From D.C. to N.Y. or L.A.?

Los Angeles Times - - INSIDE BASEBALL - BILL SHAIKIN ON BASE­BALL bill.shaikin@la­times.com Twit­ter: @Bil­lShaikin

The last fewyears have not been kind to fans of the New York Yan­kees, at least not to the ones con­di­tioned to be­lieve ev­ery great young player is des­tined to be se­duced by the Yan­kees’ wal­lets, er, tra­di­tion.

Clay­ton Ker­shaw shrugged off free agency and stayed with the Dodgers. Mike Trout did the same with the An­gels. So did Buster Posey with the San Fran­cisco Gi­ants, Felix Her­nan­dez with the Seat­tle Mariners and Gian­carlo Stan­ton with the Miami Mar­lins.

Bryce Harper showed up at Yan­kee Sta­dium last­week, and the faith­ful show­ered him with chants. “FU-TURE YAN-KEE” was one. Sowas “2019,” in ref­er­ence to the first year he could play for the Yan­kees, or any other team. The Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als con­trol their star out­fielder through 2018.

Harper said all the right things about en­joy­ing his time with the Na­tion­als, how own­er­ship has treated himwell, and how he wants to bring a cham­pi­onship to Wash­ing­ton. But it is dif­fi­cult to imag­ine Harper pass­ing up a chance at free agency; clients of agent Scott Bo­ras al­most al­ways test the mar­ket.

It has been sug­gested it would be a sur­prise if Harper did not sign with the Yan­kees. The ar­gu­ment is that Harper would be ex­traor­di­nar­ily mar­ketable in New York, and that the Yan­kees have sev­eral mas­sive con­tracts ex­pir­ing be­fore 2019 and could af­ford what­ever it took to sign him.

All true of the Dodgers too. And Harper might well judge the Dodgers as the teamthat gives him the best chance to win.

The Na­tion­als never have won a post­sea­son se­ries. Although they­were pro­jected as the best teamin the Na­tional League this sea­son, they are two games over .500.

The Yan­kees are old. Their only start­ing po­si­tion player un­der 30 is short­stop Didi Gre­go­rius, whose on-base per­cent­age and slug­ging per­cent­age were both un­der .300 be­fore the­week­end. Of Base­ball Amer­ica’s top 30 prospects, the Yan­kees have none. Base­ball Amer­ica ranks their or­ga­ni­za­tional tal­ent 18th among the 30 ma­jor league clubs.

The Dodgers rank third, and their mi­nor league sys­temis about to get­much deeper, af­ter they con­duct an ex­pen­sive raid on Latin Amer­i­can tal­ent when the sign­ing pe­riod opens July 2. The Yan­kees have spent heav­ily there, and base­ball rules pre­clude them from do­ing it again this year.

If the Dodgers’ top prospects pan out, imag­ine a fran­chise foun­da­tion of Harper, out­fielder Joc Ped­er­son, in­fielder Corey Sea­ger and pitcher Julio Urias. Harper and Ped­er­son would turn 27 in 2019. Sea­ger would be 25. Urias would be 23.

The Dodgers would be­wary of in­vest­ing so­much money in one player, and team Pres­i­dent Stan Kas­ten has said hewould be re­luc­tant to ac­quire a player whose con­tract ex­tended be­yond age 36. But even a10-year con­tract for Harper would ex­pire be­fore he turned 36.

Harper grewup a Yan­kees fan, idol­iz­ing Mickey Man­tle. And his swing is all but de­signed for Yan­kee Sta­dium. But maybe Harper wants to play close to his Las Ve­gas home, lead­ing a cast of young stars. He grewup idol­iz­ing Vin Scully too.

It has been a long time since the Dodgers and Yan­kees had a bid­ding war. The Dodgers were not in­ter­ested in Masahiro Tanaka. The Yan­kees were not in­ter­ested in Zack Greinke or Manny Ramirez. The Dodgers, un­der pre­vi­ous own­er­ship, could not af­ford tomake a run at Alex Ro­driguez or CC Sa­bathia.

