Bryce Harper – A National for Life?

bryce harper 2016 ESPNThere has been much debate lately regarding Bryce Harper here at TalkNats:

  1. Who is the real Bryce – the 2015 or the 2016 Bryce?
  2. Do you wait on negotiating an extension?
  3. Do you try trade him this off-season or next?

The speculation started by Bob Nightengale about the Nationals and contract negotiations, combined with denials by both Mike Rizzo and Scott Boras that there have not been any discussions or contact about an extension, raises lots of questions that are interesting to speculate about.

And lets not forget about Boras’s comment about why Bryce fell off in 2016 – not being able to adjust. Or perhaps instead of not being able, perhaps he was not interested in trying to adjust. Who knows.

Last year the debate was about a $500M contract. Working out the numbers to get to $500M was just not terribly viable. No one is talking about a $500M contract now; the number being floated (by who knows who) is $400M.  If you are willing to assume that the future Bryce is closer to the 2015 Bryce than the 2016 Bryce, then a long term contract with a total value of $400M is possible.


Sample $400M Contract

Consider this spreadsheet. I assumes an extension that kicks in for the 2018 season. And all the numbers were carefully chosen to address the egos (Harper and Boras) involved:

  • the biggest total value – and breaking the $400 barrier.
  • year by year it is $1M more than the Giancarlo Stanton contract.

Note also that the annual value declines starting with Bryce’s age 33 season.

By front-loading the contract, and adding some opt-outs perhaps this is something that both sides can work with. Bryce gets the big contract, but if there is no sign of decline in his age 32 season, he can opt-out. And perhaps another opt-out after the 2022 season.

One of the concerns about long-term deals is the $s in the out-years. Yes, that is a concern. But remember the numbers we are looking at in those years will not be 2018 dollars. For example, the 2031 season salary of $24M will be paid in 2031 dollars not 2018 dollars. You have to account for inflation. That is what the factor in cell E2 (Inflation Factor) does. It compounds the provided inflation rate to 2018 dollars. So in 2018 dollars, the Nationals will be paying Bryce less for his age 38 season than what the Nationals are currently paying Jayson Werth for his age 38 season. And, the inflation factor of 2.5% is probably too low given the escalation in salaries over the past few years.


Alternate Inflation Factor

This spreadsheet uses 4% inflation factor and results in a $14M contract (2018 dollars) for Bryce’s age 38 season.

The front-loading and recasting the out-years in 2018 dollars is what may appeal to the Nationals and the Lerners in terms of cost control. And the inclusion of one or two opt-outs is going to appeal to Harper and Boras. It is a complex balancing act. But one thing we know is that the Lerners are not intimidated by complex contract negotiations.

And feel free to download the Excel File and play with the numbers your self.

  • The Season and Age columns are formulas to add 1 to each row. So leave those alone.
  • The Current Dollars column is also a formula. So leave that alone too.
  • Put whatever numbers you want in the Salary column.
  • Put whatever inflation factor you want in cell E2 to see the salaries in current dollars.

And don’t forget to make your choice in our poll.

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