Bryce Harper, a Nationwide League MVP at 23, is a free agent at 26, peddling his providers in an trade that’s grown to almost $11 billion in annual revenues. His mixture of expertise, age and advertising cachet make him a superb match for any main league baseball franchise.

Notably the St. Louis Cardinals.

Harper, a profession .279 hitter with 184 house runs, rejected a 10-year, $300 million contract in September from the Washington Nationals. 

A take a look at why Harper — the highest free agent on the open market — might and will signal with the Cardinals:

Wherever Harper lands, the big-picture implications will far outweigh a workforce’s 2019 alignment. Because it seems, Harper matches in St. Louis now and later.

His signing would displace the struggling Dexter Fowler in proper subject, although it gained’t make the $50 million owed Fowler disappear. That’s OK – Fowler might assume a reserve function, reboot his profession and take a crack at a beginning job in 2020, when Marcell Ozuna probably departs in free company.

a baseball player wearing a red hat: Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper is seeking a deal worth more than $300 million.© Offered by USA As we speak Sports activities Media Group LLC
Nationals proper fielder Bryce Harper is looking for a deal value greater than $300 million.

Within the meantime, a Harper-Harrison Bader-Ozuna outfield provides the Cardinals a pleasant steadiness of energy and protection. Ozuna hit 37 homers for the 2017 Miami Marlins, however managed simply 23 and a .758 OPS in 2018, due largely to a proper shoulder that required a “cleanup” surgical procedure final month.

Assuming Ozuna is wholesome, a Matt Carpenter-Ozuna-Harper pairing close to the highest of the lineup can be punishing. Harper’s presence and Carpenter’s versatility means the membership might deploy younger sluggers Jose Martinez and Tyler O’Neill in inventive platoons – or deal one among them for depth elsewhere.

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Above all, they’d be shopping for Harper’s lifetime .388 on-base proportion and .900 OPS, sticking it in the course of the lineup for the subsequent decade-plus and figuring out the small print later.

Off the sector

As a lot as The Cardinal Approach and the mythology surrounding it evokes a picture of the selfless, noble group the place the entire (milk?) is larger than the sum of its components, let’s be trustworthy: The Cardinals love their superstars. From Hornsby to Musial to Gibson to Brock, to Ozzie, Pujols and Yadi, a membership has stamped its imprint on an unlimited area of the nation because of a gaggle of generational skills.

And there’s about to be a big void.

Yadier Molina, a shoo-in to don the pink coat of Cardinal corridor of famer and a good guess for Cooperstown, turns 37 subsequent July, and his contract expires after 2020. Whereas Molina’s nonetheless acting at an All-Star stage, it’s not practical to anticipate such returns when he’s on the doorstep of 40.

Bader is a pleasant participant, however with protection his main calling card, not the kind round which to construct a motion. Their high rising gamers are all pitchers – Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson, Alex Reyes – with no slam-dunk positional superstars close to the highest of the minors.

Getting into this void would even have some attraction for Harper.

It’s lengthy been presumed he’d yearn for the intense lights of one of many coasts or a serious market like Chicago. Heck, he idolizes outdated Yankees, hails from Las Vegas and has a canine named Wrigley.

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But none of these locations present the clear touchdown he might stick in St. Louis.

Think about signing with the Yankees, and presumably displacing Giancarlo Stanton, or attempting to gamely share the highlight with Aaron Decide.

Think about signing with the Cubs, and presumably being perceived because the man who compelled franchise icon (and Vegas pal) Kris Bryant out of city when he’s eligible free of charge company.

Think about signing with the Dodgers and taking up all of the expectations because the star for whom they broke the financial institution whereas they deal with the remainder of the roster like Tampa Bay West.

In St. Louis, he’d don’t have any such issues, and for a very good whereas be hailed as The Famous person Who Selected Us. That will allay loads of preliminary stress gamers face when switching groups.

Why they may pull it off

With a franchise worth estimated at $1.9 billion and annual revenues approaching $350 million, in keeping with Forbes, the Cardinals definitely have the money. Additionally they have a good bit of economic flexibility.

The contracts of Carpenter ($14.75 million), Molina ($20 million) and Fowler and Carlos Martinez ($16.5 million and $11.7 million, respectively) fall off the books every of the subsequent three seasons, leaving solely shortstop Paul DeJong’s team-friendly pact as a long-term dedication. If their younger pitching continues panning out, that will purchase additional flexibility within the early years of the deal.

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Value noting: Had Albert Pujols accepted the Cardinals’ reported 10-year, $210 million provide (in 2011 {dollars}, no much less), there’d nonetheless be three years remaining on that deal. In that mild, Harper’s contract might be considered as discovered cash, and for a participant six years Pujols’ junior on the time of signing.

Will it occur?

Probably – though long-term perceptions must yield to new realities.

For the Cardinals, it’s the notion that it’s imprudent for them to tie up a lot payroll – let’s say 12 years, $420 million – in a single participant. That they lack the monetary muscle of the sport’s big-market beasts. That they excel at ending second however hardly ever profitable the participant – be it their very own skills like Pujols or Jason Heyward or convincing a megawatt star like Stanton to return to city.

For Harper, there are way more unknowns. Regardless of his occasional dropping of context clues – look, it’s Harper, Bryant and their wives, out in town! – Harper has actually performed this course of near the vest. What we do know is that earlier than he was sufficiently old to drive, he’s been using shotgun with tremendous agent Scott Boras. Guess on Harper getting precisely what he desires – be it a record-setting contract, a constant probability to win, a return to Washington, a vacation spot near house.

The Cardinals can definitely fulfill lots of these wishes.

Observe Lacques on Twitter @GabeLacques

This text initially appeared on USA TODAY: Why the Cardinals ought to signal free agent Bryce Harper


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