Add MLB Network’s Dan Plesac to the list of those who don’t believe the Cubs mean what they say when they talk about limited budgets and lack of desire to pursue big-time stars. Joining Inside the Clubhouse with Matt Spiegel and Bruce Levine on 670 The Score Saturday, the former Cub predicted that his old team will end up landing Bryce Harper on a shorter deal than what’s been speculated to this point.
“I think the Cubs are going to be in on Harper, I really do,” Plesac told the hosts. “I’m not sure that he’s going to get that 10-year, $350, 360 million deal that he’s looking for, but I think if they cut the years down I can see him well over $30 million a year. I think if that’s the case I would have to think that the Cubs would have to be one of the ones that would be in on Bryce Harper.”
Scott Boras, Harper’s agent, has not put forth specific numbers, but has hinted that he’d be looking for some record-setting coin for his client. He specifically mentioned to FanCred‘s Jon Heyman that Harper could play to age 40 — 14 years from now — and that they might like to exceed Zack Greinke’s current record of $34.4 million average annual value. But meeting both criteria would put him around $490 million.
So maybe it’s one or the other. Plesac is indicating that perhaps a shorter, higher-AAV deal is likely, though he does not seem to be basing his speculation on any direct knowledge. The odd thing here, though, is that he’s also saying going bigger on average would give the Cubs more impetus to be involved, an idea that runs counter to their stated awareness of the luxury tax limits.
Then again, a shorter deal that features deferments might work out all the way around. It wouldn’t help the Cubs avoid tax penalties, but could mitigate some potential cash flow issues as they sort out a new broadcast deal. But would a deal of, say, $160 million over four years be enough to woo Harper? Probably not, but it makes a lot more sense than the idea of stringing together one-year deals for the next decade.
And when you consider that Harper would only be 30 at the end of a four-year deal, it’s entirely conceivable that he could command another $200 million at that point. It’s more risky to him, of course, so it’s really a matter of how heavily the Las Vegas native wants to bet on himself. And perhaps how much he wants to play in a certain place. If Harper is truly as interested in the Cubs as his antics indicate, he might be willing to work with them.
“I’m gonna go Cubs,” Plesac continued. “Listen, I just think they’re quietly going through the back door. I don’t think the Nats are an option. Let’s put it this way. I feel really confident that it’s going to be between the Cubs and the Philadelphia Phillies.”
The bit about the Nats seems a little curious at first blush, especially since their managing owner, Mark Lerner, recently said they’d more or less given up on Harper. There was just “too much money out there,” he lamented. Even so, ESPN’s Buster Olney continues to tout the idea that Harper could still return to Washington (Insider subscription required). But with $300 million as their last, best offer prior to signing Patrick Corbin for $140 million, the chances don’t seem good. Like, at all.
Except, wait, $300 million minus $140 million is…$160 million. Hey, isn’t that what we just discussed a little bit ago? It’s not as easy as all that of course, but there is growing sentiment that Harper could weigh emotion and average value more heavily than many had initially believed.
Or maybe Plesac and Olney are just boobs who’re pandering to their respective audiences (I know nothing of such trifles, personally). Even if that’s the case, it’s good to stay abreast of the situation from all angles. I’ll ask you then, dear reader, whether you think Harper’s courtship is just a matter of a team putting the biggest number out there or whether other factors are involved. With the Winter Meetings upon us, we may finally start getting more clarity soon.