Yankees will have money for Bryce Harper, but should have spent it on Max Scherzer

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 09: Max Scherzer #31 of the Washington Nationals celebrates a win with Bryce Harper #34 after a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves at Nationals Park on April 9, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 09: Max Scherzer #31 of the Washington Nationals celebrates a win with Bryce Harper #34 after a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves at Nationals Park on April 9, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

The New York Yankees got under the luxury tax threshold and now have an opportunity to sign Bryce Harper this winter. However, they should have spent their money on Max Scherzer back in 2015.

One of the New York Yankees’ top priorities this past offseason was to get under the luxury tax threshold so that they could reset their tax percentage and have plenty of money to spend on the epic 2019 free agent class. So far, the Yanks have accomplished their goal and they’re in position to pursue superstars Bryce Harper or Manny Machado this winter if they want to.

However, when looking across the field to the home dugout during this week’s series against the Washington Nationals, there’s another National who the Yankees should be spending their money on. That National is two-time reigning NL Cy Young, Max Scherzer.

Although getting under the luxury tax threshold was thought to be for pursuing Harper and/or Machado, the Yankees don’t have much of a need for an outfielder, shortstop, or third baseman. Their biggest need right now is starting pitching and there’s no better starting pitcher in the game right now than Scherzer.

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Had the Yankees handed Scherzer the seven-year, $210 million deal the Nationals gave him in 2015, New York wouldn’t be under the luxury tax threshold right now and might not be able to participate in the 2019 free agent frenzy. But would it matter? What better way could the Yankees spend that money than on Scherzer?

The Yankees may miss out on Harper and Machado this winter anyway, simply because of a lack of interest on the team’s end. The need is just not there.

New York will still have money to spend and it’s unlike them not to spend it. They naturally will look to fill their biggest need and turn to the starting pitching market. A quick review of the free agent starting pitchers this winter will show Dallas Keuchel, Patrick Corbin, Charlie Morton, Gio Gonzalez, and Matt Harvey as the best options. Those guys can’t hold a candle to Scherzer.

David Price and Clayton Kershaw could opt out of their contracts and become free agents as well. Comparing Price to Scherzer … HA! But Kershaw is one of the few starters who could be argued as better than Scherzer. Both have three Cy Young awards and have been dominating the National League over the last few years.

The problem with the Yankees signing Kershaw this winter (even though I expect him to opt out) is that he will likely return to the Los Angeles Dodgers, just for more money over a longer contract. The Dodgers are one of the few teams that can go toe-to-toe with the Yankees financially and Kershaw seems like the kind of guy who values pitching his whole career for the Dodgers organization.

So when it comes to starting pitchers in the 2019 free agent class, no one will be available to the Yankees who comes close to the talent level of Max Scherzer.

Paying Scherzer what the Nationals paid him would have been a pricey investment for the Yanks. Washington will pay Scherzer $15 million annually from 2022-2028 even though his contract runs out after 2021. The Nationals could end up being hindered by Scherzer’s contract in those last seven years when he could be pitching elsewhere and laid out on a beach somewhere and it would potentially do the same if the Yankees had signed him to that deal. However, if he keeps up his current play through the end of his contract, the deal could be worth it. If he had signed with the Yankees and ended up bringing multiple World Series to the Bronx, the contract would be a bargain!

Obviously, signing Scherzer in 2015 would’ve changed a lot of what has transpired since for the Yankees. But assuming that everything else played out the same and the Yankees had their current lineup, current bullpen, and their starting rotation was Max Scherzer, Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, and CC Sabathia, I don’t think Yankees fans would mind not having money to spend on Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, or anyone else in the epic 2019 free agent class. Especially not after potentially celebrating a World Series championship.

Next: New York Yankees don’t need Manny Machado, but I want him

Many Yankees fans will be focused on Harper on Wednesday, but with Scherzer on the mound, they should be thinking about what could have been as Scherzer racks up strikeouts in his pursuit of a third-straight NL Cy Young.