Bryce Harper broke into the elite stratosphere last season for the Washington Nationals, winning his first MVP award, changing the narrative from generational prospect to generational hitter, and shifting his compensation from a merely “good deal” to “best bargain in baseball”.
Harper hit 42/99/.649 and scored 118 runs in 2015. He also hit .330/.460/1.109 making him the most feared hitter in the game as well as playing solid defense in right field. What makes him more unique is his age, Harper won’t turn 24 until the postseason, which means he could have two MVP type seasons under his belt before most prospects make their MLB debuts. Another season like 2015 and Harper will wash away a lot of the injury riddled seasons with sub .300 batting averages and a career high of 22 home runs coming before his breakout campaign.
To make matters more complicated, Harper is a Scott Boras client, an agent known for having his players wait until free agency for new contracts, which means Ryan Braun and Mike Trout, two elite outfielders in their times (Braun, a few years ago and Trout presently) are not great comparisons. Braun was routinely a 30 HR, 100 RBI threat earlier in his career, but signed one extension from 2008-2015 and another from 2016-2021 making his earning dollars a bit skewed. Trout signed a deal eating up his entire arbitration process as well as a year of free agency.
Giancarlo Stanton also signed a deal before free agency, for 13 years and $325 million with an opt out clause prior to the 2015 season. He has a full no trade clause, a team buy out in 2028 and an escalating salary reaching its top value in 2023-2024 at $32 million per year. Stanton signed this deal right after his 25th birthday and with two years left in his arbitration process.
Robinson Cano signed the most recent mega deal for a position player, right before the 2014 season, when he agreed to a $10 year, $240 million dollar deal with the Mariners. Cano, of course, plays second base and made his deal three seasons ago, but he’s the last good example of a position player signing as an actual free agent, of course doing so as he was turning 30-years-old.
Suffice it to say Bryce Harper will be the first deal of his kind if he doesn’t sign an extension, which by all indications, he won’t. Harper has made comments implying he’s in for his big pay day, the Nationals haven’t shown any actual attempts to negotiate and Boras has a reputation to make this thing play out. Harper is going to wait until he is a free agent, and he will be not have turned 27-years-old yet by the time he signs his mega deal.
Bryce Harper Salary
Harper’s Current Salary: $5 million (first year of arbitration)
Harper’s 2015 Salary: $2.5 million
Harper’s Free Agency Year: End of the 2018 season
Harper’s Projected Contract: 12 Years, $465 million
Why?: We can use the Marlins’ foresight to a degree and assume elite players in their late twenties will be making in the low to mid $30 million per year range in the next five years or so. Pitchers, have already reached this point as evidenced by: Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and David Price all making more than $30 million per year and none of them being free agents in their mid 20’s at the time of their deals. Harper is going to make $40 million per year for a long time as a player who will be in his free agency year as a perennial MVP candidate (assuming health the next few years) before most players reach their primes. Think of this like Alex Rodriguez Part 2: A contract to blow everything else out of the water with what would be a sure first ballot hall of fame trajectory and a deal where many won’t pass it even years later. A-Rod’s agent at the time of that deal? Scott Boras.
Harper will be the highest paid player ever and he has enough years ahead of him at the time he signs where the contract should go for 10-15 years. The MLB market shows no signs of drying up in the next few seasons and Harper will be the crown jewel of an elite free agency class as of right now. Based on Stanton, we can assume Harper gets at least 12 years (Stanton was signed to 13 with some arbitration years involved, so we can settle on 12 since all of them are free agency years and high risk with Harper). Based on Kershaw currently making over $34 million, we can assume Harper starts out making $35 million or higher. Expect $35 million perhaps the first or second year and maybe the final year of his deal and $40 million the rest of it.
Bryce Harper Stats