Bryce Harper won’t be a free agent until after the 2018 season, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early for everyone to start stressing the hell out over how much money he is going to cost. According to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, the Nationals have already started discussing a possible extension with Harper, and they are feeling faint.
According to Nightengale, who cites a “high-ranking Nationals executive” as his source, Harper is seeking a contract that would pay him $400 million over 10 years. That’s almost half a billion dollars! Baseball is the best sport.
Such alleged demands have apparently caused the Nats to start preparing for life without Harper:
The Nationals, who had begun preliminary negotiations this year to retain Harper beyond 2018, believe the chasm in their talks now have become too great to overcome. While no specific dollar amount has been broached by high-powered agent Scott Boras, the executive says Harper is seeking a deal more than 10 years in length, believing it would exceed $400 million.
The important thing to note in that paragraph is that no specific demands have yet been made by Harper’s agent, which means that 10-year $400 million figure could be nothing more than an informed guess from this anonymous executive. Hell, maybe he just pulled those numbers out of his ass.
That isn’t to say a $400 million deal would be particularly outlandish in this case, as that’s the number that baseball people were throwing around when Mike Trout’s hypothetical free agency was a topic of discussion. Harper’s production fell off a cliff in 2016, but there’s no reason to think he can’t play well enough in the next two to justify asking for as much money as he wants.
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Which is why it behooves the Nationals, from a leverage standpoint, to start leaking all sorts of exasperated reports about Harper’s demands now, while his value is at something of a low point. There’s likely a lot more of this ahead, but in the end it won’t really matter. Harper will get paid what he’s worth, and he’ll probably look great in a Yankees uniform.