Bryce Harper is 26 years old, a superstar athlete, and a free agent who's about to become an unimaginably rich man. The entire baseball world sits at his feet.
"Harper's Bazaar," as termed by his agent, Scott Boras, represents a rare treat for baseball fans: a true superstar free and available for every single team to woo. Not since the A-Rod bonanza in 2000 has the sport seen this kind of free-agent mayhem.
We took a shot on behalf of everybody in baseball and imagined what each team's pitch to Harper might look like. Today, we're checking in with the 15 American League clubs; you can read what the National League teams had to say here.
Who's in the room: Orioles icon Cal Ripken Jr., alone; new GM Mike Elias is outside in the hallway, pacing
The pitch: Yeah, yeah, I know, we lost 115 games this year. But think about what your legacy would be if you could fix this mess and bring us back to the top of the AL East. You're just the guy to do it. Forget last year, this situation is better than you think. Mike's got a clean slate to work with, and this franchise is about to enter the modern era. You'll have a ton of influence, too; who knows, Mike might even let you help pick the manager! All we're asking for is a bit of patience at the start, because it will all be worth it once you right our ship and start hitting at Camden Yards every night.
Who's in the room: Owner John Henry, president Dave Dombrowski, manager Alex Cora, AL MVP Mookie Betts, franchise icon David Ortiz, the Commissioner's Trophy
The pitch: We just won 108 games and cruised to a title without you. Imagine how good we'd be if you joined us for a decade or longer. Think about that outfield: Benny, Bryce, and Betts. That's already iconic. Do you want to hold that trophy in David's hands right now? Of course you do. So come to Fenway. Come to Boston, where we settle for nothing less every October.
Who's in the room: GM Rick Hahn, owner Jerry Reinsdorf, White Sox icon Frank Thomas, ex-White Sox outfield prospect Michael Jordan, noted supporter Barack Obama
The pitch: Psst. Hey, Bryce - over here. Just a bit further south on the Red Line. See us now? Yeah, we also play in Chicago, and you don't know it yet, but the South Side is where you'd rather be. Just hear us out.
Here in White Sox country, we value grit and determination. We dig in and protect our team at all costs. Our fan base, like our most beloved players, are blue-collar and hardworking - qualities you also possess as a superstar who leaves it all on the field and gets his uniform dirty. Of course, we love our heroes like Frank as much as the next big-market team, but on the South Side, you'll also get to live your life away from the park. You'll be respected as a private citizen while still gaining all the marketing and branding advantages that come with playing in Chicago - it's the best of both worlds.
We'll leave you with this thought, Bryce. If you go to the other team, would you really be the star of their show? You know, latching on to a group of superstars who already made its history without you? Or, would you rather leave your mark on Chicago as the face of a young, dynamic, up-and-coming team that's ready to make some history of its own?
Who's in the room: Star players Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez, manager Terry Francona, GM Mike Chernoff, basketball champion Kevin Love, Cleveland athletic icons Jim Brown, (via Skype) LeBron James
The pitch: Remember when you wanted to make baseball fun again? That's what we do here in Cleveland. That's why we're the right fit for you.
Imagine playing alongside Mr. Smile himself, Francisco. And Jose, who's so wildly talented and plays with such reckless abandon he always loses his helmet. We love bat flips, showmanship, and style, and we encourage it in our clubhouse. And we do all of that while we win.
That's the other part of this equation. We're entering our 71st year without a World Series crown in Cleveland, the longest active drought in baseball, and you're going to be the reason we end it. Ask Jim, Kevin, and LeBron here about what it's like to win in Cleveland, and why it's different here. Your legacy won't be complete without coming here and earning a championship - and you'll have the most fun in this city, too.
Who's in the room: GM Al Avila, first baseman Miguel Cabrera, General Motors CEO Mary T. Barra
The pitch: We just signed your nemesis. You know, Matt Moore? You're 0-for-5 against him - sign here and you'll never have to struggle against Matt again. Also, Miguel here will buy you a steak dinner, and Mary's got as many free cars as you like ready to ship to your driveway. Just think about it, please? You have our number.
Who's in the room: Manager A.J. Hinch, GM Jeff Luhnow, owner Jim Crane, outfielder George Springer, pitcher Justin Verlander, executive adviser Nolan Ryan, basketball star James Harden
The pitch: Imagine playing for a dynasty. Go ahead, we'll wait.
Feels good, doesn't it? This is what's waiting for you in Houston.
We've made the playoffs in three of the past four seasons, already won a World Series, and cruised into the ALCS this past year. But we're not satisfied with that finish, and that's where you come in. Our owner Jim is committed to building a sustainable winner, and he'll always spend money to do it. It's a special time to be an athlete in Houston, come experience it for yourself.
Who's in the room: Owner David Glass, Hall of Famer George Brett, the head chef of Arthur Bryant's BBQ
The pitch: Do you like amazing BBQ? Who doesn't? Your contract with the Royals will not only pay you handsomely for the rest of your career, but will also include an unlimited supply of your favorite barbecue from Kansas City's world-famous joint Arthur Bryant's for you and your family. That ought to ease the pain of these upcoming rebuilding years.
Who's in the room: Owner Arte Moreno, GM Billy Eppler, outfielder Mike Trout
The pitch: Ruth and Gehrig. Morgan and Bench. Mays and McCovey. Harper and Trout. What a list of Hall of Fame duos.
Think about how fun this would be. You and Mike, the two best players in the game, side by side in the outfield at Angel Stadium for the rest of your careers. Baseball's never seen anything like this, and probably never will again. The two of you will be unstoppable together.
