$500 Million For Bryce Harper Might Still Be a Bargain

Bryce Harper won’t be a free agent for three more years, but that hasn’t stopped people from writing about his next contract. Over the last few months, David Schoenfeld and Jeff Passan have discussed his eventual price tag recently, and Harper himself vaguely addressed the topic in a radio interview yesterday:

Harper was asked during an interview with 106.7 The Fan’s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier whether he has thought about the possible magnitude of his next contract.

“I was talking to an executive this offseason,” Paulsen said. “At one point in time they said you could be the first $400 million player. Do you ever think about your future and what’s possible, in terms of you could break records for the money you make at one point in time?”

“Yeah, I mean I don’t really think about that stuff. I just try to play the years out and do everything I can to help my team win,” Harper said. “But don’t sell me short. That’s what you’re doing right now to me, so don’t do that.”

The idea that $400 million is selling Harper might seem ridiculous, but he’s right; as long as he continues to perform near expectations, the winning bid should be substantially higher than that.

The $400 million figure essentially comes from two factors; the Giancarlo Stanton extension — which guarantees the Marlins slugger $325 million over 13 years — and our human affinity for round numbers. Everyone agrees that Harper is worth more than Stanton, and since he was the first one to crack $300 million, the easy suggestion is that Harper will be the first to crack $400 million, since it’s the next round number on the scale. But that’s not a particularly scientific way to figure out what Harper’s market value might look like — especially since Stanton’s contract was an extension while he was two years away from free agency, so it doesn’t represent the free market’s valuation of him as a player either — so let’s try some other approaches instead.

We first need to acknowledge that Harper is not historically unique.

Harper vs A-Rod, Through Age-22
Name PA AVG OBP SLG wRC+ Off Def WAR
Alex Rodriguez 2271 0.313 0.364 0.543 130 101 34 20.8
Bryce Harper 2143 0.289 0.384 0.517 147 125 -7 19.4

Through the same point of his career, Harper’s numbers are very similar to Alex Rodriguez; he hits a bit better than A-Rod did at the same point, but he doesn’t play shortstop, so those differences mostly offset. And Rodriguez gives us a data point on what the market will pay for an inner-circle Hall of Fame talent hitting free agency in his mid-20s.

After the 2000 season, the Rangers gave Rodriguez a 10 year, $252 million contract. At the time, the average salary for a Major League player was a little over $2 million, as total league payrolls in 2001 added up to $1.9 billion; the AAV of Rodriguez’s deal was essentially 12 times the league average. The average salary this past year was just over $4 million, so calculating for inflation, the AAV of A-Rod’s deal in present value is roughly $48 million per year, so it would have been the equivalent of him signing for 10/$480M this winter. And that’s in 2015 dollars; Bryce Harper will be a free agent after the 2018 season, and with three more years of inflation, prices should only be expected to rise.

Now, we shouldn’t just assume that Harper is going to get the A-Rod deal. Rodriguez reached free agency a year sooner, so he was selling his age-25 and beyond seasons, while Harper will be selling his age-26 and beyond years. Rodriguez was a shortstop, so it was easier to argue that his defensive value would hold up even with an eventual position switch, while Harper’s status as a corner outfielder means he’ll essentially have to be carried by his bat when injuries begin to take their toll on his fielding. And, fairly or not, the Rodriguez contract is widely considered a mistake, as Texas ended up paying a significant portion of Rodriguez’s deal when they traded him to New York; it is going to be difficult to sell an owner on a contract value by saying “this is the A-Rod deal for the current era.”

But you don’t need the A-Rod deal to make a case for spending $500 million on Bryce Harper; you can simply look at what the same money would buy in free agency if you spread the wealth. I did this exercise with Mike Trout a few years ago, showing that a team would be better off with Trout and some random low-priced outfielder than the two best free agent outfielders on the market that winter; Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo. When the market has decided that declining +3 WAR players are worth $20 million per year, it’s not too hard to illustrate why a +7 WAR player heading into his age-26 season would be worth well north of $40 million per year.

But just for fun, let’s use some current examples. The two best young free agent hitters on the market this year were Jason Heyward and Justin Upton. Heyward got $23 million per year for eight years, while Upton got $22 million per year for six years, so their combined AAV is $45 million per season. Upton and Heyward project to be worth about +8 WAR next year, though a good chunk of that is based on Heyward’s defensive value. Harper, by himself, projects at about +7 WAR, and with more certainty about his value, since it’s based on performance we can measure more easily. The market value of a superstar slugger expected to consolidate roughly the same value into one roster spot should not be significantly lower than dividing the same money into two players who add up to the same total value.

In today’s dollars, the market suggests that Harper’s performance is worth something like $50 million per year. Now, he’s probably not likely to reach that AAV on the kind of term he’s expected to ask for, as there are inherent risks with signing up for so many years well into the future, and the big value of going with multiple lesser players is that you don’t have to sign up for as many years. Harper isn’t going to settle for a 6-8 year deal, so he’ll have to take an AAV discount in order to get the 12-15 year deal that will result in a huge total contract valuation. But the question isn’t whether or not he’s going to break $40 million a year, but how close to $50 million a year he can get on a long-term deal.

If he settled on the A-Rod length contract, however, and only asked for 10 years, I’d think he’d have a shot at getting $50 million a year. Assuming Andrew Friedman and his crew and are still running the Dodgers in 2018, it’s not too hard to see them pushing for a high salary/shorter term offer like this, given their resources and desire to spend on youth rather than decline. But if Harper wants to maximize the total dollars in his contract, he’s probably going to point to Stanton’s 13 year deal and argue that, as a better player and a better bet to stay healthy long-term, he deserves 14 or 15 years. He’d have to take a significant discount on the AAV to get that number, but if the goal was just to maximize the total contract figure, 15 years at $37M or $38M per year would get him up to $550 million.

And while these numbers sound nuts, we have to keep in mind that players that are this good are not that difficult to project going forward. Harper is one of just eight players in baseball history to post a career wRC+ between 145-155 through his age-22 season; the other seven are Albert Pujols, Eddie Collins, Eddie Matthews, Tris Speaker, Mickey Mantle, Mel Ott, and Rogers Hornsby. That’s six hall-of-famers and a guy that’s a slam-dunk selection when he’s eligible; guys who hit like this at this age just don’t stop playing well unless they get hurt.

