There’s been a lot of talk about the Cardinals signing Bryce Harper this offseason dating back to two years ago. Harper will hit free agency the day after the World Series ends this year and teams will be calling with offers as soon as that happens. The Cardinals might well be one of those teams, but there’s a lot standing in their way of getting him.
As bad as the Redbirds need a franchise player that transforms a lineup, they more than likely will not end up signing Harper. No matter how bad the fans want him, there’s just too many factors that say he’s not going to end up in St. Louis.
Harper is Too Expensive
The biggest issue with the Cards obtaining Harper is his price tag. This isn’t to say they don’t have the money, or they don’t need to spend it, but John Mozeliak doesn’t have a track record of handing out mega deals.
Mo has ponied up decent money for guys like Dexter Fowler, Brett Cecil and Greg Holland, but none of those contracts even sniff what Harper’s will be. None of those guys have exactly worked out either, which presents another problem. Mozeliak might be hesitant to spend a lot of money because he’s been burned more times than not on large deals. The only big money long-term contract that he’s signed that has worked out for the Cards benefit was Matt Holliday’s.
The bottom line is, the Dewitt’s and Mozeliak don’t like to spend money where they don’t have too. They know that even if they don’t get Harper, they’re still going to draw 3 million fans next season. They haven’t spent in the past and they have no more motivation to do so now than they ever have.
Even if the Cardinals are willing to spend, there are other teams interested in Harper with deeper pockets. On top of that, St. Louis hasn’t exactly been a first choice destination for big free agents in recent years. Albert Pujols, Jason Heyward, David Price and Giancarlo Stanton all chose to go elsewhere. Obviously, the money had a lot to do with their decisions, but at one time, players would take a little less money just to get to wear the Birds on the Bat. Unfortunately, those days are long gone and there are teams with both more appeal and more money.
The Yankees, Dodgers, Cubs, Giants and Phillies have all been mentioned in rumors about possible landing spots for Harper and they all have more money than the Cardinals. The Yankees brought in the most revenue of any MLB team last year at $619 million, while the Dodgers and Cubs came in second and third with $522 million and $457 million respectively. San Francisco brought in the fifth most at $445 million and the Phillies came in $10 million ahead of the Cards at $329 million.
If the Cardinals find themselves in a bidding war with those teams, they’re going to lose. Even if they can match an offer, all of those places will be more appealing to Harper. Especially the first three and the Phillies. However, Mozeliak won’t be willing to spend like these teams anyway. So it’s all for naught.
They Have Outfield Talent
One thing the Redbirds do not lack is young outfield talent. Harrison Bader, Tyler O’Neill, Jose Adolis Garcia, Yairo Munoz, just to name a few, can all play the outfield and hit. Bader, O’Neill and Munoz are already big league tested and Garcia has All-Star potential. This makes spending upwards of $300 million on an outfielder a difficult proposition.
All of the aforementioned outfielders are cheap too. None of them will make more than league minimum next year barring maybe an extension for Bader this offseason. This is important because it allows the Cardinals to play them over Fowler without worrying about his contract. If they bring in Harper on a lucrative deal, they’ll have to deal with paying him and eating Fowler’s remaining contract. None of these young guys are franchise type players like Harper, but they are good enough to win with.
There’s also a guy named Marcell Ozuna out there in left field. After the season he had, he’s not going anywhere. Mozeliak would have to all but give him away in a trade and that’s not something he’s going to do. Ozuna isn’t costing the Cards much either. He’s eligible for arbitration this winter and will likely make around the $9 million he did this past season.
Overall, the Cardinals just have too much cheap outfield talent to spend a large amount on yet another outfielder.
They Need Help On The Infield
Unlike the outfield situation, the Cards are low on infield talent. Both offensively and defensively. Gyorko is a good player but he’s not an everyday guy. Kolten Wong plays Gold Glove defense but can’t hit. Paul DeJong’s defense looked good this year but he also had his struggles at the plate, hitting .243 with a mere .313 OBP. Matt Carpenter is the only infielder who combined great offense with solid defense this year.
Bryce Harper doesn’t fix anything on the infield. Manny Machado would though, and he’s also a free agent. If Mozeliak finally decides to be uncomfortable, Machado is the guy to spend the money on. He’s a better fit for the Redbirds as an infielder. He also plays better defense than Harper, he’s the same age as Harper and he’s been more productive on offense over the last three seasons.
Machado being available is more of a reason that Harper shouldn’t end up in St. Louis though. The infield issue vs the outfield stability is a reason he won’t. All things considered, Harper just isn’t going to work out, so it may be time for fans to start lowering their expectations, again.
Featured Image by Getty Images
“From Our Haus to Yours”