As we wait for this seemingly long offseason to come to a close, let’s take a look at one of next years most pursued players.
Bryce Harper is one of the most, if not the most talked about and most well known player in the game today. Harper made his debut in 2012 at just 19 years old and immediately proved he belonged. Harper hit the ground running in his first year in the majors slashing .270/.340/.477 with a 121 WRC+. Harper’s 4.6 fWAR was good enough to garner himself the NL Rookie of the Year as well.
Following a lackluster 2014, Harper wasn’t done blossoming from his previous 4 fWAR seasons. Harper put up a historic 2015 that saw him slash .330/.460/.649 with 42 home runs and a 197 wRC+. Harper ended the season with an outlandish 9.9 bWAR/9.5 fWAR and could be easily argued to be one of the best seasons of all time.
2016 was a bit of an odd year for Harper. He got off to a sluggish start to 2016 batting .256 with 19 homeruns in 86 games. Don’t get it wrong, that’s not a particularly bad line, but just a bit odd for a guy coming off a 9.5 fWAR season at 23 years old. Harper didn’t improve much as he ended the year slashing .243/.373/.441. I’m going to chalk up 2016 to bad luck and playing through a disclosed, perhaps shoulder injury. Harper dodged questions about his health while his agent, Scott Boras, was adamant in his stance Harper was playing through “limitations”. With a player as passionate and as ambitious as Harper it’s easy to see him playing through an injury, especially in the midst of a playoff season. Though he wasn’t crushing the ball, pitchers were still afraid to pitch to him as we saw his strikeout rate drop and his walk rate nearly identical to his MVP season. Even though his season was majorly disappointing for many, Harper still managed to accrue 3.5 fWAR. Given the estimate of 1 WAR costing around $8 million a piece, Harper would still be considered a 28 million dollar player even through one of his worst years.
2017 was an important season for Harper. With free agency looming and his stock at an all time low, a major bounce back was required. And bounce back he did. Harper kickstarted the first half in Harper-like fashion with a slash line similar to his 2015 MVP campaign .325/.431/.590. Harper made his 5th All Star appearance in 6 years and everything was looking was looking up. On August 12, 2017 Harper had one of the biggest on field freak accidents I’ve ever seen. The game had previously been postponed due to rain, and in the bottom of the first inning while running out a ground ball to first, Harper over-extended his leg and slipped on the bag. Immediately the baseball world began to think of the worst case scenario, torn ACL, done for the year. And that’s what I believed too, the way his body fell, the way he was grabbing his knee and carried off the field, all the signs pointed to a complete ACL tear. The Nationals and Harper were struck with a bit of odd fortune however, as he was diagnosed with a severe bone bruise but would still be able to return for the last few days of the regular season and be somewhat ready for the postseason. Harper ended the year with 4.8 fWAR through 111 games. By multiplying his WAR per game from that year by 162, he was on pace for 7 fWAR.
2018 is a stock defying year for Harper, to prove he’s fully recovered from last season’s nightmare injury, and to prove he can produce at a consistent 5.5-7 WAR basis. Steamer currently has him projected for a 6.1 WAR, an estimated $48.8 million dollars in value, while slashing .303/.420/.585 with 37 long balls.
Harper is MLB’s most recognized player and would bring publicity to anyone that signs him. Harper also has the world’s most fan hated agent, Scott Boras, who is known for setting the bar high in negotiations and breaking his own records in contracts. That being said, I find it highly unlikely that Boras won’t be able to find a home for Harper for at least $40 million annually. If I had to guess which team he signs with, it would be the Cubs. Kris Bryant and Harper have known each other since they were kids, and he always seems to drop hints on twitter and in interviews. The Yankees were another favorite of mine to Harper, but with the Stanton and Judge logjam in the outfield and the prolonged interest in Manny Machado, it seems unlikely to happen.
In short, yes, I do think Harper will get a $500 million dollar contract. I’m expecting him to make around 50 million a year for the next 10 years. Not only will there be major competition for him, but with Boras as his agent, no two combinations of player and agent compare to Harper/Boras. At still just an astonishing 25, we may have not seen the best of Harper yet.
Cover Photo By: Andrew Harnik