Nightengale on Why Harper is Headed to Phillies, and Are the Cubs Shopping Bryant?

We’re barely into our first light snow of 2018 and there’s already plenty of MLB hot stove talk that could affect your St. Louis Cardinals.

The above headline doesn’t mean the Cards can’t or won’t still make a play for Bryce Harper this winter, or that the Cubs will trade away Kris Bryant, but both are stories on your average Cardinal fan’s radar, and so also worth taking a look at as we wind down the week:

‘Bryce Harper’ has been the word of the day around here for a while now, with both local fans and media stating their desires for a strong Cardinals effort to bring the 26-year-old phenom to The Lou. But if you’re to believe frequent 101 ESPN guest Bob Nightengale, then it may be a moot point to clamor for Harper any further.

The USA Today baseball scribe wrote a column this week entitled: ‘Bryce Harper will sign with the Phillies. You can bank on it.’  and in said piece, he points to Philly being the only true Harper suitor willing to pay him up to $400 million.

“The Phillies are the most desperate team to land a star, and with (Manny) Machado wanting to go to the New York Yankees, and the Yankees having the greatest need for him, Philadelphia is the logical destination for Harper,” he writes.

As for Nightengale’s reasoning for Harper not likely to choose our town: “The St. Louis Cardinals don’t have bright lights.”

So Harper would never consider St. Louis?

“I wouldn’t say ‘not consider it,’ because that’s a great baseball city and passionate fanbase and everything else. But I think, for marketing purposes and things like that it’s almost like LeBron James going to LA to market himself,” Nightengale recently told ‘The Bernie Miklasz Show.’

“I think he’d prefer one of the big cities and I think Philadelphia’s the fourth or fifth biggest market and he can still do a lot of the stuff on Madison Avenue and everything else,” he added.

“Also, I’m not sure Bill DeWitt and the Cardinals are going to shell out $350-400 million.”

That last line isn’t any surprise to Cards fans, many of which also have little faith in their favorite team’s front office ponying up for premium help. So, with Harper a non-Cardinal in Nightengale’s opinion, who might the Birds fly after?

“I think Josh Donaldson is a perfect Cardinal. Either him or Mike Moustakas,” he said. “Donaldson’s got that fiery edge about him where he brings a lot of passion; of course the knock has been the injury bug. He barely played last season. So he would be a little bit of a gamble and a little bit cheaper.

“Mike Moustakas, you could still get him for under $100 million. He played very well the last two years…He may seem more of a natural fit than anybody else.”

MLB.com’s Richard Justice recently mentioned Paul Goldschmidt’s name as another potential Cards target, stating Arizona’s willingness to deal this winter. Asked whether he sees this as realistic, Nightengale erred on the side of caution.

“The price tag is going to be very high to acquire him. He only has one year left on the deal and he’s going to have a big extension,” he said. “If you’re going to trade some big-time prospects for him, you better get some permission to talk with him ahead of time and sign a long-term contract.

“Wonderful guy. I’ve known him well over the years. Zero ego, and for them to move him, they’ve got to get a lot in return because he’s the heart and soul of that franchise.”

Cubs shopping Kris Bryant?

In a news item likely a little sunnier for Cardinals fans, it appears that whole Cubs dynasty we heard so much about in 2015 may not be happening; at least with the core group who won that year’s World Series.

ESPN’s Buster Olney reports the Cubbies are open to dealing just about anyone on their current roster, including ’15 NL Rookie of the Year, Kris Bryant.

Writing for ESPN.com, Olney states:

“It’s possible that the Cubs will trade him, perhaps as soon as this winter. As part of their early offseason discussions, according to sources, the Cubs have indicated to other teams they are willing to discuss trade proposals for almost all of the players on their roster and those sources say that includes Bryant, who struggled in 2018, batting .272 with 13 homers in 102 games. Bryant went on the disabled list twice with left shoulder trouble.”

The piece also quotes Cubs president of baseball ops, Theo Epstein: “It would be virtually impossible to envision the deal that would make sense to move them. I just don’t believe in untouchables. Why limit yourself?”

Olney also reports the Cubs’ lack of any financial flexibility to operate this winter as reasoning for a potential big trade, as well as the need to replenish what’s become an incredibly depleted farm system.

You can hear Bob Nightengale’s 101 ESPN chat below, and be sure to stay connected with 101 ESPN for plenty of MLB hot stove throughout the winter months.

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