Bryce Harper: Why the Atlanta Braves should sign free agent

Bryce Harper

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.

Including the Atlanta Braves.

Harper 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 Braves joining forces:

On the field

In an era of “windows” and franchises closely monitoring their “win curves,” it’s refreshing when a team knocks down the door and tells the front office, “We’re ready.”

That was the Braves in 2018, shrugging off the service-time suppression of Ronald Acuña Jr. to win 90 games and the National League East over Harper’s Nationals.

Now, they have a rare mix of established but still viable veterans and emerging stars. And dropping Harper into a lineup bracketed by Rookie of the Year Acuña and three-time All-Star Freddie Freeman (he of the .875 lifetime OPS) is, well, it’s what you want.

The vacancy is natural: Right fielder Nick Markakis is a free agent. Harper could stroll right into SunTrust Park and set up shop for the next decade-plus, flanked for the next two seasons by Ender Inciarte in center field and across the way from left fielder Acuña for the next six.

Bryce Harper

Freeman, still just 29, also is signed through the next two seasons. The middle-infield combo of Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies are under control for four and five more seasons, respectively.

In short: The Braves would have a devastating, well-balanced and athletic core for the next two seasons, and a sustainable one far beyond that.

Off the field

Harper has been the game’s most consistently recognizable face and theoretically could boost his marketing cachet in places like Los Angeles, Chicago or New York.

Don’t sleep on the ATL, however.

Already a top-10 market, Atlanta is on pace to surpass Philadelphia in population by 2022, moving to eighth overall in the USA. It added 90,000 new residents in 2017, its growth trailing only the Dallas and Houston markets. And that growth skews young, diverse and professional.

Clearly, there are worse destinations to expand your brand.

The Braves fan base also is something of a sleeping giant: There’s still plenty of ‘80s and ‘90s kids raised on TBS broadcasts scattered about the country, and the club’s social media metrics rank highly. While teams often suffer an attendance dropoff in the second year of a ballpark, the Braves enjoyed a 2% bump (cracking 2.5 million) in 2018 as they went from contenders to division champions.

Why they could pull it off

With a franchise value approaching $2 billion and annual revenues of $335 million, according to Forbes, the Braves certainly have money. Complicating that cash flow is the fact that they’re one of the few corporate-owned teams in this era, as Liberty Media controls the purse strings.

Another downside: A below-market TV contract that runs through 2027, although a 2013 re-working of the deal should lead to more than $500 million in revenue flowing toward the ballclub, Liberty said in 2014.

With that in mind, securing Harper’s services – for, say, 12 years and $420 million – might be a wise long-term investment.

bryce harperWhile industry observers ponder the concept of a “TV rights bubble,” Major League Baseball’s contract extension with Fox that keeps its jewel events on television through 2028 shows the TV sports model is shifting but won’t shatter anytime soon.

Harper will be 35 by the time the Braves’ local rights hit the market again, but he’d still be under contract and presumably would have added significant relevance and reach to the Braves’ brand. That wouldn’t hurt come time to negotiate a new TV deal.

Will it happen?

Probably not. Lavishing that much money on one player would be a relatively rash departure from the Braves’ disciplined rebuild. While there are significant arms among their top prospects, pitching remains the greater short-term need over a big bat.

Should they prefer a bigger-picture approach, however, Harper makes a lot of sense – for both parties.

Planning a move? By 2021, these 8 states will have no income tax

These states have no income tax

Listed alphabetically, here are the seven states you could live in right now without having to pay tax on your wage income.

1. Alaska

Alaska is one of the most tax-friendly places to live in the U.S., and is the only state to have no levied sales tax or state income tax. This means retirees can escape having any of their retirement income or Social Security benefits touched by the state of Alaska. To boot, senior homeowners over the age of 65, or a surviving spouse over age 60, are exempt from municipal taxes on the first $150,000 of assessed value of their home. The downside, the winters can be a bit harsh in Alaska, and access to medical care could be dicey if you don’t live near one of its few major cities.

2. Florida

Florida is an especially popular destination for retirees, and with good reason: There’s no state income tax, and therefore no tax on any retirement income. Long-time residents may also privy to a homestead exemption of up to $50,000 on their property, depending on the city or municipality in which they live. If there is a double-edged sword in Florida, it’s the weather. Florida’s temperate climate is perfect for folks of all ages, but it also gets hit by hurricanes more than any other state, leading to the highest home insurance costs in the country.

3. Nevada

Residents of Nevada are sure to feel like they’ve struck the jackpot given that it has no state income tax, as well as a relatively low state-levied 5.5% sales tax. Though there are no exemptions on property tax, Nevada’s property tax rate is well below the national average. With the biggest downsides likely being its very toasty summers, or its limited access to specialized medical care if you live outside of its very few major cities, Nevada has a lot to offer folks of all ages.

