With the start of baseball just around the corner, I thought I’d look back at one of the biggest things that happened this off-season, the Bryce Harper contract.
I grew up the 80’s and 90’s and some of my favorite players were tied to one organization, a key one being Tony Gwynn, who is know affectionately known as Mr. Padre. Even others that might have had their roots elsewhere, like Ozzie Smith, stayed a long time in one place and became the face of that franchise.
Now technically Bryce Harper is changing teams, so I suppose he’s more Ozzie than Gwynn, but the length of his deal–13 years–and the lack of an opt out, shows a commitment to his new team we rarely see these days. It’s my favorite part of the deal. Yes, it’s a lot of money, but he could’ve gotten more per year on shorter deals. He didn’t want that.
Of course, this isn’t on Harper alone, the Phillies’ front office had to offer the contract, and nowadays long term contracts, with the exceptions of ones to superstars like Harper or Manny Machado, are going the way of the dinosaurs, so I applaud them as well.
Could this contract burn the Phillies? Very easily. Just look at our old friend Albert Pujols and what has happened in Anaheim. Albert is still a Hall of Famer, but his production with the Angels isn’t anything near what it was with the Cardinals.
Of course, in his first season Albert was 32. Harper is 26. Albert (who had a good season in 2011, his last year with the Cardinals) had a good year in 2012, then began his decline. In his entire 7 year run with the Angels, he hasn’t topped 5 WAR, something he did *every* year with the Cardinals.
Nowadays Albert wouldn’t get this type of contract at age 32, as that is generally perceived when players start to decline, but let’s say that Albert had entered free agency at 26 like Harper did and signed a similar lifetime contract. That would be 2006 for Albert. In his prime years from 2006 to 2011, Albert had 4 years with 7 WAR or better, won 2 MVP awards and was generally considered the best hitter on the planet. Those years might have very well paid for the contract.
Of course, Harper isn’t Pujols. He’s coming off a 1.3 WAR season where the only things he did well were get on base (.393 OBP with 130 BB) and hit a few homers (34). His batting average was just .249, not the average of your typical MVP candidate. In fact, he’s only had 2 seasons over 5 WAR in his career, his rookie season back in 2012 and his MVP season in 2015 4 seasons ago.
Looking back at the past few paragraphs, the odds are indeed very high the Phillies will get burnt. Even so, I still admire the commitment on both Harper and Philadelphia’s part. Regardless of production, Harper has shown that town that he is dedicated to it for the rest of his career and I applaud that.
As always, thanks for reading.