For years – actual, not figurative, years – it’s been assumed that Bryce Harper would get a record free agent contract. Folks knew he was not a realistic bet to re-up with the Nationals, and, given that he was going to hit free agency ahead of his age 26 season, it just made sense that it was time to set a new free agent record (given that the old record has stood for a decade in the face of rising MLB revenues).
For that reason, it has also become now an attendant – and much more recent – assumption that the Chicago Cubs could not (or would not) sign Harper as a free agent without first offloading a whole lot of other salary.
That *probably* remains the case. This is not a get-your-hopes-up post.
But I do want to point out, after discussing this morning a report that the White Sox were not planning to drop a record contract on Harper (or Manny Machado) this offseason, Ken Rosenthal reports that the Dodgers feel the same way: “The Dodgers are widely rumored to be in on Harper, but the reality, according to major-league sources, is that they do not want him on a long-term, record-setting contract. A short-term deal with a high average salary and opt-outs might hold more appeal, but such an agreement likely would create luxury-tax issues for the Dodgers in 2019, and the team already has too many outfielders.”
To be fair, of course the Dodgers (and White Sox (and Cubs (and whoever))) don’t *want* to drop a record contract on Harper. But that may very well be what it takes to actually sign him. When there’s this level of talent and this level of dollars at stake, it’s hard for me not to feel like a lot of what we’re seeing right now is just over-the-top sandbagging.
Harper is going to get his 10-ish years, his $300-ish million, and his many opt-outs. The structure of his contract may be extremely unique, and contoured to fit the needs of whatever team signs him (heavily front-loaded with early opt-outs sure seems like it could be a win-win for both sides), but I just don’t think it can possibly be real that every single would-be suitor is like, “Yeah, we want this 26-year-old generational superstar, but you want us to pay a record contract for him 10 years after the last record contract? My lawwwd no!”
I’m not sure I believe you, White Sox. I definitely don’t believe you, Dodgers. I hope I don’t believe you, Cubs.