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Dodgers not surprised by Harper's decision

Club pursued free-agent outfielder, but doesn't need him
@kengurnick
February 28, 2019

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Dodgers pursued Bryce Harper like a club that wanted the player, but didn’t need him. Even before word spread that Harper had chosen the Phillies, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman summed up a strategy of player acquisition on the club’s terms. “Our mindset --

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Dodgers pursued Bryce Harper like a club that wanted the player, but didn’t need him. Even before word spread that Harper had chosen the Phillies, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman summed up a strategy of player acquisition on the club’s terms.

“Our mindset -- and I can’t speak to [this deal] specifically -- is to continue to explore different ways for us to improve our team,” said Friedman. “That’s always the case. If it’s Spring Training, the offseason, as the season gets underway.

“We’re really happy about the core group we have in place, but if there’s ways for us to improve upon that -- that makes sense given all the different parameters unique to each team, depending if things line up -- we’ll be aggressive to do something. We never say never to anything, but we feel we’re in a really good position.”

Friedman, manager Dave Roberts, chairman Mark Walter and CEO Stan Kasten traveled to Las Vegas on Sunday night for a final chance to woo Harper. The Dodgers were sincere in their pursuit and, according to sources, were willing to pay Harper a record annual average value salary, but reportedly determined not to handcuff the payroll with the long-term total package Harper sought and reportedly received from Philadelphia.

Because of that, the Dodgers generally weren’t surprised that Harper took the largest total deal and didn’t become their teammate.

“I don’t think anyone in here was expecting it until it actually happened,” said Cody Bellinger. “I think Philadelphia was always the one pushing for him, so it doesn’t really surprise us.”

Despite losing out on Harper, from the Dodgers’ perspective, at least he wound up in the National League East and not with NL West rival San Francisco, another finalist.

“It’s great that he’s not in the division,” said Bellinger.

Without Harper, the Dodgers outfield remains: free-agent signee A.J. Pollock in center field, Bellinger in right field and a combination of Joc Pederson, Chris Taylor and Alex Verdugo in left field.

The lineup was already potent, with corner infielders Justin Turner and Max Muncy, slugging utility man Enrique Hernandez and the return of Corey Seager, who missed almost all of last season with elbow and hip surgeries, but is showing no signs of last year’s injuries.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.