Our long ex-National’s nightmare is over. According to a flurry of reports, Bryce Harper has agreed to a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies, who apparently withstood late challenges from the Giants and Dodgers in landing the 26-year-old former overall number one pick. Thirteen years, as in through the 2031 season! That means Harper will still be in Philly when Gritty is bar mitzvah’d.
In the end, Harper and agent Scott Boras toppled Giancaro Stanton’s 13-year, $325 million extension (signed in November 2014) for the claim of the largest contract in baseball history. With an average annual value of “only” $25.38 million, the deal merely ranks 14th all-time, and third this winter behind Nolan Arenado‘s just-completed eight-year, $260 million extension ($32.5 million AAV) and Manny Machado’s 10-year, $300 million free agent deal. Philly-wise, it edges the $25 million per year of Ryan Howard and Jake Arrieta as far as the franchise record is concerned. It’s worth noting that the lower AAV over the longer time frame would allow the team some additional flexibility if, for example, a certain Millville, New Jersey native were to test free agency following the 2020 season (h/t Joe Sheehan). Via Cot’s Contracts, the team’s payroll for Competitive Balance Tax purposes is just shy of $188 million, leaving open the possibility that they could still sign Dallas Keuchel or Craig Kimbrel and still wind up under the $206 million threshold.
As far as bells and whistles go, Harper’s deal has a full no-trade clause, but it does not include any opt outs or deferred money; it’s been described as “front loaded.” As we recently learned — reportedly included roughly $100 million in deferred money, the 10-year, $300 million offer that the Nationals made reportedly included roughly $100 million in deferred money, lowering its present day value considerably. Our own Craig Edwards presented one such scenario:
To provide some context, a 10yr/$300 M deal that paid $20 M/year for 10 years and $10 M/year for 10 years after that would have the same present value as a straight 10-year deal for $244 million. Just one example but the potential financial hit is huge. https://t.co/brJVq7TAVG
— Craig Edwards (@craigjedwards) February 21, 2019
As far as the Phillies’ lineup goes, Harper would likely replace Nick Williams, who moved from right field to left to accommodate the team’s earlier signing of Andrew McCutchen and, eyeballing our depth charts, boost their projected win total from 83 to 87.
Edwards will have a detailed analysis shortly, and we’ll have more to say about the deal from a variety of angles as well.
Brooklyn-based Jay Jaffe is a senior writer for FanGraphs, the author of The Cooperstown Casebook (Thomas Dunne Books, 2017) and the creator of the JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score) metric for Hall of Fame analysis. He founded the Futility Infielder website (2001), was a columnist for Baseball Prospectus (2005-2012) and a contributing writer for Sports Illustrated (2012-2018). He has been a recurring guest on MLB Network and a member of the BBWAA since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @jay_jaffe.