The St. Louis Cardinals should offer Bryce Harper a one year contract

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 26: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals bats against the Miami Marlins in the first inning at Nationals Park on September 26, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 26: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals bats against the Miami Marlins in the first inning at Nationals Park on September 26, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

As Scott Boras said, Harper’s Bazaar is open for business. He has been the center of the free-agent market this offseason, and for good reason. It’s not every day that a 25-year-old perennial MVP candidate becomes a free agent. There is not a team in baseball that Bryce Harper would not make better, including the St. Louis Cardinals, but not many can afford him.

Scott Boras is out to break some records on Bryce Harper’s behalf, reportedly seeking 10 years and over $300 million. The record for total dollars on a contract belongs to Giancarlo Stanton, with his monumental 14 year, $325 million contract extension (that the St. Louis Cardinals were willing to take on). The contract that Harper is expected to draw is supposed to shatter those numbers in almost every way.

This is a contract only a select few teams can afford, and even then, these teams are not all “in” on Harper. Of the ten teams with the highest revenue of 2018, only one is dead set on Harper (Phillies) with two others on the brink (Giants and Dodgers). The Cardinals are also on the fringe of the market, ranking 11th in total revenue and 8th in highest total payroll.

With the small number of teams that can commit to both the dollars and the length of time right now, why not take a different approach? The scenario I am proposing will be one that opens more options in terms of destination, while giving Harper the elite earnings that he deserves.

I am suggesting a one-year megadeal. Teams would be talking in the realm of $40 million for just that one year, with Harper betting on himself to have an MVP caliber season.

This is a similar strategy to what LeBron James and Kevin Durant do in the NBA, which allows them to essentially control what team they play for. The beauty of the solution is this: if Harper has a mediocre year, he can do it all over again year after year until he has the long term offer that Scott Boras deems satisfactory.

Enter the St. Louis Cardinals. They spent $169 million on a third-place team in 2018. The payroll is projected to be even lower in 2019, at $116 million before arbitration numbers come back. A safe place to assume is $140 million for the 2019 season, right in the middle of the pack. The luxury tax threshold is set at a cool $206 million, which gives the Cards $66 million to play with.

Why not spend $40 million of that on Bryce Harper for one year, and try to sell him on the city and the baseball culture? A lineup containing Matt Carpenter, Paul Goldschmidt, and Bryce Harper is a force to be reckoned with. This lineup would also allow Harper to have protection in the lineup, which was sorely lacking in Washington last year.

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Harper led the league in walks and posted a career high in strikeouts. People simply didn’t want to pitch to Bryce, but having safety behind him will change that. With another elite hitter like Goldy potentially hitting behind him, pitchers couldn’t afford to pitch around Harper.

Let’s find another way of phrasing $40 million in terms of the current roster. $40 million is the equivalent of Marcell Ozuna, Dexter Fowler, Luke Gregerson, and Brett Cecil. These players were worth a combined 0.1 WAR in 2018. That is a disgusting number for $40 million.

Why spend that money on unproductive players instead of Bryce Harper, who has been worth up to 10.0 WAR in the past? There is no good justification on this allocation of money. The Cardinals need to spend it where it counts.

Next. The Marcell Ozuna trade revisited, one year later. dark

In short, Bryce Harper belongs in St. Louis. He could be drawn with a massive 1-year deal, worth somewhere in the realm of $40 million, allured by the potential to truly maximize his career earnings. This would make the Cardinals lineup more than formidable, without a massive, long-term commitment, making it a favorable situation for all parties involved.