Scott Boras’ dream is to have all of MLB’s major markets scratching and clawing one another over the course of the next month in order to land Bryce Harper in free agency. We know the Yankees will be in the mix. Ditto for the Phillies. Same with the White Sox. The Score’s Dan Bernstein added fuel to the fire this past weekend saying that both Chicago teams will be represented as the Cubs will throw their hat in the ring, too.
What fun, of course, would a major free agency sweepstakes be though without two of the other big power brokers in baseball in the Red Sox and Cardinals?
The Red Sox already had the largest payroll in baseball during their World Series championship run this past season, and they have to worry about re-upping with their two biggest stars soon in Mookie Betts and Chris Sale. But Boston’s front office is often ruthless in its decision-making.
They let beloved players like Pedro Martinez and Johnny Damon walk in free agency after both were key to their curse-breaking victory 14 years ago. More recently, they let Jacoby Ellsbury walk immediately after winning the 2013 World Series. The thinking, simply, was that Ellsbury wasn’t worth the money – and the Sox proved to be right.
As The Athletic’s Matthew Kory recently pointed out, the Red Sox will indeed play ball when a generational talent is available in free agency. Harper is certainly that as he is the best player to reach MLB free agency since Alex Rodriguez 18 years ago.
Of course, the Red Sox would have to part with several pieces to make Harper work baseball-wise. Jackie Bradley Jr. would certainly have to go via trade, and Andrew Benintendi would also need to be an option to jettison if the Sox were to seriously consider Harper. Dave Dombrowski does need to re-stock the farm system at some point, and the Sox could get quite the haul of draft picks and good minor league talent by trading 2/3 of their championship-winning outfield.
As for the Cardinals, they should have the money to compete with all the aforementioned big boys of baseball this winter. St. Louis ranked eighth in total payroll this past season but spent nearly $65 million less than the champion Red Sox. The Cardinals still bang out the ballpark every night during the summer as they are top three in MLB attendance. In other words, they have the money.
The Belleville News-Democrat’s Scott Wuerz recently outlined how the Cardinals could land Harper in free agency.
All told, it’s highly unlikely that the Red Sox or Cardinals will ultimately wind up with Harper because of (different) financial worries. MetroBet currently has the Phillies and Cubs as having the best odds of landing Harper with the Red Sox at 100-1 and the Cardinals at 60-1. You can bet now on where you think Harper will land.