The Bryce Harper Free Agency Saga has finally come to an end. It’s been reported by multiple outlets that the Philadelphia Phillies are signing the superstar outfielder to a 13-year deal, worth $330 million. The deal will also include no opt-outs, so this is as long-term of a commitment as a team could make in sports. The deal also includes a full no-trade clause, giving Harper as much control over his future as a player could possibly have.
This deal sets a new record for the biggest contract ever given out in Major League Baseball in terms of total guaranteed money. And while I will never say someone setting a new record for the biggest contract in a sport is ever going to be worth it, with the possible exception of it being an NBA player, let’s still take a look into what Harper has done throughout his career so far, how he fits into the Phillies roster and what we should expect from him going forward.
Harper has been in the league for seven seasons and he has been an all-star six different times, he won Rookie of the Year in 2012 and he won the Silver Slugger and MVP in 2015. Harper came to the league with a ton of hype after being the number one overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, but before that everyone who follows sports already knew who he was because he was a teenage phenom and fans of the game were just counting down the days until he would finally make his way to the major leagues.
What the Phillies are getting is a guy who has been pretty durable since his first couple of seasons in the league. When he first came up he played pretty reckless and it landed him in the DL a good amount, but he has since learned how to rope that in and hasn’t put himself in as many dangerous positions, and as a result he has been able to play in at least 147 games in three of the last four seasons.
Offensively they are getting someone who is kind of a lightning rod. Harper is immensely talented, but has periods where he appears to go to the plate without much of plan and as a result pitchers can really throw him off with breaking pitches, leading him to strike out a good amount, as is evidenced by his 169 strikeouts this past season. His ability to drive the ball out of the park does however lead to teams wanting to pitch around him, leading to a good amount of walks, at least 108 in three of the past four seasons and him leading the league in free passes this past season with 130. So despite his .249 average this past season, he had an on-base percentage of .393.
What’s been very interesting about Harper is that over the past four seasons, his batting average has been one year very good and then one year not-so-good. It’s been very fascinating and it’s hard to know exactly what has lead to that, but regardless of his batting average, he has been able to put up a good on-base percentage and has done a pretty good job of driving the ball out of the park, averaging 32 home runs/162 games.
Despite only having one season of at least 100 RBIs, and it was this season with exactly 100, Harper brings a ton of value to an offense because of his ability to hit home runs and to draw walks and get on base consistently.
With the additions of Andrew McCutchen, J.T. Realmuto and Jean Segura, the Phillies have done a really good job of putting together a pretty deep lineup and putting Harper right in the middle of that should lead to Philadelphia having one of the better lineups in the National League. There’s really no excuse for it not to be.
Now to the defense. To put it frank, Harper is not a good defender. He has a fairly strong throwing arm that can be used as a weapon to throw out the occasional base runner that might score otherwise, but he just isn’t that good of a defender.
If the Phillies do put him in left field, that is the spot that he has rated the best during his career, but he hasn’t played left field since the 2014 season and in nearly 1,600 innings in left field he has only been responsible for six defensive runs saved, five of which have been because of his arm, which I already mentioned is solid.
In right field he’s just bad. He’s a minus-seven defensive runs saved for his career in right field. Now in his defense, he was a -16 this past season, really dragging his career number down, but his defensive WAR has been negative in four of his seven seasons.
Overall though, you’ll take the positives of his offense over the negatives that can exist on defense.
As far as how Harper fits into Citizens Bank Park, he should fit in well. It’s a little bit more of a hitters park and right field really isn’t all that deep, plus a good chunk of Harper’s home runs in his career have come to right field:
This move is certainly a risk. I don’t love ten-year deals so I definitely don’t love a 13-year deal, but the good thing about this is that it isn’t too bad when it comes to the average annual value. This contract will keep Harper and the Phillies together until Harper is 39-years old, so it’ll essentially be the rest of his career, assuming he doesn’t waive his no-trade clause at some point in the future.
Philadelphia was improved this past season, finishing 80-82, but they are ready to take the next step and they showed that by going out and getting veteran Andrew McCutchen, J.T. Realmuto to man the catcher spot and Jean Segura to bring in a sure thing at shortstop, they have now went out and added a big-time run producer to put in the middle of their lineup and to bring a lot of excitement to their team.
With this deal, The Phillies are putting all of their eggs in the Bryce Harper basket and Harper is immediately the face of the franchise in the City of Brotherly Love.