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Spring Training Daily

ST Daily: Bryce in Blue?

by Ryan Boyer
Updated On: February 26, 2019, 7:37 am ET

It sounds like the Bryce Harper saga could finally come to an end this week.

We think.


It has to, doesn’t it?

The big news Monday in the ongoing Harper courtship was that the Dodgers have re-emerged as a potential player for the mega free agent. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez first reported that manager Dave Roberts and other club officials met with Harper in Las Vegas on Sunday night, and Roberts himself confirmed as much Monday.

“It was good. Just trying to get to know each other,” Roberts said. “In the spirit of us, as the Dodgers, vetting a certain process makes sense. For those guys to do their due diligence as well.”

Now, here’s the rub. The Dodgers, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, only have interest in Harper if he’s willing to sign a shorter-term, higher-AAV deal. There were whispers earlier this month about that possibility, but they were quickly shot down. Have things changed since then?

The common feeling is that Harper – a Las Vegas native – prefers to play on the West Coast. It’s also been reported that he, more than most players, appreciates the history of the game and would enjoy playing for an historic franchise. The Dodgers obviously fit the bill in both regards, and that’s in addition to the fact that they’ve won two straight National League pennants, something’s that no doubt appealing to the highly-competitive Harper.

By all accounts, the Phillies are motivated to land Harper and almost surely are willing to make the highest bid of any team. But is it possible the 26-year-old just isn’t too excited about the possibility of playing in Philadelphia? It’s something that’s been speculated. But, of course, it’s just that – speculation. No one knows for sure what’s going on in Harper’s head.

With the Nationals, White Sox and Padres apparently no longer in the mix, the three teams that appear to be left standing for Harper are the Phillies, Dodgers and Giants. The Giants, like the Dodgers, might also only be willing to offer a short-term contract. Where will the star outfielder ultimately wind up? We might find out by the end of the week.

We think.


Dodger Down

Monday was supposed to be a good day for Clayton Kershaw. It didn’t turn out that way.

After being shut down for four days due to soreness in his left shoulder, Kershaw played catch on Monday. Unfortunately, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said that the southpaw “didn’t feel great” during the throwing session. Per Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, Kershaw threw “a few firm pitches early” out of the windup but then “appeared to back off and just throw at half speed.”

Roberts said that “right now we don’t have an MRI scheduled,” but the skipper didn’t know how long his ace might be shut down.

“He didn’t feel great, so where he’s at right now, it might be another day or two before he picks it up again,” Roberts said. “It’s safe to say he didn’t feel great coming out of it, so where that has us right now, I really don’t know. I know we’ll probably take a step back until he’s feeling better.”

Kershaw was already viewed as a health risk coming into spring training before these shoulder problems popped up. He hasn’t made more than 27 starts in any of the last three seasons, mostly due to chronic back issues that have resulted in multiple absences.

In addition to the durability concerns, Kershaw also saw his strikeout rate drop significantly down to 23.9% last season and also his velocity dip to 90.9 miles per hour, which was by far the lowest of his career.

Once a first-round staple in fantasy drafts, Kershaw’s current ADP in NFBC drafts is 38.14. That number no doubt will continue to rise, and probably significantly. Rotoworld’s projections guru, Matthew Pouliot, has tentatively dropped Kershaw from 8th to 13th among starting pitchers. He’s also moved Ross Stripling – who stands to benefit the most from a potential Kershaw absence – up from 33rd to 28th.

Hicks Extended

The Yankees have disappointed some of their fans by not making strong runs at Manny Machado or Bryce Harper this offseason, but they haven’t exactly been sitting on their hands, having traded for James Paxton, re-signed J.A. Happ, Zack Britton, CC Sabathia and Brett Gardner and brought in DJ LeMahieu, Adam Ottavino and Troy Tulowitzki. On Monday, it was time to lock up one of their own with a long-term deal.