Injury risk, or some kind of off-field issue derailing his career, is really the primary downside here. With Harper, you don’t have to wonder too much about how good he’s going to be, as guys with this level of talent remain elite players until their bodies break down. Assuming he has three more high-level seasons heading into free agency, $500 million is a perfectly reasonable ask, and depending on how well baseball’s economy does in the next three years, $600 million isn’t even out of the question.

Of course, with opt-outs becoming all the rage, it’s possible that he’ll pioneer an entirely new type of contract with player options every couple of years in order to give himself maximum leverage. But if he decides that the goal is to just get as a large a total contract as he can, $500 to $550 million is probably going to be the reasonable bidding range, and if someone wants to defer a bunch of the contract, I could see a team deciding to push $600 million.

It’s going to be the bidding war of the century. $400 million won’t even get you to the table. As Harper himself said, don’t sell him short.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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Jeff Luhnow
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Jeff Luhnow
3 months 16 days ago

You are doing the Lord’s work Dave. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Dooduh
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Dooduh
3 months 16 days ago

Really. Can we stop with the Harper gush pieces for Eff sake… and 3 years out no less… Oh god that 2018 season is going to be insufferable.

alang3131982
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Member
3 months 16 days ago

Yeah, man, I totally hear you. Why would we ever use the internet and its infinite amount of space to talk about a once (or twice) in a generation talent and the massive implications of his greatness….it’s so lame and boring and why are you forcing me to read this article about a topic i dont like? god you mean

TKDC
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Member
TKDC
3 months 16 days ago

I’m with Dooduh. We should be talking about all the games that were on last night. Or perhaps speculating on the games that are going to played tonight.

Dooduh
Member
Dooduh
3 months 15 days ago

So that’s it, either talk about games or how much money Harper can extort from one of the owners 3 years from now??

I think we get it that Harper is good – a once in a generation kind of good. Does that make speculating on ow many hundreds of millions of dollars he’s sure to earn some kind of academic exercise? I don’t think so.

rogue_actuary
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Member
rogue_actuary
3 months 13 days ago

Are you new? There are, you know, other websites on the internet where you can avoid seeing/reading such offensive articles.

At Fangraphs, this is … exactly the sort of article you should expect to find. It’s exactly the sort of article I hope to find.

bombguy85
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bombguy85
3 months 16 days ago

Mets fan?

alang3131982
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Member
3 months 16 days ago

Let me stop half the comments.

Harper Greedy.

Billionaire Owners not greedy.

These sentences are stupid.

Richie
Member
Richie
3 months 16 days ago

In combination, anyway. Either you draw the line somewhere between ‘billionaire’ and ‘half-billionaire’, which strikes me as really really stupid, or else both are ‘greedy’ or both are ‘not greedy’.

aaronsteindler
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aaronsteindler
3 months 16 days ago

I think it’s considerably easier for a player that good to underperform than to overperform his projection. I think each additional WAR beyond a certain point reduces the marginal gain in money spent because of this, so I don’t think we can assume that the market operates in a linear fashion beyond a certain threshold.

dl80
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dl80
3 months 16 days ago

This is a smart point that I hadn’t really thought about before.

If he’s projected to be worth 7 WAR, isn’t it more likely he is worth 4 than 10? So if you pay him like he’s worth 7, you’ve got only a little bit of upside and lots of downside.

Same goes for Trout or anyone else that is elite like this.

The Ghost of Stephen Drews Bat
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The Ghost of Stephen Drews Bat
3 months 16 days ago

And that’s why you have opt-outs!

Bip
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Bip
3 months 16 days ago

Even though this is correct, this should be factored into the projection to some extent.

Let’s round up and say he was worth 10 WAR last year, without a lot of sign that is unsustainable. Considering he’s still 24, he’s not declining yet or anything. He probably is about this good. So why only a 7 WAR projection? Not because ZiPS thinks he’s a true-talent 7-WAR player. I would guess it probably thinks he’s better than that, but has a greater chance to significantly underperform true talent at that level than to outperform it. Thus, 7. So maybe 7 is the one you should be on.

JDX
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JDX
3 months 14 days ago

Harper won’t be 24 until after the 2016 regular season is over. So…even better for your point.

timalewis
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timalewis
3 months 16 days ago

I completely agree with this. All these valuations ever think about is the mean and not the distribution around it. That’s fine if it’s normally distributed, but I would agree with you that I’d bet it’s not.

A related thought that comes to mind. When comparing Trout/Scrub to Heyward/Upton, there has to be some value in diversifying WAR across multiple players. You lose Trout and the duo is horrendous. You have to lose both Heyward AND Upton for the latter duo to be as horrendous.

chuckb
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chuckb
3 months 15 days ago

I don’t think this is true at all. If I’m not mistaken, projections are more likely median outcomes out of a large number of simulations, not mean outcomes. If it is a median projection then, presumably, Harper is as likely to hit 10 WAR as 4.

jdbolick
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Member
3 months 15 days ago

Projections aren’t the mean or median, they’re the mode.

formerly matt w
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formerly matt w
3 months 15 days ago

But if you lose Heyward OR Upton, the duo loses about half its value. And it’s more likely that you lose one of those two than that you lose Trout.

Dooduh
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Dooduh
3 months 16 days ago

As I recall dave also argued that Ben Zobrist was going to get $80M this winter…..

The Ghost of Stephen Drews Bat
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The Ghost of Stephen Drews Bat
3 months 16 days ago

Zobrist did receive an $80M offer but decided to go to the Cubs for $56M.

jdbolick
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Member
3 months 16 days ago

No, Bob Nightengale reported that some unnamed team had offered $80 million over four years. Not knowing the identity of the team makes it a dead giveaway that the information came from Zobrist’s agent. Agents routinely leak ridiculously inflated contract totals in the hopes of driving up the actual offers. There is no evidence that Zobrist ever received an actual offer of $80 million over four years, as the teams that were negotiating with him all denied that they had done so (or even come close). But you shouldn’t even need me to tell you this, given that it should be blindingly apparent that even if Zobrist significantly values playing for Joe Maddon again, he wouldn’t value that at the lost $24 million. The reality is that Zobrist was not offered anything even remotely close to $80 million, otherwise he would have taken it.

