The St. Louis Cardinals are playing a dangerous game with Harrison Bader, as they appear headed to an arbitration hearing.
Just as we wrote about Tyler O’Neill, the same can be said for Harrison Bader and the St. Louis Cardinals.
By not agreeing to a 2022 salary before the arbitration deadline on Tuesday, the Cardinals are primed to take Bader to an arbitration hearing, barring a last-second deal. And if the two sides indeed go to an arbitration hearing, it could risk fracturing the team’s relationship with Bader, who emerged as a very likely option to be their long-term center fielder.
The difference in negotiations is $1 million. While Bader filed at $4.8 million, the Cardinals countered at $3.8 million.
A $1 million difference is not worth potentially impacting your relationship with your center fielder. After all, just look at the hard feelings that were felt after Jack Flaherty went to an arbitration hearing last season and openly heard the front office tell him why he was not worth a certain amount of money. That frustration has remained, though Flaherty has been respectful of the team publicly.
The Cardinals are a file and trial team and were likely to have a couple of cases go to a hearing. The fact that they are doing it with ⅔ of their outfield, with both being their most established long-term pieces, is a risk – and not one that I, or many other teams, would be willing to make.
Perhaps the Cardinals and Bader can work out a long-term extension in the meantime. But such a scenario feels unlikely, as the team prefers to see if Bader can replicate his offensive production from last year. There is little question, however, about his defensive status, as he’s cemented himself as one of the best defensive center fielders in the game.
We’ll see what happens. But the most likely scenario appears to be Bader and the Cardinals dueling it out in an arbitration hearing at some point during the season.