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Nationals Yankees Baseball

The Nationals' Bryce Harper reacts after being hit by a pitch by Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia (not shown) Tuesday at Yankee Stadium in New York. 

If the New York Yankees are courting star outfielder Bryce Harper, they have a funny way of showing it.

Yankees pitching welcomed Bryce back to the Bronx for the first time in three years by plunking him twice in the opening game of a three-game series Tuesday. The second, which caught Harper on the foot, forced him to leave the game. 

If that's not a sign that this pre-determined marriage between Harper and the Yankees either won't happen or destined to fail, I don't know what is.

Harper's impending free agency — his contract with the Washington Nationals expires after this season — has received a whirlwind of attention over the last few years, reminiscent of LeBron James' final few seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers before making "The Decision" to take his talents to Miami in 2011. 

Naturally, because Harper will likely command the biggest contract in baseball history and has made no real commitment to staying in Washington long term, the Yankees seem like a natural fit.

At least they were before trading for Giancarlo Stanton and his $325 million contract prior to this season. 

But ... it's the Yankees! While the organization has been slightly more responsible with its cash in recent years — their spending in the 2000s was not only out of control but bad for baseball — those in charge of building the roster simply can't resist a Harper-esque acquisition.

Is Harper a good fit for the Yankees? Probably not. With Aaron Judge patrolling right field and Stanton now in left, the only position for Harper would be as a part-time centerfielder, part-time designated hitter. Harper isn't inexperienced in center field (112 career starts there), but right field is his more natural position.

With that said, the Yankees have never been shy about moving players from their natural positions if it meant adding another power bat to the lineup. They did so with Stanton, who played right field before moving to left in New York. They did so with Alex Rodriguez, who famously moved to third base so that Derek Jeter could remain at shortstop (even though Rodriguez was the better player).

Both Harper and the Yankees have things to consider. For Harper, who was advertised as baseball's Michael Jordan when the Nationals selected him first overall in 2010, does he really want to spend the rest of his career playing second fiddle to Judge like Rodriguez did with Jeter?

As for the Yankees, do they really want to invest the biggest contract ever in a player so maddeningly built on style instead of substance? This is not to say Harper isn't a great hitter, but a career .281 batting average and .900 OPS doesn't warrant what he'll likely be offered on the open market. While Harper's 19 home runs lead the National League entering Wednesday's action, his .228 batting average raises some concerns. And the Yankees, one would imagine, have learned a thing or two after Stanton's underwhelming early returns. 

Still, it's hard to shake the idea of a Judge-Harper-Stanton outfield, especially with a Yankees front office that loves to make an offseason splash.

But if Tuesday's double-plunking is any indication, maybe a Harper-Yankees union is one the baseball world shouldn't take to the bank.

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Sports writer Justin Ritzel can be reached at 282-2257 or at Follow him on Twitter @CitizenRitz.


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