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Yankees not ruling Bryce Harper out as Evil Empire mentality may win out

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 12/13/2018 Kristie Ackert
a baseball player holding a glove © New York Daily News illustration

LAS VEGAS — Cue the Darth Vader music and dust off the old Evil Empire Strikes Back headlines.

Brian Cashman not only refused to push back against agent Scott Boras’ prediction that the Yankees would eventually cave and chase free agent slugger Bryce Harper, but he also likened the organization to a “fully operational Death Star” on Wednesday.

“I don’t have any reaction other than to say we try to promote that we are a progressive and open-minded operation and that every day is different, that we are prepared to pivot and react if things change, if the rosters adjust,” Cashman said. “If something doesn’t make sense today, it doesn’t mean it won’t make sense tomorrow. All I can tell you is where our current focuses are. But at the same time, we’re a fully operational Death Star.”

Cashman actually beat Boras at his usual schtick of using odd analogies during his semi-annual State of the Game address at the Winter and GM Meetings. He also left the door open to exactly what Boras had described earlier in the day in a large media scrum at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

Recalling the Yankees’ swooping in late in the process to sign Mark Teixeira ten years ago, Boras indicated we should all stay tuned to where this market ends up.

“When the nurse walks in with the thermometer, the issue isn’t what (it reads) that day...it’s the health of the patient when they’re ready to leave the hospital,” Boras said.

Just two days before, Cashman had all but ruled out Harper signing with the Yankees this winter.

Cashman rattled off a list of seven outfielders currently on his 40-man roster and then told reporters he was “surprised,” he was still getting questions about Harper.

Harper is not an obvious fit for the Yankees, though it has been speculated he could move to first base if he were to come to the Bronx. Cashman said Monday that moving Harper, who is looking for a long-term, $300 million contract, to first wasn’t something the Yankees were considering.

They have an outfield of Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner already set in the majors and Cashman also included Jacoby Ellsbury, who missed the entire 2018 season with injuries, and Clint Frazier, who missed most of the 2018 season with complications after having suffered a concussion.

Obviously, Harper is an upgrade over at least five of those outfielders.

Harper, 26, is a six-time all star and one of the younger game-changers to ever hit free agency. He won the NL MVP in 2015.

"This is not a race where every car is labeled," Boras said. "There is a lot of people that want to keep what they're doing very private, which is usually the practice with a major free agent. Some clubs are more open and direct about what they're doing, and some clubs really want a very private process for them."

So far, the Phillies have been aggressive in trying to sign him and the White Sox have also reportedly met with Boras and Harper in the player’s native city.

“Owners are really after his legacy. They're after building a brand around him, a team around him," Boras said. "I just don't think there is an appetite from ownership for those types of things (short-term deal]) And everyone that wants Bryce wants to make sure he's going to be there a long time."

That is also the exactly the type of slugger the old big-spending, wheeling-dealing Bronx Bombers would be chasing back in the day. And in those days, an agent like Boras would want to keep the Yankees and their deep pockets involved in the market to inflate the process.

Boras hinted that he didn’t believe the Yankees haven’t lost that big-game hunting mentality that they displayed back in 2008. That was the winter that they were not necessarily “in,” on Teixeira, but swooped in and signed him to an eight-year deal.

“You’re talking about star players,” Boras said of the type of player the Yankees gravitate toward, “ and I go back to Mark Teixeira.”

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