The Blue Jays Are The Favorites To Sign Bryce Harper When He Hits Free Agency: Here's Why

Washington Nationals superstar Bryce Harper is already the subject of intense free agency speculation, even though he doesn't technically exhaust his arbitration years until the winter of 2018-19. However, teams are already lining up their ducks and getting their payrolls hashed out in hopes of landing him on what'll likely be a ten-year contract in excess of $450 million.

Who's got the best chance of bringing him in for a decade? Our pick is the Toronto Blue Jays, and here's three reasons why.

1. An Emerging Juggernaut

We don't know if you noticed, but the Blue Jays have positioned themselves to be the premier team in the American League for years to come -- mixing young stars, deft veteran acquistions, generational offensive power (plus Jose Bautista bat flips) and a starting rotation that's both underrated and brimming with potential/talent.

Harper's a competitive guy. Sometimes, a little TOO competitive. Some players look indifferent with their team struggles, but Harper isn't one of them and always wears his "must win" heart on his sleeve. More Bryce Harper speculation inside the Chat Sports iPhone and Android apps!

When the 2018 offseason rolls around, Harper's going to have plenty of options at his disposal. Why not hitch your wagon to a mack truck that'll already have been running roughshod over the American League for nearly half a decade?

2. Outfield Depth Chart

Let's be real here -- Jose Bautista will, or at least should be a Blue Jay for life. There will be plenty of negotiation posturing before he eventually signs an extension during or after the 2016 season, but his heart obviously is and always will be connected to Toronto.

Hometown discount or no, he should be in tow at least through 2019 on what'll likely be a three-year deal. That seems inevitable.

Other than that, who knows? Both Dalton Pompey and Kevin Pillar's arbitration eligibility spans past the 2018 offseason, but natural depth chart shifts based on overall production could change the landscape of the outfield in the next few years. As for Michael Saunders, he currently looks like a budget stopgap in left.

In comes Harper. Extensions for Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Donaldson and others have to be taken into account financially. However, you can't just pass up on a guy with Hall of Fame skills if you a) have a spot open in the outfield and b) have the need and the potential wiggle room to make it worthwhile.

3. Payroll Commitments + TV Rating Uptick

There are just two players on the payroll for the 2019 season right now -- shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and catcher Russell Wilson. That's $40 million in non-option commitments, and that number will likely be in the $120-130 million range once things flesh out and long-term pacts for Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, and (hopefully) Edwin Encarnacion are factored in.

However, that $120-130 million number could be chump change by 2019 if the team a) keeps winning, b) continues to enjoy major regional TV ratings and attendance boosts, and c) can parlay their marketability into a renegotiation with Sportsnet on a deal closer to the $100-150 million range that several US teams enjoy right now.

Either way, the money and the big market leverage should be there for Toronto to make a play at Harper.

Heck, the Blue Jays could even backload a deal to factor in other payroll commitments and a later reshuffling of contracts -- giving Harper $25-30 million over the first two years, before pouring things on after 2020. It'd be worth it for a kid who has all five tools you'd want out of the "perfect MLB player," and then some.

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Related Topics: Blue Jays Rumors, Bryce Harper, Jose Bautista