Look, you won't find an owner more committed to winning than right here in this room. Arte writes as many checks as necessary to keep this team competitive. Our focus is on the big-league team winning, not our farm teams. Once you sign here we're going to make sure Mike is an Angel for life as well, and the two of you will own L.A. and Orange County forever.
Who's in the room: Manager Rocco Baldelli, chief baseball officer Derek Falvey, retired hero Joe Mauer
The pitch: There are a few reasons why you should join the Twins. One, we need someone as cool as you to replace Joe in the dugout. You got the look to make that happen. Two, we don't play baseball in our Minnesota winters, so put away that snowsuit - you can drive around in your little red Corvette with the top down all summer. And finally, because no one's going to see it coming. You at Target Field, making the Twins relevant again? Everyone else will be delirious with jealousy!
We know that deep down, like us, you're all about winning - yeah that's right, money don't matter tonight - so let's create a little controversy together and get your name on a contract in Minnesota. For us, nothing compares to you wearing a Twins uniform.
Who's in the room: GM Brian Cashman, owner Hal Steinbrenner, manager Aaron Boone, icon Reggie Jackson, 27 rings on a table
The pitch: We're the Yankees. You're Bryce Harper. You wear No. 34 to honor Mickey Mantle because those digits add up to seven. You were born to don the pinstripes. Come to the Bronx, win, and fulfill your destiny.
Just, uh, shave the beard first, please.
Who's in the room: President Billy Beane, GM David Forst, manager Bob Melvin, Oakland native Rickey Henderson, Stomper the Elephant
The pitch: Did you hear the good news? We've got a new ballpark on the way - no, it's like actually for real this time. We think. Hopefully, it will be ready about halfway through your contract with us, if not sooner, so you don't have to put up with the leaky old Coliseum for too long. But most importantly, you can be the start of a new era in Oakland - one that will involve winning and spending right now. Plus, with the Raiders and Warriors about to skip town, you'll be the East Bay's biggest star. You'll have the city of Oakland and our rabid fan base all to yourself. We've never signed a big-time free agent, but you're about to change that with a stroke of a pen. Come wear the green and gold.
Who's in the room: GM Jerry Dipoto, GM Jerry Dipoto's cell phone
The pitch: We're about to enter a rough patch here in Seattle, but you can help us stay afloat these next few years in our beautiful city. And hey, if you start to regret coming here, be honest - I'll gladly find a way to trade you. There's a good chance I'll have some trades lined up anyway. In fact, I'd probably advise against buying a place on Bainbridge Island; renting's the safer bet. *Dipoto's phone rings* Anyway, good meeting you and you'll look fantastic in teal but I have to take this call.
Who's in the room: Manager Kevin Cash, president Matthew Silverman, a computer containing a fancy analytical multimedia presentation
The pitch: Bet you didn't expect to hear from us this winter, did you, Bryce? That's OK - to be honest, we didn't envision talking to you, either. But we've got a unique proposal that could work to both our benefits.
You probably know that we can't really offer you the long-term riches you're seeking, but we can help you get even more money next year. We're offering you a one-year, $50-million contract - that's $50 million with no state income tax, mind you - to come join us and lead us to a World Series now. While you're here, you'll have access to the finest staff and some of the best analytical minds in the game. And here's where you'll really benefit: next winter, you won't have a qualifying offer or compensatory draft picks tied to your free agency, and teams will be bidding on Bryce Harper 2.0. You're asking for $400 million now? By the time your Rays tenure is over, you'll be demanding $500 million, and it will only be a question of where, not if, you'll find that cash. Plus, your Tampa Bay legacy will be secure, and we'll retire No. 34 immediately after the World Series. If we did that for Wade Boggs, we can do it for you, too.
We were good enough to win 90 games and make life tough on the 108-win Red Sox last year without you; if you join us in 2019, we'll both be better off for it in the long run. Bet on yourself and enjoy a year in Tampa.
Who's in the room: GM Jon Daniels, legend Ivan Rodriguez, retired star Adrian Beltre, soon-to-be-retired star Dirk Nowitzki
The pitch: Can you handle the heat? Well, you'll only have to for one year, because our new stadium with an actual roof is about to open up. You're going to be the face of Texas baseball in our new home, and you'll fit perfectly here. Look, publicly, we do make a stink about bat flips and showboating, especially when it's done against us, but that's really all for show - just keeping up a facade, you know? The truth is, we love it, and we want you to flip your bat and have fun out there in a Ranger uniform. That's why we love Adrian so much, and that's why you'll be loved here.
Now we know what you're thinking: the last time these Rangers gave a young mega star a record deal after finishing in last place, it didn't quite work out. We know it will be different with you, though, and we know you're up for the challenge here in Arlington.
Who's in the room: President Mark Shapiro, GM Ross Atkins, Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar, basketball All-Star Kyle Lowry, local sports fanatic Aubrey "Drake" Graham
The pitch: In Toronto, you don't just play for a city, you play for an entire country.
Ask Kyle and Roberto how Canada's become a home for them. Ask Aubrey how cool it is to rep the 6ix worldwide. Ask any of our current Blue Jays players how amazing it is when our Western Canadian fans literally take over Seattle's ballpark. Think about how your blue No. 34 jersey will be worn from coast to coast by 36 million strong. Nobody else can boast a fan base that big. And your home in Toronto is loud, crazy, and passionate. Rogers Centre gets so loud during the playoffs that the building shakes with energy. And with you hitting alongside Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for the next decade, you're guaranteed to experience that energy for many Octobers to come.
You're already a superstar in one country. Our ownership, a telecommunication giant, has the reach and power to turn you into an international icon, while you play and live and win in our unbelievable city. Toronto is offering you the chance of a lifetime here - are you ready to take it?