Dooduh
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Dooduh
3 months 15 days ago

Yeah sure….

Ser Dunk The Lunk
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Ser Dunk The Lunk
3 months 16 days ago

Or Heyward would get $250 million

jsalin
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jsalin
3 months 16 days ago

I’m hoping his contract winds up including an ownership stake.

$350 million, 12 years, and a 5% ownership stake in the team.

Seattle Homer
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Seattle Homer
3 months 16 days ago

Interesting, but seems unlikely. I would imagine there’s something in the CBA precluding this. I know this is frowned upon in many other industries, as it can introduce problems when a member of the Union becomes an Owner. (Obviously a different league/union/CBA/etc, but the Denver Broncos were docked a 4th round draft pick for offering something similar to John Elway toward the end of his career.)

Is there a precedent in MLB for a player getting ownership as part of a contract?

John Elway
Member
3 months 16 days ago

And like a horse’s ass, I passed up the offer. With what the Broncos are worth now, I’d really be rolling in the hay.

Just neighing.

Phillies113
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Member
3 months 16 days ago

I’d imagine that’s outlawed as it’s a conflict of interest.

dl80
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dl80
3 months 16 days ago

Probably true, but I wonder if it’d be legal to have some kind of ownership option for after he retires? Say 10 years, $400 million with an option to buy 10% of the team in 2028 at 2018’s valuation?

Brians Sticky Sock
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Brians Sticky Sock
3 months 16 days ago

I believe Jordan had a small stake in the Wizards and had to sell it and give up his position of GM when he came back… but I’m really fuzzy on the details.

Richie
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Richie
3 months 16 days ago

Jordan gave it up as part of a “gentleman’s agreement” that he’d simply buy it back when he re-retired. The Bullets/Wizards owner subsequently welched on it after deciding he really really didn’t want Jordan running his basketball team. Which was both ungentlemanly and pretty darn smart.

Schide
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Schide
3 months 16 days ago

Mario Lemieux both owned and played for the Penguins for several years and nobody seemed to care.

HarryLives
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HarryLives
3 months 15 days ago

There’s no conflict of interest unless his ownership stake (1) gives him decisionmaking authority while he’s a player, (2) his interests as a player and an owner aren’t aligned, and (3) in pursuit of his interests as a player, he makes a decision that harms others with a financial stake in the team. There are lots of ways to get around these sorts of conflict of interest issues. Tons of companies have employees with ownership stakes in the companies they work for. It’s possible the MLBPA might object, but the sort of thing you’re talking about definitely isn’t “outlawed”.

output gap
Member
Member
output gap
3 months 16 days ago

I’m sure the deed to Yankee Stadium would suffice as compensation for Harper.

RoyalsFan#14321
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RoyalsFan#14321
3 months 15 days ago

The House That Bryce Rented?

ImperialStout
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Member
ImperialStout
3 months 7 days ago

Man, in that neighborhood? Probably not the best investment.

kuri3460
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kuri3460
3 months 16 days ago

As soon as talk of Harper’s free agency came up, I thought of A-Rod.

Remember that when Boras took A-Rod through free agency, he didn’t just break all previous contract records, he obliterated them. After A-Rod signed the 10 year, $252 million deal, the next closest was Mike Hampton, which, if I recall, was 8 years, $126 million.

Harper is a close enough comparison. Sure, he’ll be one year older, and he’s probably just a hair below prime A-Rod, but if Harper is truly a 7-win player throughout his 20s, then the sky really is the limit financially.

If you assume that the cost per win is going to be around $9 million after the 2018 season, and use a standard aging regression, and then figure that Boras wants to set all kinds of silly records with this deal, just like he did with A-Rod, how about 15 years / $750 million, taking him through his age-40 season? That beats Giancarlo Stanton’s deal in terms of guaranateed years and dollars, and hadnily beats Zach Greinke’s $35 million AAV. Best of all, at $9M/War, Harper may even produce some surplus value under that deal.

Brians Sticky Sock
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Brians Sticky Sock
3 months 16 days ago

Didn’t ManRam sign for $189m that winter? Maybe Jeter as well (an extension of course)

domxbomb
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domxbomb
3 months 15 days ago

at the time ARod’s deal doubled Kevin Garnett’s $126mm contract which had been professional sports’ biggest. Harper probably could double Stanton’s $325mm if his goal was simply to get the largest guaranteed number, spread through the end of time.

It’s interesting the stigma attached to the ARod contract, considering that it’s not difficult to see why a player of that caliber is clearly worth it based on simple calculations such as those Dave does so well. Mainstream media and fan sentiment associate disaster with the next Arod contract, which is unfair to Harper (or whoever the next ARod) given that the next team that gives one out should walk away perfectly fine if it’s not pushing 40% of team payroll.

Cool Lester Smooth
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Cool Lester Smooth
3 months 15 days ago

Yup. The second A-Rod contract was a mistake. The first may well have been a bargain (to a non-Rangers team).

Fernando
Member
Fernando
3 months 16 days ago

While I get the numbers being presented here, I just for the life of me can’t imagine Harper getting this kind of money. It’s so far and beyond any previous contract it’s absurd. Maybe Harper really would be worth 500 million, but at that price you basically have to expect him to play like one of the greatest players of all time for a decade+. While that’s certainly possible, I have to think he’s much more likely to get hurt or underpreform than live up to such a crazy standard.

I dunno. Maybe I’m really out of touch with just how much salaries are inflating, but I don’t think I’m going to believe this until I see it.

troybruno
Member
Member
troybruno
3 months 16 days ago

If you wrote this article in 1999 about the ARod free agency in 2yrs, your largest comp would be Piazza at $91/6. Our largest comp today is Stanton at $325/13 with arb years.

I think history would suggest for players with the expected performance level expected by Harper it will always be tough to imagine…

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
3 months 16 days ago

It seems even weirder given how little position players seemed to be getting this winter, especially compared to pitchers.

domxbomb
Member
domxbomb
3 months 15 days ago

Neither LAD or NYY was interested in the OFers this winter. They will be with Harper. That’s all it takes to push bidding easily past half billion

HarryLives
Member
HarryLives
3 months 16 days ago

If Harper understands that $400 million is “selling him short”, he must have talked about a potential future contract with his agent or someone before, right? The “may-may” guy isn’t going to determine the value of an inflation-adjusted A-Rod contract by himself, is he? He’s too busy “icing” his hair.

