Manny Machado received a historic contract during Bryce Harper’s free agency, but it’s Giancarlo Stanton that will arguably have the greatest impact on the outfielder’s MLB future. Not only does Stanton own the record-setting $325 million deal that Harper is aiming to exceed, but he might be the biggest reason that he won’t sign with the New York Yankees.

The Yankees have not been involved in the Bryce Harper Sweepstakes. That would’ve seemed like an impossibility a little more than a year ago since New York once appeared to be the perfect landing spot for the outfielder.

Harper’s star power and charisma are made for the bright lights of New York City. His left-handed swing could do a lot of damage with Yankee Stadium’s short porch in right field for 81 games each year. Most importantly, the Yankees have the money to meet Harper’s contract demands, and it was once thought New York might give Harper north of $400 million.

That all seemed to change last offseason when the Yankees shockingly traded for Stanton, effectively ending their pursuit of a $300 million-plus outfielder.

The trade certainly made sense for the Yankees when they executed it in December 2017. New York’s offer headlined by second baseman Starlin Castro was nothing compared to what they were getting in return. Stanton won the 2017 NL MVP award with 59 home runs, and he posted one of the best home-run rates in history during his career with the Miami Marlins.

Stanton came cheaper than Harper. New York is “only” on the hook for $265 million of his contract.

Stanton has also proven to be a better player than Harper in recent years. Harper hasn’t had an elite season since winning the 2015 NL MVP award, and his declining defense has been a concern. Stanton finished with 38 home runs and a 4.0 WAR in 2018, putting him well ahead of Harper’s 1.3 WAR.

The front office has indicated that the acquisition of Stanton and his contract is one of the main reasons the Yankees haven’t pursued Harper.

“We don’t have an [infinite] amount of dollars to be playing within any marketplace,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told reporters at December’s Winter Meetings when asked about Harper. “At no time all winter have I said that I’m looking for an outfielder. The Harper stuff, I’m surprised you’re still asking.”

The Yankees don’t want to go well above the $206 million luxury tax threshold, though ownership can clearly afford to do so with the amount of revenue the team generates.

With Stanton set to make between $25 million and $32 million annually for the next nine years, New York isn’t willing to pay a free-agent outfielder even more money. They are already preparing to pay outfielder Aaron Judge, who could command a historic deal himself in a few years.

The Yankees essentially chose Stanton over Harper. It might ultimately be the right move, considering the price and recent production of both players.

Giancarlo Stanton Bryce Harper
Giancarlo Stanton #27 of the Miami Marlins and the National League and Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals and the National League looks on during batting practice for the 88th MLB All-Star Game at Marlins Park on July 11, 2017 in Miami, Florida. Rob Carr/Getty Images

With that decision comes an immense amount of pressure on Stanton. Yankees’ fans aren’t used to missing out on big free agents, and they were barely in contention for the two available stars this offseason because Stanton is on the roster. All eyes will be on the 29-year-old in the 2019 MLB season, hoping that he proves New York didn’t make a mistake.

It would be hard to call Stanton’s first year in the Bronx a success, especially considering how it ended. After a streaky regular season, the slugger was awful in the ALDS against the Boston Red Sox. Stanton had a few key strikeouts with men on base, including one in the ninth inning of Game 4 when he failed to get a big hit that probably would’ve helped extend the series.

In 22 at-bats against the Red Sox, Stanton posted a .444 OPS with no RBI. He crumbled under the pressure in the season’s biggest moments.

Stanton will have plenty of opportunities to make up for last year’s postseason. After adjusting to his first year in New York, expectations are high for the outfielder in his second season with the club.

It will certainly be interesting to see where Harper’s career takes him. He could rattle off a few more MVP seasons with his new team. Harper is three years younger than Stanton, and his 2015 season was proof that he has the tools to be the best player in baseball.

Stanton can’t control what Harper does, but the free agent’s future could very well affect the way the Yankees’ decision to trade for Stanton is perceived.