Matt Adams, as a left-handed bench bat, is a nice addition for the St. Louis Cardinals.
But what if the Los Angeles Dodgers didn’t put a waiver claim in on Washington Nationals slugger Bryce Harper, maybe the most desirable free agent at the end of the season?
The Dodgers leadership says they put in the claim with no expectation that they would make a trade for Harper. Instead, they didn’t want anyone they’re competing with to get him. The way things work after the trade deadline is that players must be put through revocable waivers before they can deal them to another club. Each team gets a chance to put in a claim with the clubs that have the worst record in the same league as the potential seller getting first shot. If no one in the National League claimed Harper, then the teams in the American League, worst to first, would have a chance to claim him. If a club puts in a claim, it can either work out a trade or the dealing club can simply let the player go to the claimer and that team assumes the player’s contract.
So, there were only a handful of teams that the Dodgers were trying to block. And I think there is a good chance the team that they were worried about landing Harper was the club that calls Busch Stadium home.
The Cardinals have been producing better offensively as of late. But if they have any clear need, it’s that they need a lefty power bat in the middle of their batting order. Although they are flush with outfielders, Harper is a game-changing superstar who has been red hot for the past month, hitting .364 with six homers, nine doubles and a .447 on base percentage. If the Birds could have got Harper in their lineup, it may have changed them from a wild card contender to the favorite in the National League playoff picture.
I don’t know who else the Dodgers were afraid of getting Harper besides the Cardinals or their divisional foe, the Arizona Diamondbacks. I don’t know if Arizona is a legitimate threat to put together a trade for Harper -- and it would have to be a substantial deal to get the Nats to part with their franchise player and the draft pick compensation they’d give if he leaves as a free agent.
If the Dodgers wouldn’t have put a claim in on Harper, he would have made sense for St. Louis. Would they be able to work out a deal? That’s iffy. Washington surely would have come calling for Jack Flaherty and Dakota Hudson. That’s not happening for six weeks of a player, I don’t care if it’s Babe Ruth. But would it have been worth it for the Birds to part with some lesser prospects? Absolutely. The real question is would there be any common ground to be found.
That puts this deal into dreamland. But what a dream it would have been. Matt Carpenter leading off and playing first base with Yadier Molina catching and playing second. Like in his breakout season with the Miami Marlins, Marcell Ozuna bats third in front of one of the premier sluggers in the game. Instead of Giancarlo Stanton, it’s Harper batting cleanup. Then you could throw in Jedd Gyorko playing third, Paul DeJong at shortstop, Harrison Bader playing center field and Kolten Wong at second. Off the bench, you’d have Tyler O’Neill as a fourth outfielder, Jose Martinez as your right-handed bench bat and Adams from the left side. That’s a deep and potent offense.
Would the Cardinals be a player for Harper in 2019 and beyond? I don’t know. But if they were going to have a shot at a superstar, St. Louis would only enhance it by bringing in Harper for an exciting playoff run in front of a full house. I, for one, would have liked to see it.
Harper is a polarizing figure. But there is a big difference between the other team’s jerk and OUR jerk. The Birds have youth and enthusiasm. I’m betting a dose of confidence and an in your face attitude would only help the cause.