Bryce Harper is putting on quite the performance this postseason. He has a .353 batting average, a .500 on-base percentage, and has an OPS of 1.382. He has hit 3 home runs, stolen a base, and batted 5 runners in. Bryce has also played first base, a position he hadn't played before in his career. Harper's biggest moment thus far came in his moonshot in the third inning off Bryce Elder. While rounding second, Harper stared down Orlando Arcia after his quips towards the Phillies after game 2 of the NLDS.
Flashback to 2019 when all teams in baseball could have offered the superstar a contract to play for them. Harper had already been in the league for 7 seasons; he made it to the All-Star Game 6 times, won the MVP once, had a Rookie of the Year Award in his back pocket, and was still only 25 years old. The Philadelphia Phillies signed him to a massive 13-year, $330 million contract that would presumably take him into his retirement. Harper has rewarded the Phillies handsomely for that offer.
The Cardinals had the chance to sign Harper that offseason. They had Marcell Ozuna penciled in left field along with Harrison Bader in center and Dexter Fowler in right. Two years prior, the Cardinals traded for Ozuna, but he didn't play nearly as well for the Redbirds as he did for the Marlins. Dexter Fowler was two years into a 5-year contract as well, and he, too, hadn't played up to his usual standards.
While there wasn't a clear fit for Harper, great organizations make moves for such a transcendent player. Ozuna could have been traded (at a large point in his value), and Fowler could have been shifted to either corner to make room for Bryce Harper in the grass. Since 2019, Harper has accumulated 18.2 fWAR (including a shortened COVID season and a couple of seasons with injuries). Comparatively, Cardinals right fielders have only accumulated 6.3 fWAR.
Bryce Harper's competitiveness, brand, performance, and work ethic are all admirable. Had the Cardinals signed him in 2019, their team would look much different today. Rather than watching Bryce circle the bases with a competitive look on his face for the Phillies, perhaps Cardinals fans could be watching him circle with the birds on the bat.