Bryce Harper is currently the biggest free agent available to teams this offseason, and one of the biggest free agents in the sport since Alex Rodriguez tested the market in 2004. Harper has been the face of the Washington Nationals franchise since 2012, and has been recognized as one of the top players in major league baseball since his debut. Harper is set to sign one of the biggest contracts, in terms of annual salary, in the history of baseball, but is he really worth it?
Image: Harper celebrates after winning 2018 Home Run Derby at Nationals Park
Since 2012, Harper is a 6-time all-star, a rookie of the year, an MVP, and a Home Run Derby champion. Harper has also transformed himself into one of the most recognizable players in baseball, and has set a new trend for how players are supposed to look and act while they play the game. He plays with heart and isn’t afraid to show his emotions on the field, and baseball fans have really taken to him. He brings excitement to a team like few players can, and even the most casual baseball fans will pay to see him play, and at age 25, Harper has at least 8-10 more years of good baseball left in him.
Image: Harper taking big swing vs Rockies
Just based off these facts, some owners and fans argue that he should become the highest paid player in MLB history. What he would do for a cities fan base, especially if he ends up on a contending team, could increase ticket and merchandise sales for a team, as well as get more fans interested in coming out to the ballpark more often.
Plus, when Harper is good, he is one of the best in baseball. During his MVP year in 2015, Harper has a historically good season, slashing .330/.460/.649 with 42 home runs, 99 RBI’s, and a WAR of 10.0 ^(meaning Harper gets his team 10 more wins than an average MLB player at the same position). He also lead the league in runs scored (118), OPS (1.109) and OPS+ (198) to help him earn his 3rd all star appearance, his 1st silver slugger, and of course his only MVP award.
Image: Harper is presented his 2015 NL MVP award on opening day 2016 with Nationals GM Mike Rizzo
However, even after all these accomplishments and awards, I don’t believe that Harper is worth the money he is asking for, and here is why.
First, Harper is extremely inconsistent. If you look at his career stats, you will see Harper has only had 2 seasons that could prove he was deserving of a $300 Million dollar contract, (2015, 2017). In his other 5 years in the league, Harper’s average’s are considerably lower than his 2 breakout seasons. He slashes .262/.364/.465 with 23 home runs, 67 RBI’s and a WAR of 2.6. Those numbers are better than than MLB averages, but not good enough to deserve such a big contract. The WAR is the most surprising part of all those stats. As I mentioned early, WAR calculated the amount of wins a player can get your team compared to the average MLB player. Players with a WAR of 7 or higher are considered superstars and 10 an up is legendary. Harper has 1 season at a 10 WAR, but his next highest WAR for a season was his rookie year in 2012 when his WAR was 5.2. Other than that, Harper has more seasons with a WAR below 1.6 than seasons with a war above 5.1, (2012, 2015 above 5.1 / 2014, 2016, 2018 below 1.6). Basically Harper for most of his career is worth only 2.6 more wins at his position than the average major league player.
Image: Harper walking back to the Dugout after a strikeout vs the Cubs at Wrigley Field
Second, Harper brings a lot of attention, especially from the media, anywhere he goes. This isn’t necessarily his fault. It’s just something that comes with being a superstar in your sport, and if we are being honest, he is one of a handful of superstars in the MLB. With this though means your team becomes the center of attention in the baseball world, and anything your players do, good or bad, will be headline news the next day. Harper is seen as an emotional player like I said before and sometimes he can let the emotions get the best of him. If a team does decide to sign him, then they should be a team that is ready and able to handle a player of his caliber/personality.
Image: Harper tosses helmet after a strikeout at Nationals Park
Finally, I don’t think Harper deserves the highest contract in baseball history because there are players who are better than him who deserve a contract like that more. I could name a handful of players I would rather start my team around, but there is one player in particular that stands out to me, and that’s Mike Trout. Trout also started in 2012 and won rookie of the year award alongside Harper. Since then, Trout has been an all star 7 times, won 2 MVP awards, finished in the top 5 of the MVP vote 7 times, and has 6 silver slugger awards. His career WAR is 64.3 compared to Harpers 27.4 and Trouts career numbers are up there with players such as Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Ken Griffey Jr, and other hall of fame players. If anyone were to deserve the richest contract in the history of sports, its Trout not Harper.
Image: Trout and Harper receive their Rookie of the Year awards opening day 2013
Image: Trout’s career WAR at the start of the 2018 season and where it ranks all time
Even though he does not 100% deserve it in my mind, some team will pay him in the offseason. He will produce great numbers, and be a great player, but at the end of his contract, which ever team signs him might regret making Harper the highest paid player in MLB history.
Image: Harper rounding the bases after hitting a home run
Do you agree with this? Should Harper be the highest paid player in the game? Leave a comment and let me know, and as always, thanks for reading!