Before Spring Training, Bryce Harper was asked about the idea of him becoming the first player to receive a $400 million dollar contract in the MLB. His reply was short, simple, and to the point. 

“Don’t sell me short.” 

Many took that as a way of Bryce saying that he will be worth more than that by 2018 when he will become a free-agent. Harper is willing to do the work needed to reach that high plateau and will be happy doing it while playing in DC, sharing these remarks with the media to open spring training. 

“I have the ‘W’ on my chest for the next three years. I’m very humbled to put the ‘W’ on my chest each and every day. I love the nation’s capital. I love DC. It gives me chills thinking about it right now. It’s such a monumental town, and I look forward to playing there every single day for the next three years. That’s what’s on my mind right now.’’ Via NYPOST.com

He then went on to speak about the big numbers that has been thrown around. 

“Everybody is talking about a sum of money, but you can’t put limit on players, you can’t put limit on what they do. Everybody says, ‘The sky’s the limit, the sky’s the limit,’ and we’ve been on the moon. Let it play out. I’ve got three years to play. I’ve got three years to do everything I can to play this game.’’ Via NYPost.com 

I commend Harper for showing his commitment to the fans of the Nationals. Harper has been type-casted as a “spoiled brat” throughout the league, which could be an unfair judgement. We all remember his incident with Johnathan Papelbon in the dugout last season after he didn’t hustle down the baseline on an out – both players have since resolved their differences – but those comments above shows a complete different player than what we all thought he was. 

The question is though, how much will Harper get? 

The 2015 NL MVP led the league in home runs (42), runs (118) slugging percentage (.649), on-base percentage (.460) and OPS (1.109). Harper is the third youngest player to lead the league in slugging and on-base percentage since 1900, Ty Cobb and Stan Musial are the other two who were younger than Harper. 

Harper, at the age of 23, is heading into his fifth season and has lived up to the hype being the high school phenom and #1 pick in the 2010 Amatuer Draft - depending on who you are and what you are looking for him to do. If it’s the numbers, then he has did that, if it’s team success, then Harper still has some work to do. 

This is always my biggest concern with handing out big contracts, the lack of team success once those hundred-million dollar deals are done. Take a look at the most recent 9-figure deal that was handed to Giancarlo Stanton from the Miami Marlins. Stanton is the current holder for the richest contract in MLB history with his 13-year $326 million. 

Prior to his contract, Stanton played all 5 seasons in Miami and became their best player. In 2014, Stanton had a career year, hitting 37 home runs with a .555 slugging percentage. This did not signal a $300 million dollar player though. In his career, Stanton has never batted over .300, never played a full season, and the Marlins have never won more than 80 games in a season. 

Stanton numbers do signal a great young player, but not one that is worth $300+ million. In 2015, the first year of his mega deal, Stanton played in only 74 games, missing more than half the season with a hand fracture, his fifth straight season with an apparent injury. 

The Nationals and Harper and not in that same situation but its close. Since Bryce arrival to DC in 2012, the Nationals have won the NL East twice but both seasons ended with first-round exits. The Nationals inconsistency hasn’t fully fell on Harper but his lack of leadership has been a topic among baseball pundits. New manager, Dusty Baker, came to Harper’s defense with these words to the media. 

He has leadership potential, but he’s not a leader yet. How many people are going to follow the youngest kid in the room? And just because you’re the most talented doesn’t mean that you’re the leader. I don’t think it’s really fair to even put that on him. I think he has some good examples for the day when he does take over a leadership role because he’s learned how from J-Dub and from [Max] Scherzer, from Zimmerman, and I think he’s learned some things from [Jonathan] Papelbon. I’ve always said that leaders are anointed, they’re not appointed.
— Dusty Baker via ESPN.com

I agree with Dusty that most will not follow a 23-year old young man, but how much time will we give him to become a leader? In 2018, Harper will be 26-years old, which is a ripe age for him to be a leader, not only with his play, but in the clubhouse as well. Not every player is a vocal leader but not every player can command a 9-figure contract that could be worth more than half a billion dollars. 

According to an article in the Washington Post, by 2019, based on his WAR and the values of wins, Harper will be worth $600 million dollars through 2025. The article suggest that Bryce 9.5 wins above replacement currently is worth $75.9 million and if he can produce a 6.6 wins above replacement for the next 9 seasons, his worth will reach $603.76 million. 

Of course these sabermetrics are for the baseball nerds, but they will be used in the negotiating process. Harper will have to keep that 6.6 WAR rating – his highest prior to last season was 5.1. 

The only thing we all can do at this point is watch and make prediction. With Stanton mega deal, I don’t think Harper will be the only that will receive a 400+ million dollar contract. Mike Trout who signed his extension in 2014, which won’t allow him to be a free agent until the age of 29 – the age where most great players receive their mega contract.

 

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