St. Louis Cardinals: Bryce Harper disinterest reminiscent of Scherzer
One of the biggest blows to a blockbuster 2019 offseason for the St. Louis Cardinals seems to be a self inflicted one. With reports coming out that the Cardinals are not in the cards for Bryce Harper’s services, it’s hard not to be reminded of what could have been with Max Scherzer.
Now, if it were only Bob Nightengale reporting the St. Louis Cardinals being out of the running for Bryce Harper, I might have taken it with a grain of salt. However, because multiple outlets, including Ken Rosenthal, have come out as saying that multiple sources have confided that the Cardinals are no longer in the Harper pursuit, the reports seem credible at this point in time.
It’s pretty obvious where the lack of interest is coming from, and it’s not out of Harper’s camp. Harper has mentioned on Twitter that he enjoyed playing at Busch Stadium, and with his recent interactions with celebrities like Nelly, there is no reason the believe that has changed in any way, shape, or form.
There are a few possibilities as to the reason of the existence of the self-imposed obstacle in the way of the St. Louis Cardinals acquiring Harper. While these possibilities do take slightly different forms, they are in essence about the same thing: money.
It’s hard to not think about the Max Scherzer situation here. The Cardinals have already missed one of the elite players of this generation because of their unwillingness to spend, so you would think that they wouldn’t repeat the same mistake with another one. Well, Harper and Scherzer are different players, so let’s take a look.
The first possibility is that the St. Louis Cardinals front office doesn’t believe that Harper is worth what he believes he is. With Paul Goldschmidt, Cardinals management may believe that they have the star power in their lineup that they have needed, and are set on continuing to add complimentary pieces and fill up tiny holes in the roster.
To me and many other fans, this just seems absurd. In fact, it feels exactly like that abandoned free agent pursuit that cost the Cardinals dearly. There is no doubt in anyone’s minds, Max Scherzer’s included, that the St. Louis Cardinals could have easily won the Scherzer sweepstakes.
But they didn’t. Not only that, they didn’t even try to pursue Scherzer. Even Scherzer himself expressed that he was upset that the St. Louis Cardinals did not pursue him as recently as June of this year.
I get that these situations are different, but you would think that DeWitt and crew would be willing to take that extra step, and to learn from the biggest mistake they have made with the St. Louis Cardinals. Scherzer was more consistent than Harper, but also three years older.
However, the seven year deal that Scherzer signed would make him a free agent in his age 36 season, which is when Harper’s projected contract is supposed to expire as well. The consistency issue remains, but even Harper’s bad years are still ones that provide solid value. A career .900 OPS in spite of some years which he finished far below that.
On top of that, Harper brings an unparalleled marketability in today’s game to help recoup some of the assets you have to give up to sign Harper. There is still a question mark in right field, and the St. Louis Cardinals could use more star power to push them over the top. If money is in fact the issue when the St. Louis Cardinals have more than enough payroll available to make it happen, Cardinals fans have a reason to be upset.
Three Steps Ahead?
The other possibility is that the Cardinals are eyeing other free agents in 2020 who management feels fits the team better. The only name that will truly satisfy St. Louis Cardinals fans sans Harper is Nolan Arenado. The stars seem to be aligning for a possibly Arenado pursuit, and he would be a perfect fit for the 2020 Cardinals given the current state of the roster.
Matt Carpenter comes off the books in 2020, freeing up almost $15M in payroll from the 2019 season. Add in Luke Gregerson and Jedd Gyorko, and that’s almost $30M in savings. While resigning Paul Goldschmidt (and maybe Michael Wacha) will be the main goals, Ozuna’s status as a priority still pending his 2019 performance.
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Without Ozuna’s commitment, the Cardinals savings will be even greater. Without Ozuna, the sore thumb in the room becomes a bit less of an annoyance, as the Cardinals can replace him with Dexter Fowler or Tyler O’Neill without adding more money to the payroll, which would open the door to having enough money to resign Goldschmidt and sign Arenado.
It isn’t ideal to have Fowler as the starting outfielder with the way that he has played in recent years, but it would be worth it to have Goldschmidt and Arenado on the corners. The Cardinals gave up little for Goldschmidt, and if they believe that they can pay Arenado significantly less than the megadeal Bryce Harper wants to sign, I can’t fault management nearly as much for this train of thought.
At the very least, I can’t fault them until next year, when we see whether or not a plan to secure Arenado is in place.
That being said, if the St. Louis Cardinals do not have a plan to continue to build towards the future, then why not take care of it all in one fell swoop? Signing Bryce Harper does that, and even provides a small buffer with his marketability to make any large contract less risky. There is no reason not to go all in if there are no plans to do so in the future, especially with the Scherzer fiasco still fresh.
St. Louis Cardinals fans are mostly upset at the lack of expressed interest in Bryce Harper, and you can’t fault them for it. Even with the addition of Goldschmidt, the Cardinals still need to do more to succeed, and everyone who watches the team knows this. With the shadow of Max Scherzer still looming over the Cardinals, it would be simply unacceptable for the Cardinals to not compete for Harper’s services.