LOS ANGELES, August 28, 2013 — Sports agent Scott Boras told reporters yesterday that he is interested in getting Bryce Harper signed to a 12-year deal. Bryce Harper is in just the second season of his young career with the Washington Nationals.
If Boras has his way, and he usually does, Harper would sign a 12-year extension after this season that would go into effect in 2016. The extension would eat up his three arbitration years, as well as seven years of free agency. Harper would be 32 the next time he is eligible for free agency.
Harper is not eligible for arbitration until after the 2015 season and cannot test free agency until after the 2018 season. He would be a 25-year old free agent in his prime if no extension is reached. Harper’s current contract pays him $2 million this year and then $2.15 million and $2.25 million in 2014 and 2015, respectively.
The 20-year old phenom has a career batting average of .273 and 40 career homeruns, including 18 this year. Bryce Harper is just the third player in MLB history to hit 40 homeruns before the age of 21.
The majority of the risk in signing Harper to a 12-year extension lies with the Washington Nationals. Harper plays as hard, if not harder, than any other outfielder in baseball. He has no problem sacrificing his body to make a play. Often this comes in the form of running into outfield walls.
Injury is the biggest risk at this point, as loss of production due to age should not start until after he is 32. The other risk at this point is Harper’s talent. While the two-time all-star won the NL Rookie of the Year award in 2012, he is a career .270 hitter who has not hit more than 22 homeruns in his first two seasons.
The fact that Boras is looking for a 12-year deal for his client is not surprising. That is what the good agents do. Sure, the money is often what gets highlighted, but agents really make their bones on the number of years they are able to get for their clients.
Boras did not mention what kind of money he would seek for Bryce Harper, but one would have to imagine that he would start the negotiations in the $30 million per year range and work back from there.
While it is prudent for teams to lock up their quality young players to longer deals, the Nationals would be wise to use caution in signing Harper to such an extension. There are too many variables that can affect the quality of this contract. Harper has yet to prove that he is worth $20 million per year, let alone a $30 million.
The problem for Boras is that by the time Harper gets to the point where he has proven himself to be a $20 million player, he will be too old for a 12-year contract. The risk for Boras in not getting a 12-year extension for Harper is that he never does prove he is worth $20 million and is forced to sign an extension for significantly less money.
Ultimately, the Nationals risk very little by doing nothing with Harper in the short term. Washington can hold off on doing anything until Harper is into his arbitration years. More than likely Harper would get around $10 million in arbitration, which is significantly less than a Boras deal that buys out those arbitration years would cost the Nationals.
By not doing anything, the major risk for the Nationals is that you make Scott Boras angry and he takes Harper into free agency without giving the Nationals a chance at signing him. The Nationals could also wager that Harper will eventually be worth more than $20 million and try to trade more years for less annual dollars.
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