Income Tax

4. South Dakota

The home to Mount Rushmore is another state where your income can potentially stretch a bit farther. South Dakota has no state income tax, and its state-levied tax is just 4.5%. Additionally, an analysis by Money has shown that South Dakota has one of the lowest costs of living in the nation, allowing those with low- or mid-level incomes to stretch their dollars. Though median home prices are lower than the national average, property tax rates (as a percentage) are a bit higher than the national average, and South Dakota’s relatively sparse population could make specialized medical care a bit tougher to come by.

5. Texas

The Lone Star state is a popular destination for those who despise income taxes, as well as retirees who don’t want their retirement accounts touched. Homestead exemptions on property taxes are open to all residents of the state, with seniors over the age of 65 potentially qualifying for extra breaks. On the downside, Texas hits its residents with a pretty hefty 7% state sales tax, and its median property tax is high on a percentage basis, relative to the national average.

6. Washington

Calling the Evergreen State home comes with the sizable perk of no state income tax. This means Washington can’t touch any of your retirement income, should you choose to retire there. Its temperate climate, where all four seasons are represented, is another plus. However, Washingtonians should also prepare for a substantial state and local sales tax burden, as well as reasonably high nominal property tax bills, primarily as a result of higher property values than the national average.

7. Wyoming

Wyoming may have saved the best for last, because in addition to no state income tax, and therefore no tax on retirement income, its residents also face one of the lowest combined state and local tax levies in the country. Wyoming’s oil- and mineral-rich land provides an ample revenue stream, which means not having to pilfer the pockets of its residents via taxation. Even property taxes in Wyoming are well below average, with numerous relief programs in place. If there are downsides, it’s the state’s harsh winters and potentially sparse access to specialized medical care.

8. And by 2021: Tennessee

Finally, by 2021, the Volunteer State will also be income tax-free. As of right now, the Hall income tax allows for a relatively low tax rate on dividends and interest income above an exempted amount. In 2018, the Hall income tax rate is just 3%. Next year, it’ll be 2%, By 2020, just 1%. And beginning on Jan. 1, 2021, it’ll be completely phased out, allowing residents to keep all of their interest and dividend income, as well as avoiding state tax on wage and retirement income. When coupled with its relatively low property taxes, Tennessee could become popular with retirees. Just one downside to note: Its combined sales and local tax rate is among the highest in the country.

Finally, an Oscar for Viggo? Mortensen shines a light on 1960s-era racism in ‘Green Book’

Oscar for Viggo

LOS ANGELES – It was the third course, really, that did him in.

Viggo Mortensen was prepping for “Green Book” (in major markets Friday), in which he packs on the pounds to play a working class Italian-American, Tony Lip (real name: Frank Anthony Vallelonga). In the film, Lip checks his racism in 1962 New York to earn an income chauffeuring a world-class black pianist, Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), in the Deep South.

Mortensen, 60, who is Danish-American, recalls flying in from his home in Spain to meet Tony’s descendants at a New Jersey red-sauce joint still owned by the family.

And the Italian food just kept coming. “Oh my God,” he says. “The first thing was, ‘Let’s go to the kitchen and have (Tony’s wife) Dolores’ meatballs.’ But I was already full. I hadn’t gained all that weight or expanded my stomach (yet).” Then came the antipasti, and a second course, and a third. Mortensen struggled to finish his plate. “And then they’re looking at me like, ‘He doesn’t like it.’ … ‘No, no! It’s great!’ ”

Afterward, “I made a good show of going out to my rental car and getting in it, and I just drove around the corner and parked, cranked the seat back, undid my belt and laid there for an hour,” he says with a grin.

“Green Book,” a flip on “Driving Miss Daisy,” is based on a true story and doesn’t cut corners: The film shows the blue-collar Tony hurling epithets common to the period – a contrast to the reserved, regal pianist he drives – and touches on police brutality. (While discussing the era at a recent Q&A for the film, Mortensen invoked a racial slur in describing what’s no longer permissible, for which he has since apologized.)

But the movie, which is largely a road comedy, also is based on a real travel guide. The Green Book, which began publication in the 1930s, was a pamphlet that mapped where African-Americans could find safe lodging across the country. Before filming, the cast thumbed through old copies.

Many Hollywood insiders also believe it’s Mortensen’s turn to win a gold statue, after two best-actor nods for “Captain Fantastic” and “Eastern Promises.” On the awards prediction site, he has 4-to-1 odds of edging out Bradley Cooper (“A Star is Born”) and Christian Bale (“Vice”).

Oscar for Viggo

GoldDerby founder Tom O’Neil calls “Green Book” a “sleeping giant” at the Oscars this year that could trigger “lots of upsets.” And despite a tight race for best actor, “Viggo has some strong pluses,” he says, citing the actor’s radical physical transformation and the respect he holds inside Hollywood. “Voters love to catch up with beloved industry veterans who are ridiculously overdue to win.”

Away from the red carpet, Mortensen lives by his own rules. He’s still the proud owner of a flip phone, his one Luddite pleasure (well, aside from sending postcards to friends), and is in the midst of a self-made avalanche of responsibilities: an upcoming film he’s directing, a publishing house he runs, a new book of Spanish poetry he’s releasing.