Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper won’t be a free-agent until after the 2018 season, but his next contract is already the talk of baseball. The 2015 MVP has returned to form this season, making those $400 million predictions seem a lot more likely.
In fact, things have swung so far in the other direction that the $400 million figure might be too low! At least, that’s what one American League general manager told Eddie Matz of ESPN.com.
“Four hundred million is light,” the GM said. “It’s going to be more than that. If you could sign him to a 15-year contract, you do it. I would say something in the range of $35 million a year, maybe closer to the high 30s. It could approach 40 million dollars a year.”
As Matz points out, those numbers aren’t completely arbitrary. If last year’s struggles were truly due to injury, Harper should be able to keep up his MVP-caliber performance this season. Should that continue into next year, Harper is looking at hitting free agency at age 26, with between two or three elite seasons of production under his belt.
In that scenario, it’s not hard to see him asking for the biggest contract of all-time. He is represented by Scott Boras, after all.
That would probably entail Harper getting the highest annual salary. The current record is held by Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Zack Greinke, who is getting $34 million per season. That’s where the $35 million figure comes from.
While a 15-year contract seems crazy, Matz points out that Harper would be 40 years old when the deal is up. We’ve seen plenty of players sign through their age-40 seasons in recent years, including Robinson Cano, Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera. So, it’s really not that outlandish.
Of course, that will depend on whether Harper is willing to make that commitment. Fifteen years is a long time to spend with any club, and he could prefer a shorter deal with a higher annual salary. Or, since opt-outs are all the rage these days, he could sign a 15-year deal with an opt-out clause in year five. That would give him another opportunity to pick up one more huge contract before he retires.
Those figures seem crazy, but they inch closer to reality with every game Harper plays. Not only that, but teams seem prepared to pay that price. Our own Jeff Passan has detailed which clubs will have the most money available, and the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers, two teams capable of making huge moves, will have plenty of payroll flexibility.
While a lot can happen between now and the time he becomes a free-agent, Harper’s performance will dictate his worth. Even if he stumbles, he’ll still get a ludicrous contract. If he continues on this path, he’s going to obliterate the record.
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