October 26, 2018


Bryce Harper has been waiting for this pay day since he was called up at age 19.

Now at 26, he can get a mega long term deal as a free agent. He has a super agent in Scott Boras.

There are several problems on the bumpy road to mega wealth as the highest paid baseball player in history.

First, he had a down season.

Second, the free agent market dipped significantly last season. There are several big market big spenders who have had enough of luxury tax penalties to stop their spendthift ways.

Third, Harper is a one dimensional player. His defense continues to slide from below average to bad.

Fourth, he has a growing reputation as a clubhouse diva.

Bruce Levine reported this week that Harper's "starting" point for negotiations is 10 years/$350 million.  The agent is trying to set the bar higher than Giancarlo Stanton's current record deal of $325 million.

But in comparative terms, Stanton has earned more of his contract than Harper is asking for.

2018 4.0 WAR .266 BA 38 HR 100 RBI
2017 7.6 WAR .281 BA 59 HR 132 RBI
2016 2.6 WAR .281 BA 27 HR 74 RBI (119 GP)

2018 1.7 WAR .249 BA 34 HR 100 RBI
2017 4.7 WAR .319 BA 29 HR 87 RBI (111 GP)
2016 1.5 WAR .243 BA 24 HR 86 RBI

In 9 seasons, Stanton has 39.2 WAR (an average of 4.36 WAR).
In 7 seasons, Harper has 27.4 WAR (an average of 3.91 WAR).

For a valuation standard, Stanton is still worth .45 WAR per season more than Harper.
On a salary formula basis, Stanton is worth $2.475 million per season more than Harper.

Stanton is set to make $26 million in 2019.
Harper would then project to make only $23.525 million or only $235.25 million over ten years.

If Harper is set on signing a $350 million deal, he may have to wait a long time.
Last year, JD Martinez held out but had to sign a five year, $110 million deal with the Red Sox. Martinez had a 6.4 WAR in 2018 and his team is in the World Series. (Martinez does have several opt out clauses including after the 2019 season, but the market may not have changed by then.)

In order to boost a deal, Harper needs to have more than one club after his services. The only club remotely interested in Harper has been his old team, the Nationals. But the Nats are on the verge of a rebuild as their veteran roster has to start to turn over.

The Phillies could be another suitor. The Phils overachieved last season, but its front office would have to weigh routing their rebuilding process with a high price veteran. Nick Williams is penciled in as the Phils RF for 2019.

The usual big money spenders will probably be quiet this off-season: Dodgers, Cubs, Red Sox, Yankees and Angels. The Rangers and Braves may spend money on pitching but not position players.

We will know after the Winter Meetings in December if the free agent market will continue to cool.