The Rise of the Super Star
by SportsTownChicago.com writer Michael Beard
In 2010, at the age of 19, a kid named Bryce Harper was drafted by the Washington Nationals as the number one overall pick in all of baseball. So far, he has made them look like geniuses putting up numbers not even some hall of famers have. Harper is off to a historic start to a career. Here’s where he ranks through age 23 across MLB history: HR: 9th, OBP: 19th, OPS+ 24th, WAR: 24th. But, we all know you get what you pay for. So if the Nationals want to keep their superstar outfielder after 2018, that’s exactly what he will make them do. After all, it is going to take a lot of money to take care of that phenomenal head of hair.
“Don’t sell me short. That’s what you’re doing right now to me. So don’t do that.” That was the quote two years ago from star outfielder Bryce Harper regarding his belief that he should be the first athlete in any professional sport to be paid a $500 million contract. Not on my team son! No one player is bigger than the game and after his 2016 season he needs to check that at the door. Although he and his agent, the very modest Scott Boras, have yet to confirm the $500 million rumor, MLB Network analysts are speculating the Nationals could be making plans of life after Harper. He won NL Rookie of the Year in 2012 and NL MVP in 2015. Not to mention his four All-Star appearances, with yet another one looming this year with his incredibly hot start to the season.
Harper has been nothing but sensational thus far batting .418, 8 HR, 25 RBI, and OPS of 1.358. There is no doubt those are very solid numbers, and he’s getting hits when they count, but is half a billion dollars worth it? What kind of team will they honestly be able to put on the field if they sink all their money into one single player? Boras told USA TODAY Sports in spring training, “The Washington franchise has one of the most successful ownership groups on and off the field, they certainly have the ability to conduct whatever form of business they see fit.” Enter New York Yankees. They have been down this road many times and with baseball’s revenues expected to exceed $11 Billion this year its feasible. They paid A-Rod $275 million for a 10-year contract in 2008 and the Marlins paid Giancarlo Stanton $325 million for 13 years back in 2014.
Overall The Nats have won with Harper. Since he joined the club in 2012 they have built a winning team around the youngster and won three division titles (2012, 2014, 2016) in the last five years. They are off to an incredible start again this year sitting atop the MLB Power Rankings and first in the NL East with a 16-6 record so far. Much of this due to great play by Harper. Since he and his teammates have decided to tee off against pitching this year they are making it look easy to win. And the pitching staff of the Nationals is coming up big for them as well. When you look at all this chemistry some say, pay the man. It’s hard to disagree when he when packs the house on a daily basis and gets the younger fan base to want to come see him.
Now I’m all for paying players and he certainly deserves to get a huge contract, but $500 million is just too much. With the numbers he’s put up, yes it is a well deserved payday for Harper but let’s come back down earth. His biggest adversary to date has been the post season where the Nationals have yet to win a series with Harper in the lineup. Plus, it’s not like he's hurting for cash. If he wants to stay in Washington, he will simply have to come down on his demands. I can see the Nationals offering a 10 year $400 million contract. That puts him under control from age 26-35 and everyone, except Scott Boras, will be happy.
According to Fangraph’s calculations, Harper has a value of $173.7 million of value since coming to the majors in 2012. That puts him at roughly $34 million per year. If he improves, even slightly, that puts him at $40 million per year in baseball math. Now everyone around baseball knows Scott Boras and his tactics of getting his players paid by letting them hit the open market, but I’m sure they want to keep him in Washington and will be pushing a deal before that happens in this case. For Washington's sake, lets hope he's happy with that 10-year Under Armor deal he signed in 2016, which happens to be the largest endorsement deal in history for a baseball player…. Stay tunes folks.
Written By: Michael Beard