Cheap Seats

Not even Bryce Harper knows where he’s going to play, so stop speculating about it

I’m sick and tired of all the speculation about what’s going to happen with the St. Louis Cardinals in the hot stove league market. Could we quit with the theorizing and have some actual facts, please?

Just about everything I’m reading about the destination of free agents so far seems to be a semi-educated guess attempting to be passed off as actual news. Enough!

I get it, fans in Philadelphia think that’s the greatest place for a professional athlete to play. Folks in New York think their home town is the ONLY place anyone would ever want to play. People in Los Angeles think all millionaire ballplayers want is to live near the beach and fans in Chicago couldn’t imagine anyone would ever even consider playing for anyone but the Cubs. Still, somehow, other teams find a way to fill out their rosters. National writers deal with broad treads and report sometime dubious suppositions passed on from local sources of unknown repute.

Does anyone really know what motivates young hundred-millionaires? Everyone seems to assume that the Washington Nationals free agent wants to play in a big city where his exploits will play out on the largest stage possible. May I ask why he’d need that? Does anyone think we wouldn’t know Harper’s name if he played for the Tampa Bay Rays or the San Diego Padres? Albert Pujols was the most well-known player in baseball 10 years ago when he called St. Louis home. Did Ken Griffey Jr. dream of being a member of the Yankees or the Dodgers? No. He wanted to play for the Cincinnati Reds. Joe Mauer was quite well known playing his home games with the Minnesota Twins.

There was the theory that Harper wanted to play for the Cubs alongside buddy Kris Bryant. Then the Dodgers were going to sign him to trump the Los Angeles Angels star outfielder Mike Trout. The Yankees were going to sign him because they’re the Yankees and they need every big name player. The Giants were going to sign him because they’re a big market team in need of a refresh. Finally, the Phillies are going to sign him because they’re believed to have the most payroll flexibility and somehow they’ve been determined to have the greatest desire — plus there are all the free batteries players in Philadelphia get when fans there chuck them onto the field.

Why is it so inconceivable that players might prefer to play in a smaller fishbowl? Might a guy who once told a reporter “that’s a clown question, bro” prefer to play in a laid back media town like St. Louis instead of a more hard-nosed town like Philadelphia or Boston?

Really, what free agent decisions come down to is two priorities: 1) How much money are they going to be paid and, 2) Does the team offering the contract have a chance to be a competitor? The wooing process has just begun. So it’s doubtful that even Harper himself knows beyond a reasonable doubt where he’s going to play for the next decade or so.

Harper’s agent, Scott Boras seemingly answered concerns about the latter question, saying that Harper would make any team he played for competitive. But there is an argument to be made that the Cardinals’ young roster is the perfect landing spot for a young superstar. It’s cheap and controllable and on a similar aging cycle to Harper, with the exception of catcher Yadier Molina and marginalized outfielder Dexter Fowler.

I wish the free agency situation in baseball was more like the National Football League or the National Basketball Association where things don’t linger on for weeks or months. Players in those sports usually announce where they intend to play as soon as they’re eligible to to do so and we can all move on with our lives.