What does Harper’s mega-contract mean for future MLB stars?

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies-Workouts

After months of speculation, rumours and conspiracies, Major League Baseball’s top two free agents have both signed with new teams: Manny Machado to San Diego, and most recently, Bryce Harper to Philadelphia. While Machado’s decision was more surprising than Harper’s (the Phillies had long been considered a favourite for Harper), the absurd number after the dollar sign still garnered a lot of double takes.

Not that it should have — as it was expected both players were going to make $300 million. But the sheer size of these contracts is hard to fathom. Machado signed for 10 years/$300 million — huge, but there have been contracts similar in the past, most recently Giancarlo Stanton’s 13 year and $325 million contract that he signed with Miami in 2014.

Harper’s looks a lot more like Stanton’s. His new deal with the Phillies — set at 13 years and $330 million — is the biggest contract in sports history. But perhaps the craziest thing about all these contracts, is that the best player in the MLB has yet to enter free agency. Mike Trout is entering year five out of a six year contract worth $144 million with the Angels.

When Trout becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2021, just how much will he make? Could he make $500 million? Cue the Dr. Evil zoom-in shot, because the answer will be however much he asks for. Trout’s numbers are across the board better than Harper’s; batting average, home runs, slugging, etc. You name it, Trout is probably better than Harper. Not to mention Trout has won six gold gloves for his work in centre field while Harper has yet to win one.

Trout is just one year older than Harper, and will be 29 when he hits free agency. Will the Angels re-sign him? They’ll sure try, but in Trout’s seven years, the Angels have made just one playoff appearance and have never won a postseason game. That doesn’t bode too well for L.A. Will a big market team like the Dodgers or Yankees throw boatloads of money to try and secure the best player in the league?

Trout will without question leapfrog Harper by securing the biggest contract in sports. But when have these mega-deals worked well? If we go back and look at some of the other super contracts in MLB history, most of them don’t end up working out.

The Marlins shipped Stanton off to New York just three years into his deal. Alex Rodriguez’s 10 year and $275 deal he signed with the Yankees back in 2008 backfired after his steroid use. Seattle just traded Robinson Cano and his 10 year and $240 million deal this summer. More often than not, these contracts end up being traded halfway through, or end up turning into albatrosses that hinders teams for years.

Both Machado and Harper’s contracts have some red flags, though the positives seem to outweigh the possible negatives. Trout on the other hand, seems as sure of a slam dunk as anyone. And yes, $500 million is a stupid amount of money to hit a ball with a stick, but since Harper signed his deal with Philly, the Phillies sold over 100,000 tickets in the first 24 hours. Harper’s jerseys will flood Citizens Bank Park next season, and the Phillies seem poised to make a playoff run with their shiny new superstar bathing in a tub of cash in between road trips.

 

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