With the markets for Bryce Harper and Manny Machado still considerably undefined, and with the St. Louis Cardinals having made a big-time go-for-it move in trading for Paul Goldschmidt, I’m still on high alert for the organization to make other significant additions this offseason. The idea of Machado or Harper going to the Cardinals is not insane, given their timeline and financial ability, and it makes me uneasy.
Fortunately, at last check, word out of St. Louis was that a pursuit on either was not expected, and Ken Rosenthal adds a little more on Harper, specifically:
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 10, 2018
What’s interesting about Rosenthal’s take is that he doesn’t so much point to financial issues in the Cardinals signing Harper, but roster issues. That is to say, he sees corner outfield spots that feature an unmovable contract in Dexter Fowler and a surgery-bounce-back-hopeful in Marcell Ozuna, and he doesn’t see them therefore adding Harper.
… I mean, sure, if that were actually the reason the Cardinals failed to seriously pursue a generational outfielder then I’d be totally on-board with their strategy.
To be sure, this could just be Rosenthal piecing things together from the outside – in which case, I’d dispute his take, as any legitimate contender would gladly push either of those two guys aside in order to find a way to bring on Harper. But if this is messaging coming from the Cardinals’ brass, trying to reduce expectations outside about pursuing Harper, then it might be worse messaging even than what is coming from the Cubs. Harper is a transformational bat. He is 26. He would be under control for upwards of a decade. Any short-term or modest other financial considerations simply do not make any kind of logical sense in dictating a Harper pursuit.
To that end, I still don’t think I can quite rule out the Cardinals as a possible pursuer here. While Scott Boras no doubt wants to create the appearance of a large market of tip-top bidders, I also don’t think he’s wrong that there will be organizations out there that do not want their interest – if serious – to be seen too widely. It doesn’t help in the pursuit, and it doesn’t help afterward if they don’t land the guy.
I think we’re going to see the Cardinals do more to compete in 2019, and they may make a significant addition (probably in the bullpen) as soon as this week. But it’ll be nice to see additional confirmations out there that they aren’t going to be in on Harper (or Machado), and the pursestrings are still being guarded.