Opinion

Could the Nationals’ Bryce Harper get a contract worth more than $600 million?

Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper.
Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper. The Associated Press

A recurring topic of baseball’s offseason has been the future contract of the Nationals’ Bryce Harper.

Neil Greenberg of the Washington Post noted Friday on the Fancy Stats blog that Harper will make $5 million this season, is eligible for arbitration beginning in 2017 and doesn’t become a free agent until 2019.

Harper, a three-time All-Star, was the National League MVP in 2015 when he hit 42 home runs, and had a batting slash line of .330/.460/.649. Yeah, that’s an OPS of 1.109. While Harper isn’t a free agent for years, he is still only 23.

So what kind of a contract could he command?

Last month, ESPN suggested:

Harper did an interview with 106.7 FM in Washington D.C., and was asked about a potential $400 million contract. His exact words: “Don’t sell me short.”

OK, Mr. Harper. This is what former Kansas City Star columnist Joe Posnanski, who is with NBC Sports, tweeted a few months ago:

That may not be enough. Greenberg wrote that Harper’s next contract could be worth more than $600 million.

Here is part of what he wrote:

“At the age of 22, Bryce Harper led the majors in on-base percentage (.460) and slugging (.649), becoming the third-youngest player since 1900 to lead the majors in both categories. Only Ty Cobb (1909) and Stan Musial (1941) did it at a younger age, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Harper also tied for the league lead in home runs (42) and had the second-best average in the National League (.330).

“The power spike can be attributed to his ability to pull the ball. In 2014 that accounted for 38.9 percent of balls put in play, this past season his percentage soared to 45.4 percent, the ninth-highest rate in the National League.”

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More from Greenburg: “It was calculated in 2013 that one marginal win is worth $7 million, while FanGraphs assesses Harper’s 2015 campaign of 9.5 fWAR to be worth $75.9 million on the open market, making it closer to $8 million per win in today’s free agent environment. If we use an aging curve which keeps Harper’s projected production steady until age 27, then subtract 0.25 fWAR each year from ages 28 to 33, all while increasing the cost of a win in free agency by 5 percent each year, Harper would be worth over $600 million through 2025.

“But before you balk at the price tag, consider that the Nationals have already received $145.8 million in value for which they will have paid $15.15 million — and that includes all of Harper’s salary for 2016 even before he sees a single pitch.”

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