Bryce Harper has been one of the most notable names in the professional baseball world dating back to his days as a teenage phenom in Las Vegas, Nevada. Following the 2018 World Series, he will become arguably the biggest free agent to hit the open market in Major League Baseball history, and all signs are pointing towards him landing the largest sports contract of all-time.
There are reports suggesting that Harper could land a contract in the $400 million, maybe even $500 million, range. And, while that may seem outrageous at first glance, if you take a deep look into the situation, it actually makes some sense when considering all he brings to a franchise and a city.
So, what exactly does Harper bring to the table that would make him such a sought after free agent prize? The shorthand version goes a little something like this: The Washington Nationals outfielder has legendary power from the left side of the plate, and has a persona that makes him an ideal player to be the face of a Major League franchise. But there is far more to Bryce Harper than his home run ability and marketability.
For starters, Harper is still only 25-year-old (he is set to turn 26 in October), and his first full MLB season came in 2012 when he was still a teenager. What this means is that the six-time All-Star could realistically have a full decade left in the prime of his career — something that is extremely rare among elite players who hit free agency. Bottom line: Bryce Harper is a proven commodity at the Major League level, his 2015 National League MVP and six All-Star selections are proof, and he still has a long career ahead to add to his already impressive resume.
Secondly, Harper is the type of player who can flat-out drive ticket sales. As previously mentioned, his raw power is other-worldly, and fans love the long ball. In fact, every time the Nationals play a road game, there are plenty of ‘Harper’ jerseys in the stands.
If those were the only factors going into the decision-making process for front offices around the league, handing Bryce Harper a 10-year, $400 million contract would seem like an easy decision. But, surprise, surprise, there’s much more to the equation than Harper’s youth and flashiness.
On the negative side of things, Harper has missed significant time due to injuries in three of his seven seasons in the Big Leagues, and he likely won’t ever be a Gold Glove type of outfielder. More alarmingly, he has recorded an elite-level W.A.R. (Wins Above Replacement) metric in only one season. In comparison, Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout has recorded an All-Star or MVP-caliber W.A.R. in seven of his eight Big League seasons. And, on top of that, Trout’s teammate, Albert Pujols, has 10 career seasons with an elite W.A.R.
So Is Bryce Harper Really Worth $400 Million?
When it comes down to it, Bryce Harper’s value is going to be tied to his health. He will likely land a contract that tops the 13-year, $325 million deal New York Yankees outfielder Giancarlo Stanton landed from the Miami Marlins in 2014 in total value. If he stays healthy, the massive investment will likely prove to be well worth the risk for whichever team lands him — especially Harper he can lead the franchise to a World Series title and continues on his Hall of Fame career trajectory. However, if Bryce Harper regularly falls victim to the injury bug over the next 5-10 years after landing his expected mega-deal, he will have committed highway robbery.
Lead image via Getty