Bryce Harper’s free agency — or, as agent Scott Boras termed at the GM Meetings today, “Harper’s Bazaar” — will be one of the most fascinating storylines the 2018-19 offseason has to offer. Boras has already made clear that he’ll be marketing Harper as a future Hall of Famer, given that the few players who’ve reached Harper’s level of production prior to the age of 26 are virtually all enshrined in Cooperstown. Boras doubled down on that thinking today when holding court with upwards of 100 reporters (link, with video, via SNY’s Scott Thompson).
Boras tabbed Harper as a “generational” and “iconic” player — citing the Nationals’ stark increase in attendance, television ratings and overall franchise value since Harper joined the team. While Harper’s presence on the Nats is realistically one of the myriad factors that have effected those changes, those types of milestones could very well carry more weight with some franchise owners than with baseball operations leaders.
As we settle in for the beginning of Harper’s Bazaar — which, in case you were wondering, is “fashionable,” “elite,” “historical” and “has inspirations that deal with great shoes and great hair,” according to Boras — here’s the latest chatter on his market…
- Fancred’s Jon Heyman spoke with Boras this morning, and while the agent wouldn’t tip his hand much in terms of total asking price, he did suggest that players with Harper’s level of accolades at this age often play until they’re 40. That, Heyman notes, could indicate that Boras is seeking a deal as long as 14 years in length for the 26-year-old Harper. The agent also pointed out that the current record average annual value — Zack Greinke’s $34.4MM — went to “a 32-year-old pitcher.” None of that, of course, offers a clear indication as to what Boras is thinking as a viable goal for Harper, though that’s perhaps largely by design. MLBTR estimated a 14-year contract for Harper in our annual Top 50 Free Agents rankings — albeit at a considerably lower annual value than that of Greinke.
- The Nationals’ reported offer to Harper near the end of the season, said to be valued at around a $300MM guarantee, “wasn’t close” to getting the job done, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Boras spoke today about the immense surplus value the Nats reaped from Harper’s pre-arbitration and arbitration seasons and suggested that comparisons to Giancarlo Stanton’s 13-year, $325MM deal have “nothing to do with Bryce Harper.” While many fans grow weary of Boras’ colorful quotes, it’s also a valid point that an extension signed two years prior to a fellow star-caliber player’s free agency should carry much influence over Harper’s eventual contract. Extensions for Stanton and fellow superstar Jose Altuve ($30MM annual value) were signed without the benefit of open-market bidding, Boras noted, and thus shouldn’t be viewed as comparables when looking at Harper’s earning power.
- Heyman further tweets that the Nats’ ~$300MM is currently “off the table,” though the team has still not ruled out signing Harper and would welcome the opportunity for further negotiations — which Boras will surely oblige.
- Both ESPN’s Buster Olney and SNY’s Andy Martino throw cold water on the notion of Harper landing with the Yankees. Olney tweets that a source has “emphatically” told him that Harper to the Yankees is simply “not happening,” while Martino suggests that the Yankees “are not excited enough about Harper” to force the ensuing outfield logjam that would come with signing him (Twitter link, with video).
- USA Today’s Bob Nightengale writes that many executives and agents throughout the industry feel that Harper will ultimately land with the Phillies, though that opinion appears largely predicated on a belief that the Yankees (and not the Phillies) will ultimately sign Manny Machado — a scenario that is entirely plausible but is by no means a given at this stage of the offseason. It’s always interesting to hear where the popular industry opinion lies at a given time, though it’s often best taken with a grain of salt; there were similar columns written regarding the Yankees and Eric Hosmer this time a year ago, for instance.
- The Giants have been an oft-suggested landing spot for Harper over the past several seasons, but Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area cites multiple sources in calling the interest “overblown.” One Giants exec tells Pavlovic that the team is “shocked” to be so frequently connected to Harper, adding that the Giants would only be in play for the outfielder if he “really, really” wanted to be a Giant and spurned larger offers elsewhere.