The Washington Nationals‘ outfielder is rumored to be seeking an extension in the $500-$750 million range. According to a report from Jon Heyman, Bryce Harper’s “likely asking price… may begin with a ‘5’.” Heyman attributes the lack of discussion between the two parties to a rumor that perhaps Harper’s asking price is in fact quite a bit higher, in the $40-$50 million range per year over 15 years. A deal like that would top out at a nearly unfathomable $750 million.
Last season, Harper became the first unanimously-voted NL MVP since Albert Pujols in 2009. After slashing .330/.460/.649, there was little doubt that Harper was the best player in the National League. The discussion for best player in the league most recently revolves around two players: Harper and Mike Trout.
While Trout is defensively gifted as well, Harper’s 197 wRC+ ranks among the best in the history of the game and is the best total since Barry Bonds had 233 wRC+ in 2004. Even Miguel Cabrera’s 2013 season was worth 193 wRC+ — four points less than Harper’s 2015.
Per Heyman’s report, Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, “didn’t want to get into pricing.” With Harper not eligible for free agency until the end of the 2018 season, this seems like the prudent course of actions. While the Nationals and Harper are welcome to try to negotiate an extension, it’s still early in the process.
Harper is eligible for arbitration for the next two seasons and is currently earning $5 million this season. By FanGraphs $/WAR measure, Harper has already provided more than $13 million worth of surplus value to the Nationals this season and has only had 212 plate appearances so far. Buying out the remaining two seasons of arbitration eligibility may become the top priority for Mike Rizzo and the rest of the Nationals’ front office.
There is little doubt that Harper is likely chasing the biggest contract ever awarded to a MLB player, however, $750 million would seriously demolish the previous record. In fact, it would total more than the past two biggest contracts combined.
Giancarlo Stanton is currently on a $325 million contract which is the current record-holder. Meanwhile, Alex Rodriguez’s contract signed back in 2008 still sits in second place at $275 million. If Harper were to get $750 million, it would be $150 million more than those contracts combined. While Harper may have the merit to earn a deal of such gravity, a lot relies on whether or not a team could afford to dish out that much salary to one player.