TKDC
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Member
TKDC
3 months 16 days ago

It would be truly shocking if he had literally never had even a quick conversation with his representation about this, even if there was never any intent on acting prior to 2018.

Garys of Olde
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Member
Garys of Olde
3 months 16 days ago

It would be beyond boneheaded of an agent not to bring it up every so often to persuade Harper not run into walls with great frequency.

troybruno
Member
Member
troybruno
3 months 16 days ago

I can’t tell if you are asking if Harper cares what his future value is or if you just wanted to casually insult Harper as not being smart enough to calculate his future value.

If the former… let’s see… an ultra-competitive person who is in-line to be the highest-paid player in his professions’ history and it will represent well over 50% of his lifetime’s earnings… I think maybe he has talked about it with Boras.

HarryLives
Member
HarryLives
3 months 16 days ago

It was the latter. Making fun of Harper for saying dumb things is almost as much fun as watching him launch baseballs 500 feet. It was also a way of illustrating that, of course, he’s thought about and thoroughly discussed this stuff, despite what he said in his interview.

Look, Harper is a great player, and I feel privileged to watch him. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have his head stuck as far up his ass as most 22 year olds, nor does it mean that I “may-may” not point out the degree to which his newly “iced” head is lodged in his ass. I love Harper’s “ultracompetitiveness” (as if he’s so much more competitive than other great ballplayers), especially when it sends him face first into outfield fences.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
3 months 16 days ago

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Bjd1207
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Bjd1207
3 months 16 days ago

I think his head is WAYYYYYY less up his ass than a typical 22 year old. Do you remember 22? The level of success he’s had at that age is incomparable to anyone of us posting on this message board, and he’s done it without major scandal or incident that seems to plague so many young superstars (especially outside of sports in say, entertainment). At least he doesn’t get his kicks by making fun of hairstyles or effort of people. If those are the worst flaws in my 22-year old sun I’m going to thank my lucky stars

Bjd1207
Member
Bjd1207
3 months 16 days ago

son*

drewsylvania
Member
drewsylvania
3 months 16 days ago

Couldn’t get him for your fantasy team, eh?

tz
Member
tz
3 months 16 days ago

Bjd’s right. I have a couple of little ones about Harper’s age right now, and if they had his level of success one of them would be an impossible prima donna, and the other would go full Greinke from anxiety. And since they each got those lovely traits from me, I couldn’t begin to describe the monster unleashed on the world if I had that kind of greatness at 22.

HarryLives
Member
HarryLives
3 months 16 days ago

It’s funny how much more flack I get for poking fun at Harper than I did a year ago.

Richie
Member
Richie
3 months 16 days ago

If a 22-year-old entertainment superstar hasn’t misbehaved, his/her agent plants some story to the the effect that s/he has. How celebrities make their money nowadays.

Shauncore
Member
Shauncore
3 months 16 days ago

I think it may be wise for the team to ultimately figure out some balance between guaranteed salary and health incentives for games played.

Harper and Boras probably won’t like that but when you’re making a $500M bet you don’t want 0 hedge.

It would really only apply for the back half of the contract, and Id imagine Harper would be amenable to a low hurdle. Say something like 50 games played to receive the full incentive. Meanwhile they could work into the contract that the signing team can’t just cut Harper either without paying the salary/incentives by making the buyout the guaranteed amount of the incentives.

That way Harper gets his $500M deal as long as he clears the low hurdle of games played (or plate appearances). Meanwhile he protects himself from simply being released and losing the chance for the incentives by having his buyouts be equal to the incentives.

The team protects themselves from paying $40-50M a year for a player who doesn’t play in 70% of the games that season (though they’d still have to pay him a decent base).

troybruno
Member
Member
troybruno
3 months 16 days ago

That’s fine, but these are terms that will be negotiated and the problem is that we are comparing this $500m number to contracts that DO NOT have the terms you have just suggested. So we would theoretically need to adjust the $500m upward (by a lot) to account for these terms, as they accrue value to the team and not the player.

And then it all goes out the window when another team decides to offer Harper a standard deal with no injury protection.

Shauncore
Member
Shauncore
3 months 16 days ago

I’m not sure if it’s by a lot.

1. What is the premium teams have to pay for incentives clauses, generally?
2. These aren’t normal incentive clauses for health (say like Josh Johnson’s incentive laden deal). They are very low hurdle incentives, mixed with a decent base salary
3. They are effectively not really even incentives as the buyout is guaranteed to be the same amount as the incentives.

In the end we’re talking about an unprecedented deal that’s going to break the record by a large margin. Teams and players get creative.

Looking at the A-Rod deal with Texas there were unique deals in there too (though all A-Rod advantaged):

He could opt out after the 7th year
In the 9th and 10th year the Rangers had to raise his salary $1-5M more than the highest current contract.
If they didn’t then A-Rod could opt out
A-Rod deferred $36M at 3% interest
Rangers could offer him arbitration if he voided 2007-2009
Hotel suites, right to link his website to Yankees website

Yes a team could just give him $500M straight but Harper could also be injured the next few years too.

troybruno
Member
Member
troybruno
3 months 16 days ago

Not sure I care enough to do the research to suggest it would be a lot, but at least *think* it would be… happy to have research prove me otherwise if someone does it.

The only 3 things I’d point out are that (a) incentives are typically done for players with a high degree of near-term uncertainty — BH doesn’t have that; (b) your ARod examples are by far weighted to him and not the NYY; (c) it only takes one other team to offer a deal without these conditions for it all to get blown up.

The Hammerer
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The Hammerer
3 months 15 days ago

Never going to happen, and that is what teams buy contract insurance for.

