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Bryce Harper’s Contract Is Going To Be The Biggest In Sports History

With one and two-thirds seasons left before Bryce Harper becomes a free agent, the contract chatter is picking up. Last week it was his reported interest in becoming a Cub, and today it’s an anonymous American League GM saying:

“Four hundred million is light. It’s going to be more than that. If you could sign him to a 15-year contract, you do it. I would say something in the range of $35M a year, maybe closer to the high 30s. It could approach 40 million dollars a year.”

The quick math on the high end of that is $600 million. Let’s pull back to the midrange, though — $35 million per over 15 seasons. That’s still $525M.

Here’s how that stacks up vs. the 11 biggest deals in MLB history (via Cot’s Contracts):

One of those is not like the others. And it should be noted that MLB contracts are the biggest in sports. Not to refer you to Wikipedia, but the largest non-baseball sports contract is $240M. A pittance!

Now, what pushes Harper’s potential deal so exceedingly high is the number of years. Fifteen is forever, but he’s only 24. If he wants and gets a 15-year deal, it would take him to 40. Not crazy, especially relative to the end-of-deal ages of the other guys on that graph.

The $35M annual average isn’t crazy either. Zack Greinke is on a six-year deal averaging $34M. The Nats are giving Max Scherzer $30M per. Giancarlo Stanton got $25M a year over 13 years, and that was in 2014, before he’d even hit free agency.

If Harper goes for a Stanton-length (or longer) deal, it’s going to blow past the $400M mark. That’s assuming he plays at an MVP level the rest of this year and next.

It’s a big assumption, given that only one and one-third of Harper’s five-plus seasons have been in that rarefied air. Of course, he’s still so young, and you can’t penalize him for only being a five-time All-Star and potential two-time MVP at age 24.

Four-hundred million may be too low, though. Let’s get the numbers back up. After Harper’s 2015 MVP campaign, Joe Posnanski made the case he’d be baseball’s first $500M man:

“It could be a 12-year deal for $500 million with much of it backloaded and Harper given an out after six years. It could be a straight 10-year, $500 million deal. It could be something more creative.”

Is he worth it? I don’t know, and much deeper dives will be taken between now and then. (Hey, here’s one; the words “billion-dollar player” are mentioned.)

As a fan, though, I do know two things: I love watching Bryce Harper play for my team every day, and it’s not my money.

Bonus: Chris and I talked about this on the Mr. I pod. Listen!

D.C. sports fan and digital media guy that's been doing this since 2004. Once threw a football further than Chris Cooley.

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