In the middle of a monstrous bounce-back season, Bryce Harper once again has MLB drooling.
After a unanimous MVP season in 2015, Harper struggled in 2016, amid reports of shaky health and frustration at the plate.
In 2016, Harper’s batting average fell from .330 to .243, his OPS fell from 1.109 to .873, and his WAR fell from 9.9 to 1.6. He hit just 24 home runs a year after hitting 42.
The strange drop had some in the majors worried about him, but thus far, 2017 has turned the tides. Through 49 games, Harper is hitting .322 with 15 homers and 44 RBIs with a 1.077 OPS and a 2.5 WAR. He looks healthy, has regained confidence at the plate, and looks like the young slugger sure to take over the league as he gets older.
And as a result, teams are already foaming at the mouth over his free agency in 2018. According to ESPN’s Eddie Matz, one MLB GM thinks the $400 million projection for Harper’s next contract could be “light.”
“He is going to get paid. Like, paid paid … Four hundred million is light. 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.”
If Harper were to sign a $400 million contract, it would top the 13-year, $325 million deal Giancarlo Stanton signed in 2014. And topping $400 million would be an unprecedented contract in North American sports. Matz, however, argues that it’s not that far-fetched.
“Based on average annual value, the highest-paid player in today’s game is right-hander Zack Greinke, whose contract with the Diamondbacks earns him better than $34 million per season. On the one hand, Harper’s not a pitcher like Greinke (or Price or Scherzer). On the other hand, he (A) already has one MVP on his résumé, (B) is in the conversation for another, (C) hasn’t even hit his prime yet, and (D) is repped by super-agent Scott Boras. All of which suggests that the idea of Harper becoming the highest-paid player in the game isn’t a far-fetched one.”
Harper will be just 26 when he hits free agency. It’s worth debating if he would want to sign such a long deal unless it has an opt-out, but if he continues on his current pace, teams will be lining up to sign him for whatever he wants.
And one team that figures to be in the running has never been shy about spending big on big names.