530fireman
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530fireman
3 months 16 days ago

This is asinine and no athlete, IMO, should be paid these inflated contracts. Not to mention that who ever signs this guy (for that much) won’t have any type of team around him and most of the team will resent him for that contract.

troybruno
Member
Member
troybruno
3 months 16 days ago

What is a socially appropriate wage in your mind for an athlete?

bdhudson
Member
Member
bdhudson
3 months 16 days ago

The money is already there – who would you rather have it? The employee who is the reason the entity has the money, or the guy who doesn’t actually do anything on the field of play?

carter
Member
carter
3 months 16 days ago

Contracts are gonna continue to get larger. If you are a young man you will see a billion dollar contract. Probably a multi-billion dollar contract. People are way to wrapped up in the number behind it. Who better to get the money then someone who is one of the top 2 or 3 players alive? I just cannot understand the rationale behind someone saying his contract is too big. The percentage of the pool going to the owners is already far too high.

Deelron
Member
Deelron
3 months 16 days ago

There’s 7 teams in baseball last year that would have been able to fit a 50 million dollar player + 100 million dollar payroll. It’s distinctly possible that could be 12+ teams come 3 years from now. I think even then, assuming a certain amount skill and luck, you can have a plenty good team around a star for 100 million.

Also, why the hell shouldn’t players be paid the money? Baseball players as a group already receive less money as a percentage of revenue then their contemporaries in the NFL and NBA, and even raising the low end (say every player in MLB makes a minimum of one million, and every player in the minors is paid a living wage) wouldn’t make much of a dent to the top.

Richie
Member
Richie
3 months 16 days ago

Teams have their payrolls that high because they already have players whose markets demand such. No they could not just add another $50 mill on top of that.

Hamba
Member
Hamba
3 months 16 days ago

This comment is what is asinine. You just bitch and moan about what “should be” without giving any rationale or alternative. We’re all part of the consumer culture that leads to MLB’s enormous revenues that leads to these “inflated contracts.” Blame yourself.

Richie
Member
Richie
3 months 16 days ago

Luxury box $$$ are courtesy of our tax system, both in their building and subsequent selling.

Hamba
Member
Hamba
3 months 14 days ago

Can you expand… are luxury boxes the reason for this inflation? I thought it was TV money.

bombguy85
Member
bombguy85
3 months 14 days ago

The MLB brought in $9 BILLION this year, Bryce Harper is at the very least a top 10 player and a big draw both in ticket sales and tv tune ins to bring in that money. I too can see how someone playing a game for a living and making that much is asinine.. but when you put your body on the line for a company (basically) that brings in that much money you deserve a percentage of it, especially when you are one of the biggest draws.

Bjd1207
Member
Bjd1207
3 months 16 days ago

I really don’t mean to open the Trout vs. Harper floodgates, but wouldn’t Trout be another guy who’s posted a career wRC+ in the same range as the 8 players listed? Or is Trout’s actually above that and it was strangely capped at 155 instead of saying 145+?

Shauncore
Member
Shauncore
3 months 16 days ago

Yeah if you just sort by qualified hitters through Age 22 and wRC+:

Joe Jackson 181
Ted Williams 177
Stan Musial 170
Mike Trout 165
Jimmie Foxx 160
Ty Cobb 159
Albert Pujols 154
Eddie Collins 151
Eddie Mathews 150
Tris Speaker 149
Mickey Mantle 149
Bryce Harper 147

TKDC
Member
Member
TKDC
3 months 16 days ago

And, again, this is frustrating from a site like Fangraphs, that a comparison would be made to players that skew higher. Why on Earth would you not compare equally below as above Harper’s number?

Richie
Member
Richie
3 months 16 days ago

Well, pegging Harper at 147, they did bound it from 145-155. So not egregious mis-bounding.

TKDC
Member
Member
TKDC
3 months 16 days ago

Well, it’s not the worst example, but this is something that many of the writers do here that just doesn’t make sense to me. Without looking I’m going to guess that if a plus/minus 5 were used instead, it would look about the same. It doesn’t change the outcome, but it is still bad process.

troybruno
Member
Member
troybruno
3 months 16 days ago

Rogers Hornsby 146
Curt Blefary 144
Joe DiMaggio 144
Ross Youngs 140
Giancarlo Stanton 140
Mike Tiernan 140
Arky Vaughan 139
Hank Aaron 136

TKDC
Member
Member
TKDC
3 months 16 days ago

If Curt Blefary were born 5 days earlier, his age 21 rookie season would have been his age 22 rookie season. Adding him and Joe DiMaggio, I don’t think it hurts the argument.

noseeum
Member
noseeum
3 months 16 days ago

Not frustrating at all. By limiting the list of players he compared Harper to he is actually giving a less optimistic assessment of his future. The guys above the threshold are all pretty much inner circle best if the best hall of fame talents.

If this article was about Trout, i.e. Trout did not sign his extension, the number discussed might be $700 million.

SnowLeopard
Member
SnowLeopard
3 months 16 days ago

Speaking of Trout …

As a Bay Area fan, I really really hate his contract.

This article
http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2015/7/26/9039315/mike-trout-and-economic-rent
suggests, if I am reading it right, that Trout has already produced ~$250m excess value relative to salary during the past four years, and projects to provide another ~$250m over the next five.

So … there’s $500m right there.

Yanks123
Member
Yanks123
3 months 16 days ago

Well I doubt we’ll see a wRC+ in the 190s again, that’s just too hard to repeat. Maybe he could establish his baseline in the 160-180 range without falling off a cliff defensively and then he’ll crack $40M for sure. Thing is paying a player that much in his 30s is incredibly risky. Pujols seemed like a hitter in the same league as Harper and the Angels are regretting paying him $24 AAV now and inflation isn’t going to help too much. You’ll be getting a lot more of Harper’s prime though.

Art Vandelay
Member
Member
Art Vandelay
3 months 16 days ago

The Angels signed Pujols when he was 32, Harper will be getting signed when he’s 26, in baseball – as I’m sure you know – that’s a huge gap.

TKDC
Member
Member
TKDC
3 months 16 days ago

He’s either going to sign for 14ish years, have an opt out after 4-5 years, or both. The problem with even a 10 year deal is that it takes him to a point where he’ll likely be a kinda marginal player, but will still have several good years left. Having the opt out at age 30 or so, as long as he’s still elite, will allow him to dictate the rest of his career.

If I were him, I’d just ask the Dodgers and Yankees for the highest number they can think of, over 13 years, and sign for the higher amount (with a full no trade clause).

