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 Los Angeles Angels.
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 Angels joining forces:
They were drafted a year apart, so it’s not like Bryce Harper and Mike Trout were destined to share career arcs. Not in the manner of Kevin Durant and Greg Oden, say, or Eli Manning and Philip Rivers.
Yet they arrived nearly in lockstep in the spring of 2012, and it seemed they’d pass the torch of greatest/buzziest/most fun player in baseball back and forth – until Trout ran off with it.
Seven seasons later, the tag of “best player in the game” has perhaps never been more undisputed, and as far as Trout-Harper, it’s no contest, by many metrics.
Career WAR – Trout 64, Harper 27.
Most Valuable Player awards: Trout two, with four runner-up finishes; Harper one, with no other top 10 finishes.
OPS – Trout .990, Harper .889.
Yet the coolest thing about the two claiming starring roles as teenagers was realizing their narratives would play out over the course of decades, not years. And now both players are approaching crucial points in their careers.
If so inclined, they could conspire to make their paths intersect – and how much fun would that be?
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