Washington Nationals

Heyman | Rival GM predicts Bryce Harper’s free agent value

25 SEP 2016: Washington Nationals Right field Bryce Harper (34) waits on deck during the MLB baseball game between the Washington Nationals and Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pa. (Photo by Mark Alberti/ Icon Sportswire)
(Photo by Mark Alberti/ Icon Sportswire)

One rival GM pegged Bryce Harper’s value on a long-term deal at “closer to $500 million than $400 million,” a seemingly stark admission for a management person, even if it isn’t a Nationals person.

That executive, claiming Harper is “twice the player that Giancarlo Stanton is,” suggested $400 million is the absolute baseline for a Harper deal. That would be a record, as Stanton is the current record holder at $325 million.

Harper’s always seemed likely to test the market, and the one-year deal that carries him through his arbitration years is all but confirmation that that is the case. There’s no evidence GM Mike Rizzo and agent Scott Boras got into any real negotiation on a long-term deal before agreeing to the record $21.625M deal for 2018, and it’s obvious why. The deal also includes a possible $1.3 million in awards bonuses ($100K for All-Star Game, Silver Slugger and Gold Glove, $1M for MVP, $500k for 2nd, $250K for third, $150K for 4th and $100K for fifth.)

The parties apparently decided that it was best to take care of the last arb year now, and one consideration apparently was that Harper played his best when he was on a two-year deal, winning his MVP. The figure is a one-year record for arbitration, but it pales even per year to what he could get on a free-agent deal.

The Yankees, Dodgers and Phillies have been seen as favorites to sign Harper as a free agentRiva, but the Nats shouldn’t be counted out. They’ve made it clear that winning is a priority with the Lerners as owners, and they’ve shown a willingness to spend handsomely when they felt appropriate. No one would view the Stephen Strasburg deal, at $175 million over seven years, as some kind of great hometown bargain. But it was yet another signal that the Nats are serious about winning.

Harper has said how much he loves playing in Washington and for the Nats, and the feeling seems to be mutual.

“We love him, and he loves us,” is the way one Nats person put it.

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