Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Is Bryce Harper still a possibility for the Cardinals?

At last week's winter meetings, uber-agent Scott Boras held his annual press conference, basically because he can.

During that press conference, he indicated that he was not worried about the perception that the Cardinals are not pursuing free agent Bryce Harper (one of his clients) saying that "they sit on the big bank of St. Louis".

Boras went on to say that "This is about winning and it’s about a good franchise and ownership, and the reality of it is that franchise is worth billions of dollars and they’re a top-10 revenue team".

The implications are that the Cards have money to burn and Boras still thinks that they will be a player for Harper when its all said and done.

But will they be?

The short answer is maybe.

The long answer is it's complicated.

First of all, the Cardinals already have a glut of outfielders.  They spent some time during the winter meetings trying to find a suitor for Jose Martinez, he of the good bat and no defensive position.  Chances are that he will end up in the AL, but the Cards are not dealing from a position of strength here as everyone knows he is likely to be traded.

In addition, with Marcel Ozuna and Harrison Bader penciled in for left and center field, the Cards have Dexter Fowler and Tyler O'Neil vying for the right field job.  Fowler is going to be given every chance to reclaim the job, especially considering he has 3 years and $49.5 million remaining on his contract. 

O'Neil is an intriguing prospect, with good power, but questions about his contact ability.  The Cards also have Adolis Garcia, Randy Arozarena and Dylan Carson waiting in the wings.  Needless to say, the team doesn't necessarily need another outfielder.

Secondly, Boras is notorious for waiting out the market, often up until Spring Training, to get his players what they want.  Can the Cardinals wait that long?

Well, trading for Paul Goldschmidt buys them some time and leverage.  They no longer need to acquire a big bat via free agency.  But they won't mind indulging themselves, if the price is right.

Which brings me to my third point, the asking price for Harper is currently way too high.  He already turned down a 10-year, $300 million offer from the Nationals, so you can expect to pay considerably more than that to acquire him.

Rumors have him seeking a 10-year deal worth in the neighborhood of $400 million.  Boras' goal is likely to break the record for the largest contract in baseball history.  Giancarlo Stanton set the record for the largest contract with a $325 million deal over 13 years, while Zack Greinke set the record for the largest per year contract value at over $34 million per year.

Its highly doubtful that the Cards won't go to 10 years for Harper, but I could see them willing to go 8 years and $35 million per year ($280 million total value).  That would give Harper the highest AAV contract in history, while also placing him second behind Stanton for the largest total contract.

Boras is going to wait and see if he can get someone to overpay on Harper.  However, the longer he waits, the more likely it is for teams to drop out of the race, which could leave the Cardinals in prime position to strike.

All we can do now is wait and see what happens.

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