Bryce Harper remains, as of this writing, the only big-money Major League Baseball free agent without a team, and his contract demands are almost certainly the reason for that. Harper is reportedly demanding a ten-year, $300 million deal as a starting point, and in addition to the stupendous amount of money he’s asking for — $30 million per year — there’s also the fact that whatever team signs him is committed to him for a decade.
One team in contention in the Bryce Harper Sweepstakes is the Philadelphia Phillies. Their fans, and the organization itself, may have concerns about the extraordinary length of his contract. But New Jersey Advance Media writer Joe Giglio says that the team shouldn’t be concerned.
History shows that ten-year contracts aren’t necessarily a bad thing
If you look through the list of Major League Baseball players who have signed ten-year contracts, you’ll see the names of men who will almost certainly be going to the Hall of Fame, some of them on the first ballot.
For example, there’s Derek Jeter, who, in 2001, became the first MLB player to sign a ten-year contract. Clearly, the Yankees didn’t regret signing that deal — by the end of his contract, he’d amassed 1,918 hits and a career.310 batting average.
Then there’s Alex Rodriguez, also a Yankee, who had been signed to a ten-year deal with the Texas Rangers before the Yankees picked up the remainder of his contract, after the Rangers made some personnel moves. Again, the Yankees didn’t regret the deal — when all was said and done, Rodriguez had won two MVP awards and had hit 424 home runs.
Harper won’t be past his prime in the final half of his contract
By professional baseball standards, Harper will be an older man — pushing his late 30s — by the latter half of a presumed 10-year contract. So while the early half of his contract may produce top-tier numbers, traditional thinking suggests that he may slow down as he ages.
Not so, says Giglio. He points to more recent cases of great MLB players who, as they matured, also produced enviable stats. For example, there’s Albert Pujols, who between the ages of 31 to 35 still managed to rack up an impressive 130 OPS+. Similarly, Robinson Cano scored a 129 OPS+ during the same age span, and Jayson Werth put up a 130 OPS+.
But his defense!
The conventional wisdom surrounding Harper seems to be that he’s one of the greatest hitters in the game, but that his defensive skills are not necessarily at this level.
Prior to 2018, Harper was a mediocre outfielder at best. A 2017 knee injury hampered his defensive efforts, and by all accounts he’s an average outfielder, to put it charitably. But should that sideline his chances at a long-term, juicy contract? Giglio isn’t having it.
“Harper isn’t a Gold Glove candidate in right field. But the idea that his defense is an albatross just isn’t backed up by the facts of his career.”
So will Harper get that contract?
Undoubtedly, yes, it’s just a matter of when and where. But the Phillies, and their fans, would do well to look past their fears about the deal and about Harper himself.