Bryce Harper: Don't Believe the Hype

If you Google “Bryce Harper contract,” you will see articles projecting $400 million, even $500 million contracts.  Some of this is the result of his raw talent. Some a result of his incredible 2015 season. And some is undeniably the result of the Boras hype machine (and the press’ insatiable appetite for repeating every silly thing that he says).

And yet, the Nationals, who seem to want to keep him in DC, offered him a relatively paltry $300 million over 10 years.  Granted, this was a first offer but still, it seems a bit low for a player who is the stuff of legend. Or is it?

After all the hype and nonsense, Bryce Harper’s average wins above replacement player (WAR) over the last 3 seasons was 3.77.  That is certainly well above average but it’s not the stuff of superstars. Mookie Betts had 10.4 WAR in 2018 alone. Mike Trout had 9.8 in just 140 games.  Aaron Judge had 5 in 112 games. Joey Wendle and Marcus Semien clocked in at 3.7. Bryce Harper may have the talent of Mike Trout (with whom he has often been compared) he just doesn’t have the results.  And results are what matter. Like Billy Beane once said, “we aren’t selling jeans here.”

Harper’s results were so poor relative to his well publicized talent that his poor agent felt it necessary to complain about the unfairness of defensive shifts.  Ah, the humanity. But if one looks at Harper’s average exit velocity in 2018, it clocks in at 90.6, 49th in baseball. Aaron Judge was #1 at 94.7. Trout was #31 at 91.2 if you’re keeping score.  Maybe Boras can find a way to complain about that. He can’t blame it on the shift for sure.

So what is a fair amount to pay Bryce Harper?  Let’s say 10 years is the right contract. I’ve worked out a guesstimate of Harper’s WAR’s over time.

This works out to roughly 37 WAR over 10 years.  It would give Harper roughly 68 WAR for his career which would likely be a bit shy of what he would need for the Hall of Fame.

At $9 million per WAR, this would give Mr. Harper a 10 year contact of $333 million or $33 million per year which would be just a tick above Washington’s initial offer.

Now I should point out that Harper’s numbers are likely to fluctuate wildly, as they already have.  He could exceed or underperform them. He’s not a great defender at a premium position so you are paying big time in hopes that he hits like crazy.  That’s quite a risk to take for 10 years.

I’m very glad that the Yankees have no need for him.  I’m guessing that they would not overpay for him in any case.  Let him stay in Washington.