Richie
Member
Richie
3 months 16 days ago

Reasons Harper won’t get that amount of $$$:

Both Friedman and Cashman are too bright to let Boras maneuver them into bidding against themselves, and one sensibly allots his payroll elsewhere ahead of time.

Harper gets hurt again this season. Really, 1 whole year ago at this time who would’ve written about Harper getting a half-bill?

Something happens (cable goes bust as expected, come November Sanders beats Trump and negotiates an end to those awful corporate entertainment exemptions, general deflation, et.al.) and baseball revenue stops increasing.

Plus the aforementioned notion that paying for WAR isn’t linear at the upper bound due to the inherent risk/reward imbalance, and the current-so-maybe-continuing preference for opt-outs.

bjsguess
Member
Member
bjsguess
3 months 16 days ago

Like that time when Cashman was the GM and the Yankees bid against NOBODY to land A-Rod on an even worse contract than the one he opted out of.

Richie
Member
Richie
3 months 16 days ago

I thought that was on a Steinbrenner? Boras again getting an owner involved in order to overrule a GM who had crunched the numbers and concluded they didn’t add up to what Boras wanted.

Cool Lester Smooth
Member
Cool Lester Smooth
3 months 15 days ago

Cashman is still pissed about Hank going over his head to sign A-Rod.

BengieStacks
Member
BengieStacks
3 months 15 days ago

Bora’s isn’t going to need to get the Yanks or Dodgers to bid against themselves. They’re going to be bidding against eachother.

Boras is a smart man. He knows when to manipulate and he knows when to shut up. Hell sit back and let Harpers talent, age, and the flood of money in MLB dictate this contract.

Friedman and Cashman are also smart so they’ll understand how ridiculously valuable Harper is and pay him accordingly. There’s gonna be no shortage of bidding on Harper.

BPBerkeley
Member
Member
BPBerkeley
3 months 16 days ago

Dave’s methods apparently assumes that the price should be the same per projected WAR regardless of whether it’s paid to one guy or spread over two (Heyward & Upton). But I suspect that 8 WAR from two guys has less variance than 8 from one guy, as two guys are less likely to fall off a performance cliff than one guy is. Shouldn’t teams demand a discount on $/WAR to compensate for the danger of putting a third of their payroll into one investment?

Deelron
Member
Deelron
3 months 16 days ago

That’s what people said about Ramirez and Sandoval.

In seriousness, Dave’s covered this before and I recall noted it makes sense, but it’s not how the market seems to operate (maybe it could use a revisiting though).

troybruno
Member
Member
troybruno
3 months 16 days ago

well, the flipside to that argument is that the 8 WAR from player is more valuable when you are capacity-constrained. Your argument and this offset one another — I’m not sure which one ends up being more valuable on a probability-weighted basis, but both CAN be much more valuable case-by-case.

troybruno
Member
Member
troybruno
3 months 16 days ago

sorry, “capacity-constrained” just meaning that you have a limited number of PAs / innings / roster spots / etc…. so having 8 WAR over a smaller “use” of that capacity is much more valuable at the median.

Scoreboard
Member
Member
Scoreboard
3 months 16 days ago

“The idea that $400 million is selling Harper might seem ridiculous”

Do you mean selling Harper short? Or selling Harper to the Yankees? Or to the Russians?

Selling him what?!?! I NEED TO KNOW DAVE.

eliasll
Member
eliasll
3 months 16 days ago

I would like to know if there’s a study regarding the revenue (jerseys, commercials, ticket sales, others) that a player like Harper brings to the team and combine that with performance ($/WAR) to understand the return on cost that a player like that represents. Harper, like Manning or Lebron have a different impact on a team. Arenado + Goldy will surely outgain Harper (by WAR) but not profit-wise. Nationals should give him the $500M now and get ten premium years out of him instead of maybe seven or eight.

Richie
Member
Richie
3 months 16 days ago

Just go back to Bill James’ old Abstracts from the 80s. Answer’s ‘nope’.

Shauncore
Member
Shauncore
3 months 16 days ago

There’s basically 0% chance Harper doesn’t go to free agency.

Harper wouldn’t even take 10/$500M right now (as he will make more through arbitration + free agency than that).

Fernando
Member
Fernando
3 months 16 days ago

I don’t know about that. I don’t think 500 million is a given, even if he might end up with something that big, so while he could make more by playing out his arbitration years then signing then megadeal, he’d also be risking a ton, especially if Washignton was willing to give him the record-shattering deal right now. It would be a big risk for not a whole lot of marginal gain.

JCCfromDC
Member
JCCfromDC
3 months 16 days ago

The really crazy thing about that original A-Rod FA contract is … that he was totally worth it. Over the ten years of the original contract, he averaged just about 7 WAR (69.8 fWAR/71.4 rWAR). At $252M for 70 WAR, that’s $3.6M/WAR. Yeah, I buy that even before adding in the advantage of concentrating your WAR in one player, making it easier to build a good roster.

Richie
Member
Richie
3 months 16 days ago

No advantage to concentrating WAR in one player. It’s just not set up that way.

noseeum
Member
noseeum
3 months 16 days ago

There’s most definitely an advantage. It’s just not paid for that way.

someguy
Member
someguy
3 months 16 days ago

Someday Papelbon is going to tell his grandkids that he had $500 million in the palm of his hand.

Hotshots1812
Member
Hotshots1812
3 months 16 days ago

I took “don’t sell me short” to be in reference to the implication that he is thinking about the money and not helping the team to win. I didn’t listen to the whole conversation but is the above quote the only reference to him thinking $400 million is “selling him short”?

Hamba
Member
Hamba
3 months 16 days ago

I’m curious about this as well.

tz
Member
tz
3 months 16 days ago

I was too, so I linked into the article. Here’s the next line after “don’t sell me short”:

“I’m looking forward to just playing this year, just looking forward to playing the next couple years,” he added. “And I think all that stuff will play out.”

Sounds to me like Hotshots guessed right here.

chuckb
Member
chuckb
3 months 15 days ago

Yeah, because having a conversation with his agent once about what his free agent contract might look like totally means he doesn’t care about helping his team win.

It’s reasonable to believe that Boras called or texted Harper after the Stanton deal and said something like, “Did you hear about the Stanton deal? You might end up at $500!”

But go ahead with the meme that he’s all about the money and couldn’t care less about winning if it makes you feel better.

