Photo courtesy of Google Images.
Let me preface this by saying that I hold no ill will for the city of Philadelphia or the Philadelphia Phillies. They built a good team over the last few years, and should be in contention this season. I don’t think that it’s “bad” for anyone to sign with them, and this article is not meant to come off that way.
Harper didn’t want to go to Philadelphia and was so “excited” he got the name of the city wrong. It seems that all offseason long, there was only one team willing to give him the biggest contract in history, and since it seems that it was his goal, he had no other choice. He had a very good offer from LA with a higher AAV, but for less years. The San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres and Chicago White Sox all popped up in rumors here and there, but outside of San Francisco, none of them seems to have made a big push to sign him. Chicago in fact publicly took themselves out of the running, despite being in on him at the beginning of the offseason. The three teams that you would normally expect to be in on him were missing: the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs.
New York and Boston didn’t have room for him, but the Cubs’ excuse was a suspicious claim of being out of money, which is just too laughable to seriously consider. The Cubs just didn’t want to spend. In short, Harper’s market was far worse than we all expected and the offers that he was looking for just weren’t there.
Let’s be realistic, Harper has been to injury-prone and inconsistent in his career to warrant a long-term commitment. Just look at his stats, is 2015 how he really is? Or was that an outlier? Was he injured in 2016? Was 2018 just unlucky due to BABIP and if so what about the increase in strikeouts? Take a look at any of the game’s best players and they have been relatively consistent. Ironically enough, Manny Machado fits that description amazingly well.
The perfect deal for Harper would’ve been a short-term high AAV one, with the idea that if he can stay healthy and consistent for 2 years, he can then get his big payday. If he was an MVP candidate in 2019 and 2020, would he really not get a good contract at 28? If 2016 was a fluke due to an injury and 2018 due to BABIP, then we can reasonably assume that if he starts playing less aggressively, he should produce like an all-star. That’s how he played in 2015 and 2017 prior to getting injured.
Let’s do the math here, suppose he took LA’s offer and received BUT for one less year. He now made $90 million for 2 years. He now needs to make $240 million to match what he’s making from Philadelphia. Would he not be able to get a 6 or 7 year deal for $40 million a year at that point? 7 years/$40 million a year is $280 million, $40 million more than he is currently making. I know what you might be thinking, too many “ifs”: what if he gets injured? What if he doesn’t produce? Well, what does it say about Harper, if he can’t trust himself to perform for 1-2 years? In fact, let’s say he takes 1 year/$50 million and hits free agency at 27 after an MVP caliber year, would you take over or under him beating the total money he is currently getting?
I strongly believe that Harper could’ve made more money AND signed with a team which he wouldn’t have to settle for. I can think of various scenarios where more big market teams get involved on him next year. Bottom line is if he settled for Philadelphia as I believe that he did, he had other options, but refused to bet on himself and took the safe way out. Now he’ll be playing for a team that he doesn’t seem to be that fond of, and if that team gets the inconsistent Harper of the last few years, the Philly fans will let him have it and they just happen to me one of the most passionate and critical fan bases in the world.