Bryce Harper, a National League MVP at 23, is a free agent at 26, peddling his services in an industry that’s grown to nearly $11 billion in annual revenues. His combination of skills, age and marketing cachet make him an excellent fit for any major league franchise.
Even the Detroit Tigers.
Harper, who has 184 career home runs and a lifetime .900 OPS, rejected a 10-year, $300 million contract offer from the Washington Nationals in September, and is a good bet to set a new standard for the most lucrative contract in North American sports history.
It may take weeks for that process to play out. In the meantime, USA TODAY Sports will examine why every team could use Harper’s services – some more than others, certainly some better-equipped to procure them.
A case for Harper and the Tigers joining forces:
On the field
Of all the – pick one – rebuilders/tankers/re-toolers out there, perhaps no franchise entered the process more earnestly than the Tigers.
It was a helluva run: Four consecutive division titles driven by a pair of future Hall of Famers and an owner who never hesitated to scratch a check and keep hope alive in Motown. After nine seasons with just one losing campaign, the decision to kick-start a rebuild in the summer of 2017 was organic and proper.
Now, after consecutive 98-loss seasons, the Tigers face a decision other clubs have grappled with: How long and ugly do they want this process to be?
At the moment, the rebuild tilts heavily toward pitching – always a good thing. The Tigers’ consensus top five prospects are all hurlers, led by 2018 No. 1 overall pick Casey Mize. But several disappointing position players drafted late in Dave Dombrowski’s regime – perhaps most notably, 2014 top pick Derek Hill, an outfielder still languishing in A ball – have left the upper minors largely bereft of bats.
Oh, power-hitting Christin Stewart has arrived, though he may profile best as a DH, ultimately. Daz Cameron, the second prize in the Justin Verlander deal with Houston, made significant strides this season and could be their center fielder of the future.
But the cupboard is a little thin after that, and then, consider what’s left of the major league roster. Believe it or not, Nick Castellanos is entering his walk year (they grow up so fast). Jeimer Candelario may be a keeper.
Niko Goodrum, Mihkie Mahtook, Ronny Rodriguez, JaCoby Jones? All between the ages of 26 and 29, none likely a future building block.
That leaves Miguel Cabrera, who will earn between $30 million and $32 million the next five seasons. It’s a fairly stiff price for a 36-year-old coming off a season in which he played just 38 games.