St. Louis Cardinals: Is there any hope left in the pursuit of Harper?
By Matt Graves
To all St. Louis Cardinals’ fans dismay, the Dodgers and the Reds pulled off a huge trade yesterday sending two outfielders out of LA. Some see this as an effort to clear room for Bryce Harper, is there any hope the Cards’ still have a chance?
Sometimes you see a trade that hurts. Yesterday the Dodgers sent Alex Wood, Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, and minor leaguer Kyle Farmer to the Reds for Homer Bailey and minor leaguers Jeter Downs and Josiah Gray. The St. Louis Cardinals, sitting on the fringe of the market for Bryce Harper already, seemingly have another competitor. This could be a bad sign for any team with hopes to still sign Harper.
Now as far as bad news goes, this is a very minor thing in the grand scheme of life. Unfortunately, it does make the Reds a lot better though. The first improvement happens as a result of taking Homer Bailey out of the Reds starting rotation. In the 20 games that Bailey started last year, the Reds were a combined 1-19. Now not all of those starts were bad by any means, but winning only one game out of 20 that a player starts in is not good any way you try and frame it.
The Dodgers aren’t taking any chances with Bailey as Ken Rosenthal reports that the Dodgers are going to be releasing Bailey before he ever puts on a Dodger uniform. As odd as it is to trade for a player just to cut him, the Dodgers traded for Bailey’s contract, not him as a player. Cutting Bailey instead of Kemp saves the Dodgers money in the long run.
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The Reds will also benefit by having the leadership of Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig‘s bat in the lineup every day. Puig playing in the NL central is especially bad for the Cardinals as Puig has a career .305 average and .943 OPS against them.
This trade was made by the Dodgers in an effort to clear salary cap room to keep making additions to a team that made it to the World Series in 2018. This does not necessarily mean that they are going to be all in on the Harper market though. With the prospect depth the Dodgers have, they could explore other options like making a trade for Marlins’ catcher J.T. Realmuto or Indians’ ace Corey Kluber. The big decision the Dodgers ownership needs to make is highlighted below.
The next move the Dodgers make will most likely be a signal as to what they have decided. That move could very well be signing Harper, but trading for Kluber or Realmuto would keep them under the luxury tax as they have reportedly said they want to do. While the Dodgers have publicly said they want to stay under, plans easily change and you can’t really bank on them sticking to that statement.
With a lot of the big market teams trying to get under the luxury tax this offseason, it’s not surprising the Dodgers want to as well, and could be a good sign for the Cardinal’s hopes.
The only way that the Dodgers will sign Harper and stay under the luxury tax is if they move more money off the team. This would be hard to do considering they would likely have to move another $15M to sign him, and in a quick look at their contracts on the team, they don’t have any albatross contracts after moving on from Kemp. The only names that could clear them that much cap room are Rich Hill or Hyun-Jin Ryu and moving them would thin the Dodgers pitching staff too much.
If the St. Louis Cardinals’ front office has any wish to sign Harper, now is the time for them to jump in. Waiting to go out and sign the guy has allowed the Dodgers to reposition themselves to be able to jump in the market while the Cardinals are just sitting on their hands. The front office doesn’t want to be stupid with their money, but continuing to wait to see if a potential deal gets cheaper will only lead to the Dodgers or another team jumping in and signing him.
At this point I’m not expecting the Cardinals to get Harper, mostly because I don’t want to be let down, but all I would recommend is don’t finish second. If you want him, get off your ass and go get him or he will go to the evil large market coastal teams that are positioning themselves for a run.
If the St. Louis Cardinals sign Harper, Mo will pull off the best offseason that most of us will probably see in our lifetimes. He has already done a fantastic job improving this team for 2019 but could reel in one more slam dunk. I think the Cardinals still have at least some chance, even though yesterday’s trade may have hurt that.