The spiciest rumors at this weeks' GM Meetings -- and predicatbly so -- have mostly been centered around Bryce Harper's future.
Harper, who's an unrestricted free agent this winter, already has a half-dozen suitors and we haven't even heard from The Mystery Team yet.
Where does it stand now? Harper reportedly turned down an "aggressive" offer from the Nationals, and now we now what said offer might have looked like:
Nationals’ offer to Bryce Harper was roughly $300 million for 10 years — so an AAV of $30 million — according to multiple people familiar with it. No opt outs.— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) November 7, 2018
On the surface, whoa, that's a whole lot of money. 10 years at an average annual value (AAV) of $30 million would be a record-setting number for a position player, eclipsing the mega-deal the Marlins gave Giancarlo Stanton back in 2014.
The optics of Harper turning down the Nats' offer would presumably be a positive sign for a team like the Cubs, who have made no secret about their desire to sign him longterm this winter. A few things to consider, though:
- The offer was made on the last day of the regular season, which is important to note. There is absolutely, unequivocally no way that Harper would have accepted this deal. Scott Boras clients, especially the ones with Harper's status, almost always test the open market.
- Like Janes mentions, $300 million is *far* below where Harper's asking price will start. It very well may be close to what Harper agrees to, but negotiations were always going to start at a much higher number.
- An offer without any opt-outs in 2018 is unrealistic. Opt-outs are all the rage in contract building these days, and 26-year-old Harper will surely want a chance to hit the open market again for the infamous 2nd-contract in 3-4 years. Committing to players, even of Harper's stature, for 10 years just doesn't happen anymore (outside the Marlins, who were almost-universally panned for pretending to comit to Stanton for 14 years).
With all that in mind, it's pretty clear how empty the offer really is. Of course it's in the Nationals' interest to have the public know that they offered Bryce Harper $300 million over 10 years -- that's an eye-popping amount of money that isn't totally out of Harper's ballpark and gives fans the impression that the Nats are committed to bringing him back.
Would the Nationals have liked to lock Harper up for 10 years before he hit the open market? Yeah, that'd have been great for them. But that's not how Scott Boras does business, and was never a realistic outcome.
What this does, if anything, is set the terms for how other teams -- like the Cubs, for instance -- can woo Harper out of D.C. Do the Cubs have the gumption to take Harper's AAV up to $34-35 million? Are they willing to give him (gasp) a player opt-out after three or four years? That obviously remains to be seen, but now MLB teams know what kind of game they're playing.