Jon Heyman: Is $500M Bryce Harper's target for a deal?

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CARLSBAD, Calif. — Bryce Harper’s agent Scott Boras isn’t naming a price for his superstar free agent client, but the $300 million or so reported to have been offered by the Nationals does not appear to be in the ballpark.
 
Boras actually suggested this morning that the Washington Post report that the Nats offered Harper about $300 million wasn’t exactly accurate. While Boras wouldn’t say what the Nats did offer — sources say they did make a big multiyear offer to Harper Sept 26 — or even what Harper was seeking, it isn’t hard to believe that figure isn’t close to the asking price based on comments Boras made Wednesday.
 
Boras won’t mention any price tag but in an interview suggested elite players like Harper, already a six-time All-Star, often play until they are 40. So presumably Boras is seeking something in the 14-year range for Harper, who is 26. One GM of an interested team said Boras invoked Hank Aaron’s name while talking about Harper, though presumably more in terms of likely staying power than performance to date; Aaron played to his age-42 season and hit 45 home runs at age 41.

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Giancarlo Stanton has baseball’s longest deal at 13 years, but Boras had more to say on that, as well (see below).
 
Boras also won’t discuss salary targets, but pointed out that the $34 million paid to baseball’s highest-paid player, Diamondbacks ace Zack Greinke, went to a “32-year-old pitcher” when as a free agent he signed the $206.5-million, six-year deal with Arizona; the Diamondbacks are listening to trade offers for Greinke at present.
 
While he’s not talking about contractual targets, based on 14 years at even $35 million (just $1 million more than Greinke), that would be $490 million. The $500 million figure was suggested as a potential target in a column on Fanrag two years ago — though once again Boras won’t discuss specific numbers.


 
Many have been speculating whether Harper will beat Stanton’s $325-million deal, but Boras pointed out that Stanton’s deal was signed two years before he was to become a free agent, so it really isn’t comparable.
 
The numbers may seem high to some, but two rival agents said they expect Harper to receive $350-million-plus in free agency, and our expert guessed that $374 million would be the final figure. While 2018 was far from Harper’s best year, he bounced back from a rough first half to lead the NL with 120 walks and finish with 34 home runs and an .889 OPS.
 
Boras said Harper is one of four big-time players who became a free agent in the 25-to-26 range, mentioning Alex Rodriguez, Adrian Beltre and Claudell Washington as the others, while noting that Washington really wasn’t in the “Hall of Fame” category of the others. (Manny Machado, also 26, is a second free agent this winter who fits that category.)

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Boras, who represented Rodriguez at the time, pointed out that A-Rod got $252 million, or $25.2-million a year at a time when Kevin Brown, another client of his and older star pitcher was making $15 million a year on a record deal. That seemed to suggest a parameter of what should be made of Harper in relation to Greinke.
 
Boras didn’t say what made the Post report inaccurate,  but suggested that while Harper appreciated their interest and treatment he isn’t overly concerned at the moment about whether they move off that number. The Nats also had to know the likelihood that Harper would forgo free agency with a month to go was especially remote, though all indications are that Harper loves Washington and respects the Nats.
 
Nats GM Mike Rizzo said here on Tuesday that he still hope to keep Harper. The offer made to Harper came on the day of the final home game of the season, but Rizzo declined to say how Harper responded to it, or whether he countered it.
 
Boras suggested that Harper ranks as high as possible in what he called the “four pillars,” which he named as “age, iconic, performance and rights.” Rights refers to free agency vs. anything less, iconic refers to marketing/branding opportunities. Boras hasn’t said much publicly about Harper’s value but is due to speak to the media at 2 p.m. Pacific time, Thursday.
 
Boas has occasionally named an asking price in the past, though he has refrained from doing so in this case. He did so when Carlos Beltran was a free agent, and suggested $200 million would be a fair price to aim for. The Mets ultimately signed Beltran for $119 million, and while that was seen as a high number at the time, Beltran performed up to that contract (though he is unfairly recalled as a Met for one take), and actually for many years after that contract expired.

Jon Heyman is Fancred's baseball insider. He publishes his weekly Inside Baseball column each Thursday on the App and FancredSports.com. You can download the App here and interact with Jon by following him right here.

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