If Harper main­tains his ex­cel­lence, his next deal could ap­proach $500 mil­lion no mat­ter whether his cap has a curly W, an in­ter­lock­ing NY, or an in­ter­lock­ing LA.

Roy­als feel­ing the love

Billy But­ler played eight sea­sons with the Kansas City Roy­als, most of them good ones. Hewas se­lected to one All-Star team, as a re­serve. Lit­tle did he knowthat, in his first year play­ing for an­other team, Roy­als fans would turn the All-Star game into the Kansas City In­vi­ta­tional.

Of the nine elected starters for the Amer­i­can League team, the only non-Roy­als play­ers among vot­ing lead­ers are Trout and Hous­ton Astros sec­ond base­man Jose Al­tuve.

“You can see what a lit­tle bit of win­ning does,” said But­ler while in Ana­heim with the Oak­land Ath­let­ics. “Iwould have liked to have had that a few more times. I made All-Star in 2012, but I had some def­i­nitely wor­thy years other times. The teams Iwas on weren’t very good. I just kind of got over­looked.

“That town has been a base­ball town for a long time. They had a tough run be­fore last year. They’re re­ally eat­ing it up.”

Kansas City ad­vanced to the World Se­ries last sea­son, its first post­sea­son ap­pear­ance in 29 years, and home at­ten­dance is up 44% this sea­son. The last Roy­als player elected to start an All-Star game: out­fielder Jer­maine Dye, 15 years ago.

The All-Star game should be about giv­ing the fans what they want to see, and Roy­als fans have spo­ken the loud­est.

But the vot­ing of­fers the lat­est re­minder of how Ma­jor League Base­ball tries to have it both ways— a giddy cel­e­bra­tion of base­ball’s most popular play­ers, and a se­ri­ous game in­fused with trumped-up im­por­tance, with the win­ning league re­warded with home-field ad­van­tage in the World Se­ries.

If you truly are play­ing to win, Trout plays the whole game.

When the Na­tional League won the All-Star game50 years ago, the ma­jor­ity of the lineup played the whole game: Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Wil­lie Mays, Pete Rose and Joe Torre. Wil­lie Stargell, the left fielder, yielded his fi­nal two at-bats— to Roberto Cle­mente.

Dol­lars and sense

In 2013, in his first sea­son as an ev­ery­day player, in­fielder Jedd Gy­orko hit 23 home runs for the San Diego Padres. In 2013, in his first sea­son as an ev­ery­day player, in­fielder Matt Dominguez hit 21home runs for the Hous­ton Astros.

The Padres signed Gy­orko for six years and $36mil­lion. The Astros of­fered long-term con­tracts to sev­eral young play­ers, in­clud­ing a re­ported five years and $14.5 mil­lion to Dominguez.

Hewas not the only player to say no to an Astros of­fer, and not un­jus­ti­fi­ably.

If he con­tin­ued to hit, Dominguez might have made as much in one year alone at the back end of his con­tract as the Astros pro­posed to guar­an­tee for all five years.

But such bar­gains are the price of se­cu­rity for a young player, when the team takes the risk of non-per­for­mance. That is worth re­mem­ber­ing when agents crit­i­cize teams for try­ing to take ad­van­tage of a young player with a be­low-mar­ket con­tract.

The Padres de­moted Gy­orko to the mi­nor leagues last­week, but he has $33 mil­lion guar­an­teed be­yond this year, even if he never makes it back to the big leagues.

The Astros des­ig­nated Dominguez for as­sign­ment last week, and he has zero dol­lars guar­an­teed be­yond this year.

KathyWil­lens As­so­ci­ated Press

BRYCE HARPER ofWash­ing­ton, who will be­come a free agent in 2019, could be cov­eted by the Yan­kees and Dodgers.

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