, he is hitting hard line drives which should go down for hits but simply weren’t last season.

His hard hit percentage was the second highest of his career at 45.1%. Not only was he hitting the ball hard last season, but he was also patient at the plate, walking a league-leading 130 times. He only chased 25% of the time, and when he did chase he made contact 53.7% of the time.

Currently, Randal Grichuk is slated to start in right field, however, it would be easy enough to move him over to left field and have Harper start in right. Moving over Grichuk to left would also get Teoscar Hernandez off the field, which is a big plus given he was a minus defender last season.

Harper would be a big addition to the Blue Jays roster that is competing in a very tough A.L. East. The Red Sox will still be good in 2019, the Yankees are young and dominant, and the Rays had some success last season, too. Combining Harper, Bichette, and Guerrero Jr. just makes too much sense not to pursue it.