Cool Lester Smooth
Member
Cool Lester Smooth
3 months 15 days ago

Re-read the comment, dude.

Paul22
Member
Paul22
3 months 16 days ago

If you adjust for payroll inflation, Arods 1st FA contract with Texas was the first 500 million dollar contract (2016 dollars) since average salary and MLB payrolls have more than doubled since 2001 (and revenues have considerably outpaced both)

Paul22
Member
Paul22
3 months 16 days ago

LOL, I should just read the post

Paul22
Member
Paul22
3 months 16 days ago

Arod had an optout after 7 years and exercised it. In those 7 years he accumulated 56.1 WAR, which is worth 448 million in todays market, or about 64 million a year. He was paid 185 million (call it 370 million in todays dollars). Could have been higher but he was forced to move to a lesser defensive position for the selfish icon. How anyone called that deal a big miss is beyond me. It had over 11 million in surplus value per year (todays dollars)

Richie
Member
Richie
3 months 16 days ago

No reason at all to put it into today’s dollars. They were paying him in then’s.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
3 months 16 days ago

I think the point is that we don’t know $/WAR that easily off-hand for that time.

dtpollitt
Member
Member
dtpollitt
3 months 16 days ago

I wonder, how much money did Trout leave on the table?

tz
Member
tz
3 months 16 days ago

Quick and dirty, and conveniently ignoring the time value of money (won’t kill this since they both started about the same time):

1. Trout’s contract bought out his first 3 FA years. By that point he will have made about $147 million.

2. Harper so far has made about $8 million, and with the $5m contract he has for next year that’s $13 million known salary.

3. He is arbitration eligible for 2017-2019. I’m gonna guess $75 million as the cost for those three years.

4. I’ll go with what the article says and guess $50 million a year for his upcoming FA deal.

So, by the end of his third FA year, Harper will have made about 13+75+150 = $238 million. Meaning that IF Harper doesn’t suffer some calamity between now and 2019, he will have made about $90 million more than Trout over the same chunk of his career.

(Now, on the flip side, what kind of a deal could Trout sign as a 30-year-old future Hall of Famer after his current deal expires?)

The Only Nolan
Member
The Only Nolan
3 months 16 days ago

12 Years at 40 Million with an opt out every 3 years. 480 Million if he doesn’t opt out but plenty of chances to maximize his overall earnings if the market is favorable enough.

Shirtless Carson Cistulli
Member
3 months 16 days ago

Sounds like 500 million good reasons to do anything possible to be a MLB star.

Sigh…

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
3 months 16 days ago

500 million dollars of summer: the Bryce Harper story.

Radermecher
Member
Radermecher
3 months 16 days ago

Joe DiMaggio was asked several years ago what he would want from then Yanks owner The Boss.His reply,how would you like a partner George.

bravos4evr
Member
bravos4evr
3 months 16 days ago

I wonder if it’s going to turn out that these opt outs end up saving teams money rather than hurting them.The risk of rapid decline with guaranteed $$$ seems to me to be something that a team can avoid in an opt-out. Player signs a 10 year $300m deal at 27 has a 4 year opt out and has a good enough year he chooses to leave so as to get more $$$ in free agency, but the odds are that if he gets say a 6 year $200m deal at his new team that the last 4 years of it will be decline years that will not pay off. The player gets more money, but the original team only paid for good production and avoided all those decline years.

TheGrandslamwich
Member
TheGrandslamwich
3 months 16 days ago

It can save a team money, but the team is also assuming all of the risk. Sometimes players age gracefully, but you never know when a player will go the way of a Grady Sizemore or Brandon Webb. If they had received big extensions with opt outs that could have been disastrous to their respective franchises.

bravos4evr
Member
bravos4evr
3 months 15 days ago

well,prior to opt outs, teams always carried all of the risk. It came with giving long term contracts. Now, it seems anyway, that the only risk is early decline. If a player DOES pull a Sizemore, the team has all the risk, but they had it anyway. The opt out gives them a chance to avoid late contract risk if the player plays well for the first part of the deal.

troybruno
Member
Member
troybruno
3 months 16 days ago

This has been beaten to death… but you are probably confusing ex-ante and ex-post decisions.

Could it save a team $ ex-post? yes.

Can you rationally argue that it would save a team $ ex-ante? I don’t think so, but I welcome you to try…

bravos4evr
Member
bravos4evr
3 months 15 days ago

I’m just talking about risk. team A only takes on the risk of the first 4 years (assuming a 4 year opt out) where ,generally of course, one can expect to get higher production (especially for a young guy like Harper, or say Heyward’s recent deal) If the player struggles, yes they are in bad shape. BUT, prior to the opt out they carried ALL the contract’s risk. It’s not like Heyward would have only gotten 5 years with no opt out. So now, they only carry the 3 or 4 years of risk and if the player performs well, they are free of the following year’s risk (and the burden of the long term deal) Sure they may end up missing out on lots of good production later too, but these days, peak performance is coming closer to age 26/27 than age 29/30 like it used to.)

chuckb
Member
chuckb
3 months 15 days ago

They certainly will not save the teams money. You’re assuming that they will because they’re opting out of their contracts. Those players will end up signing bigger free agent contracts once they opt out. There will be some teams who save money by not signing a new free agent after someone opts out but the total amount paid by teams will end up being higher.

bravos4evr
Member
bravos4evr
3 months 15 days ago

I don’t mean “the teams” to mean “all of mlb” I mean on an individual basis. a team that gives a 27 year old player 10 year $300m is carrying a lot of risk (especially in the later years) but if after 3 years the player leaves and takes a bigger deal somewhere else, team A is no free of that late career risk and can now use that money to try and buy younger production to fill the gaps. true they miss the opportunity for the player to continue plying at a high level into hi late 30’s, but this doesn’t happen often enough for it to balance out the risk. Do you think The Mariners would have been upset if Cano left after 3 years ?

bookbook
Member
bookbook
3 months 14 days ago

An opt out is a player option. If the team doesn’t want to assume the risk of the rest of the player’s salary after 4 years, but the player is worth more than his remaining contract, they could trade him or her and get something back. The opt out is ionly exercised when it hurts the team (unless we’re arguing the player is an idiot).

evo34
Member
evo34
3 months 16 days ago

“And while these numbers sound nuts, we have to keep in mind that players that are this good are not that difficult to project going forward.”

