BenFred: Cardinals out on Harper? Sounds like that would be news to them

It does not add up at the moment.

We’re not talking about why they should, or should not. (One man’s humble opinion: They should.)

We’re talking about if they will, or will not, and why so many people think they won’t.

If the Cardinals are truly out on the notion of pursuing superstar free agent Bryce Harper, as it has been reported, would it not make sense to send up some sort of flare?

Think about it.

There are multiple teams pondering the Harper market at the moment. Nearly every one of those teams is going to feel uncomfortable in such deep waters when it comes to the cost and duration of the contract Harper and super agent Scott Boras hope to hook. If the Cardinals are one of those teams that sees more risk than reward on the radar, why are they determined to remain in the mix?

Here’s why I ask: If there is one fan base that is likely to be more agitated by another seemingly close second-place finish on a premier free agent than an early and public pivot to other avenues of improvement, is it not Cardinals fans? The Cardinals no longer get participation points for close misses. Close misses have become the Achilles’ heel to their offseasons.

There is a belief by some that the pragmatic Cardinals simply will not go long enough or big enough to buy Harper. There’s even a headline: “Cardinals’ plans do not include Harper,” read the title of a Ken Rosenthal column at The Athletic earlier this month. Here is a chance to focus the attention elsewhere. The Cardinals have essentially been offered an out.

Yet they keep talking like they might be in.

“I would characterize it as, there is a lot of open-mindedness as we enter this offseason, and we just want to explore all of our opportunities,” Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said Monday morning, after the Cardinals debuted new throwback uniforms.

“These kind of questions are a little awkward to answer, because it’s obviously one-player specific,” Mozeliak said when asked about going above and beyond on a mega contract for a player like Harper. “For us, as I said, we are going to be open-minded as we look at how to make this club better. Certainly, there is a long view and a short view. We will decide which is the best for us.”

Specifically, Mozeliak was asked if he had thoughts on the Cardinals being written off as players for any player at this point.

“Again, whatever rumors that are out there are just that,” Mozeliak said.

When it comes to predicting where a star free agent will land, it’s always easier to predict where he won’t. And it’s true the Cardinals don’t have the best history of success in this department. The picture will grow clearer at next month’s winter meetings.

On Monday, it seemed premature to cut Harper out of that picture.

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