Andrew Julien knows the magnitude of Harper’s worth as seen through advanced metrics, but even he knows that giving the deal that Scott Boras wants would be too much for any team, St. Louis Cardinals included.
Ideal Contract: 10 years, $350M with year 4 and 6 opt outs
Most I would pay: 13 years, $400M (backloaded) with year 5 and 7 opt outs + limited no trade clause
The cost of Harper? An ideal contract for the St. Louis Cardinals to sign Bryce Harper? Since free isn’t an option, I’ll propose $350M at 10 years ($35M/year) with opt-outs at year 4 (age 30) and year 6 (age 32).
Bryce Harper can become the current highest paid player in baseball. The St. Louis Cardinals can have a face of the franchise. Both parties win if the team is in position to pursue another World Series victory by Harper’s age 30 (or 32) season, and he decides to opt out for a better contract. It’s a happy day, and a Cardinals fans’ dream world.
As for the most I would pay? Well… I’ll start breaking it down using a table:
This table is predictive of Harper’s projected value based on WAR, and the math equates to $435M at 14 years (technically 13 years since no value is expected in year 14) with the money being backloaded. However, I believe there are other teams in play that drive the Cardinals to have to actually give in to agent Scott Boras demands of going 14 years to sign Bryce Harper at $435M.
It would be tough for the Cardinals to push $400M at 13 years – reasoning being that there isn’t a DH (designated hitter) in the NL – unless that changes within the next decade. For me, the max amount I’ll go with Harper is $400M at 13 years (opt outs at age 31 and 33) with a limited 10-team NTC-no trade clause, and the money being backloaded.
Wait, Andrew, why are you backloading the money in his regression years?! Well, Bryce Harper has compiled 30 fWAR through his age 26 season. Therefore, if Harper compiles the potential 40 (or even just 33) fWAR above, he will likely be a Hall of Fame inductee (usually likely for players with a minimum of 57 fWAR) following his tenure.
This adds more incentive for an organization to try to keep Harper on their team. The St. Louis Cardinals would love to have Bryce Harper represent them in the Hall of Fame.
The second caveat to this is that the luxury tax threshold should be expected to increase in amount by the time this contract would be nearing end. This mitigates the amount the team is detrimentally affected by the higher AAV toward the end of the contract, eliminating the risk of being financially crippled by backloading the deal.
Bryce Harper still seeks a World Series ring – which the St. Louis Cardinals have more history with winning than any team not name the New York Yankees. The St. Louis Cardinals continued winning ways along with the opportunity to be the face of a city may be appealing enough for Bryce to accept a contract as the first $400M man in baseball.