There were reports that Bryce Harper was apparently looking for a 14 year, $400 million deal. Will he get that? My guess would be no. But if I had to guess, he will probably get the biggest contract in MLB history. 14/$400 mil is about $3.5 million more than Giancarlo Stanton makes annually so my hypothesis for Harper is 13/$350 million. The latest report I’ve seen is that the White Sox are emerging as the favorites, but I’m sticking to my pick I made two years ago in saying that he will end up in the City of Brotherly Love.
What’s so fascinating about the Bryce Harper Sweepstakes, is that, is it really a sweepstakes? How many teams would he walk onto right now and immediately be the best player? I broke it down based on the eye test. I love stats, but as just a guy, I use the eye test in almost every aspect in my life, and in my opinion, he would be the best player on 14 teams. If we don’t count pitchers in our little exercise, then that number increases to 16 (Mets – deGrom, Nats – Scherzer).
Let’s take the Mets and Nats out of it, I will admit that out of the remaining 14 teams that I claimed Harper would not be the best player, there are a few that you could probably argue either way. The ones that I had the hardest time deciding against Harper were the Cubs (I went with Kris Bryant), the Dodgers (I went with Corey Seager (the rare double parenthesis – this is not including Manny Machado)), and the Reds. The Reds? The Reds suck. Yes, they do. But Scooter Gennett’s was objectively a better player than Bryce Harper this year. And if Joey Votto can evade Father Time and bounces back and has a Joey Votto year then my horrible Scooter Gennett argument is null and void. Here’s my list if you were wondering.
- Red Sox – No (Mookie Betts)
- Yankees – No (Aaron Judge)
- Blue Jays – Yes
- Orioles – Yes
- Rays – Yes
- Tigers – Yes
- Royals – Yes
- White Sox – Yes
- Twins – Yes
- Indians – No (Jose Ramirez)
- Angels – No (Mike Trout)
- Mariners – Yes
- Rangers – Yes
- Astros – No (Pick one – I’ll go with Alex Bregman)
- Athletics – Yes
- Mets – If we count pitchers, No (Jacob deGrom)
- Phillies – If they don’t sign Machado, Yes
- Braves – No (Freddie Freeman)
- Marlins – Yes
- Nats – Since we counted pitchers with the Mets, No (Max Scherzer)
- Cubs – No (Kris Bryant)
- Brewers – No (Christian Yelich)
- Reds – No (Scooter Gennett)
- Pirates – Yes
- Cardinals – No (Paul Goldschmidt)
- Giants – Yes
- Dodgers – No (Corey Seager)
- Padres – Yes
- Rockies – No (Nolan Arenado)
- D-Backs – Yes
A more interesting question may be this; If you’re drafting a team for the next five years, where does Bryce Harper get taken? For the sake of this argument, let’s take pitchers out of it since there’s a lot of variables with them. To set the stage, let’s look at Harpers’ last five seasons.
By all means, not bad. In fact, kind of to the point where I feel like an asshole for even writing this blog. But whatever, YOLO, we’re in this too deep at this point so let’s run with it. And besides, the thesis of this whole blog is that he’s not worth $400 million.
Okay so back to this exercise, just a few tidbits; Harper is going into his age 26 season so in five years, he’ll have played his age 30 season – the middle of most players’ prime. It’s hard to necessarily “project” what he’ll be as his career, to this point, has not really had any kind of constant succession. Looking at his stats, there really isn’t one number that has consistently gotten better, or even worse for that matter. One year he’s hitting .310, the next he’s hitting .260. He’s only had an OPS over .900 once (during his MVP 2015 season) and has only had 100 RBI once. His plate discipline has not been great through his career, though he did have a career high 130 walks this season. We get it – he’s streaky as shit and when he’s on his tears, he’s one of the best players in the league, but when he’s streaking the other way, it’s not good.
Off the top of my head, here are guys I would take over Harper in our hypothetical five year draft that I think most people would agree with in no particular order. (Age for 2019 season in parenthesis)
- Mike Trout (27)
- Mookie Betts (26)
- Nolan Arenado (28)
- Aaron Judge* (27)
- Jose Ramirez (26)
- Alex Bregman (25)
- Carlos Correa (24)
- Kris Bryant (27)
- Francisco Lindor (25)
- Manny Machado* (26)
These last three guys, I would personally take, but I think they’re kind of on the bubble for a few different reasons.
- Corey Seager (25) – Coming off an injury
- Javy Baez (26) – First real full time season
- Christian Yelich (27) – Numbers aren’t gaudy, but have progressively been getting better every year.
* I would want Harper on my team over both Judge and Machado because, you know, I hate them, but I do think they are better than Harper.
Okay, so now let’s get really weird. This next set of names are guys that I think right now you would take over Harper, but in five years, they’ll be in their mid-to-late 30s.
- JD Martinez (31)
- Paul Goldschmidt (31)
- Freddie Freeman (29)
- Jose Altuve (29)
- Anthony Rizzo (29)
So that’s a total of 17 guys that I listed. I just checked and Harper was 16th in OPS this season, so that actually really makes sense. The only other variable here are the young studs. You have a whole slew of guys that in five years may very well be on that first list.
- Juan Soto
- Ozzie Albies
- Ronald Acuna
- Matt Chapman
- Andrew Benintendi
- Vladimir Guerrero Jr
- Trevor Story
- Gleyber Torres*
- Miguel Andjar*
- Rhys Hoskins
- Cody Bellinger
*Same goes for these guys as went for Judge/Machado
There’s probably more to all of these lists, but part of this exercise is to just go by the eye test. And by the eye test, no, Bryce Harper should not $400 million over 14 years. In fact, if you really dig into the statistics and advanced statistics, he still should not get that money for his performance on the field.
HOWEVA…he IS only going into his age 26 season. There’s absolutely a chance that he reaches and maintains his ceiling in the coming years, and you cannot overlook the fact that Bryce Harper is easily the most marketable player in the game right now. If he’s on your team, asses will be in seats. The money he will make you from that and that alone is enough to get a monster deal.
It’s going to be crazy when he signs and I for one, cannot wait to see what he signs for.