Love the logic. Because someone is so rare that we have few historical comparables, his projection is all but guaranteed. Black swans don’t always unfold as expected.

SenorGato
Member
SenorGato
3 months 16 days ago

First calling a team with a substantial payroll underrated, now supporting a mega contract? Who kidnapped Dave Cameron and replaced him some with hippy?

Me myself personally, I hope Harper doesn’t rob one of the owners blind like this. It’s simply not fair, for one person to make that much money when that person isn’t even job creating or, probably more important, not from a long line of proven job creators. These players are just playing baseball, anyone could do that if given the opportunity or if they wanted to. For instance, I was a star for both my Little League and HS teams. Who is to say that I couldn’t have been Bryce Harper? I most definitely couldn’t be at the heart of the world economy, making jobs left and right, like the guy who will be paying Harper.

I’m honestly sick of people supporting the labor force in any way, particularly calling an employee a potential steal at half a billion American dollars. If these people were hard working and worth huge amounts of money, their grandfather’s grandfather would have made it happen like many of today’s economic champions.

TheGrandslamwich
Member
TheGrandslamwich
3 months 16 days ago

Wow. Ease up on the sauce buddy.

SenorGato
Member
SenorGato
3 months 16 days ago

It just makes my blood boil. Harper is replaceable, every player is replaceable, but you can’t replace an owner so easily.

carter
Member
carter
3 months 16 days ago

What are you even talking about? Isn’t it actually the opposite?

carter
Member
carter
3 months 16 days ago

In the world there has to be thousands of people who could do the owners job. There is 1-3 person on earth outside of Harper who can be expected to provide as much value over the next decade. Think of it this way, in your lifetime it was unlikely there was one person who would of been drafted over Harper. A multi-billionaire owner is far, far more common.

noseeum
Member
noseeum
3 months 15 days ago

I’m guessing @SenorGato is joking, guys. Lighten up. No one pours it on that ridiculously if they mean it.

Famous Mortimer
Member
Member
3 months 16 days ago

You sound too much like a normal far right-winger for this trolling to work. Good try though.

chuckb
Member
chuckb
3 months 15 days ago

Thanks for your insight, Mitt.

chuckb
Member
chuckb
3 months 15 days ago

This rant goes from something sounding like a Marxist plea for complete income equality to a mega-capitalist tribute to robber barons. In all that, there’s no basic grasp of supply and demand. If the free market determines that Harper’s worth $500 million, then he is. Sorry if that offends you.

carter
Member
carter
3 months 15 days ago

Now that I am sober I feel like I got trolled

L. Ron Hoyabembe
Member
L. Ron Hoyabembe
3 months 15 days ago

Upvoted for “Me myself personally”

Serbian to Vietnamese to French and back
Member
Serbian to Vietnamese to French and back
3 months 15 days ago

Name of the group with significant interests is very underrated, now supports larger contracts. Dave Cameron would be eliminated and replaced it with a hippie?

I personally hope Rob Harper is not one of the owners of the blind. It’s just not fair for one person to get that kind of money when it is not creative work, or perhaps more importantly, no long line to show our work. Players who play baseball, somebody would have if it was possible, or if you want to. For example, I was the star of my team from a lower league HS “i”. Who can say that you have Brice Harper? I have really is the center of the world economy, working on the right, left and right, like a man who will have to pay Harper.

Frankly, I’m tired of people who use the support of the working people in any way, including by inviting potential workers Half Dollar transactions of $ 1 billion. If these people are actually doing it’s worth big money, and their grandfather is striking that occur, as well as many current economic victory.

matt
Member
matt
3 months 16 days ago

There is a 85% chance that Trea Turner has a higher fWAR than Bryce Harper this upcoming year

Cool Lester Smooth
Member
Cool Lester Smooth
3 months 15 days ago

lolno.

WARrior
Member
Member
WARrior
3 months 16 days ago

“Harper is one of just eight players in baseball history to post a career wRC+ between 145-155 through his age-22 season; the other seven are Albert Pujols, Eddie Collins, Eddie Matthews, Tris Speaker, Mickey Mantle, Mel Ott, and Rogers Hornsby.”

Someone is missing from this list…Someone pretty obvious…

JimmieFoXX
Member
JimmieFoXX
3 months 15 days ago

How could Dave forget me, I was such a Beast?

I think he hates Philly.

WARrior
Member
Member
WARrior
3 months 16 days ago

Oh, I guess you mean literally between 145-155, and not higher.

tampanuggz
Member
tampanuggz
3 months 16 days ago

The guy isn’t a free agent for THREE fucking years…..What a waste of time on this article.

free-range turducken
Member
chuckb
Member
chuckb
3 months 15 days ago

Did Dave not send this to you for your approval before posting again? I’m going to have to have a talk with that boy! Don’t worry. It’ll never happen again.

thebamoor
Member
thebamoor
3 months 15 days ago

Dave, it’s a bit silly to compare Bryce’s stats to ARod’s stats outright.. a hitter during the post-steroids/pitching renaissance to somebody who started off smack in middle of the juicing era and eventually exposed as an user. At least you did put wRC+ there.

To me, it’s simple: Bryce should be paid as the second best everyday player in baseball.

santorumforpresident
Member
santorumforpresident
3 months 15 days ago

Is there any evidence to suggest that a salary bubble is forming? From the layman’s perspective, these contracts seem to be growing at an unsustainable rate. Is the business of baseball growing that rapidly?

bookbook
Member
bookbook
3 months 14 days ago

I actually think that position player salaries have stayed artificially low. Players are making a lower percentage of revenues every year.

Antonio Bananas
Member
Member
Antonio Bananas
3 months 15 days ago

Any ideas if that obscenely loaded free agent class will end up driving the price down? Machado, Harper, Donaldson, Harvey, Fernandez, McCutchen, and Keuchal are all worth a lot of money, but only a handful of teams will pay them the 25-40M they will each demand in AAV.

bookbook
Member
bookbook
3 months 14 days ago

The picture will look different three years from now. I expect Harper and Machado will be FAs and insanely valuable. The others are a lot less certain on both fronts.

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