The Bombers announced that they signed Aaron Hicks to a seven-year, $70 million contract extension with a $12.5 million club option for 2026. The one-year, $6 million contract Hicks agreed to last month has been ripped up, so the new deal is essentially a six-year extension that will lock up the outfielder through at least his age-35 season. He had been slated to hit free agency next offseason.

"I told Aaron, 'I'm betting on you,'" general manager Brian Cashman said. "I believe there's more gas in his tank. I believe there's more mountains to climb. He's a player with plate discipline and power and a cannon of an arm as a defender in center field, so he's capable of impacting a game in a positive way on both sides of the ball. I feel like we're fortunate to have him."

The deal is a risk when considering Hicks’ lengthy injury history. The 29-year-old has made at least one trip to the disabled list in all six of his big league seasons, in total going on the DL nine times. Last year was the first time in his career that he’s even reached 400 plate appearances in a major league campaign.

On the other hand, Hicks has taken his game to another level over the last two seasons when he has been able to take the field, posting a .255/.368/.470 batting line with 42 home runs, including a career-high 27 in 2018. He’s also rated as a slightly above-average to well above-average defensive center fielder.

From a fantasy perspective, those who own Hicks in dynasty leagues have to be pleased. The outfielder has slugged 36 home runs over 725 career plate appearances at hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium, including 15 bombs across 300 plate appearances last season. Hicks is expected to bat leadoff this season, which should result in his first-ever 100-run campaign if he can manage to stay healthy.

The Yankees might not be done, either, as they’re also reportedly working on an extension for Dellin Betances.

Quick Hits: Byron Buxton went 3-for-3 with a homer, a double and five RBI to lead the Twins past the Orioles on Monday. The outfielder is now 5-for-5 with two homers and 10 RBI in his first two games this spring … Justin Turner finished 2-for-2 with a home run, three RBI, and three runs scored Monday in the Dodgers' win over the Cubs … Garrett Hampson went 2-for-2 with a homer, three RBI and two runs scored in the Rockies' defeat of the Royals on Monday … Troy Tulowitzki homered off Marcus Stroman Monday against the Blue Jays in his first spring at-bat … Zack Greinke tossed two hitless innings in his Cactus League debut Monday against the Athletics … Jimmy Nelson (shoulder) was backed off from throwing for three days after feeling minor discomfort … Domingo Santana hit a two-run homer and drew a walk Monday in the Mariners' win over the Reds … Willson Contreras slugged a three-run homer Monday in the Cubs' win over the Padres … Jordan Zimmermann fanned four of the six batters he faced in two innings Monday against the Phillies … Christin Stewart went 2-for-3 and homered Monday against the Phillies … Noah Syndergaard worked a pair of scoreless innings and struck out two versus the Tigers on Monday … Jon Lester struck out three batters over two scoreless innings Monday in his Cactus League debut against the Padres … Justin Verlander was perfect for two innings against the Mets on Monday … Patrick Corbin worked a pair of scoreless frames against the Braves in his Nationals debut Monday, fanning two and walking none … Dansby Swanson (wrist) will make his Grapefruit League debut on Friday … Sonny Gray (elbow) played catch on Sunday … Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said Monday that the timeline for Marcell Ozuna (shoulder) to play left field is unclear … Trevor Bauer worked three scoreless frames in his Cactus League debut Monday versus the Rangers … Odubel Herrera's left hamstring injury has been diagnosed as a Grade 1 strain and his return is up in the air … James Paxton pitched a pair of hitless innings Monday in the Yankees' victory over the Blue Jays, walking two and striking out two … Zack Cozart was scratched from Monday's Cactus League lineup with soreness in his surgically-repaired left shoulder … Kevin Kiermaier (heel) is tentatively expected to return to the Rays' lineup on Tuesday … Angels manager Brad Ausmus is hopeful that Justin Bour (hamstring) will be in the lineup next week … Jose Castillo has been shut down with left forearm tightness … Robert Whalen has announced his retirement from baseball on Monday … The Rockies signed manager Bud Black to a three-year contract extension.

Ryan Boyer

Ryan Boyer is a baseball writer for NBC Sports Edge. He can also be found on Twitter.