Why The Harper Deal Is A Good One For the Phillies

Mar 2, 2019, 8:38 AM
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)...
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Bryce Harper’s contract with the Philadelphia Phillies expires in 2032. By that time there will be three more presidential elections and five-year-olds now will be able to vote.

The deal as it stands is worth $330 million over the 13 years with no opt-outs and a no-trade clause. The no-trade clause and lack of an opt-out almost guarantees Harper and will see through the entirety of the contract.

13 years is obviously a long time. Harper will go from a 26-year-old phenom to a 39-year-old aging veteran in that time span. But for the Phillies, going with a 13-year deal was a necessary decision and one that could set them up to be financially well in the future.

Reports indicated that Harper was looking for a ten-year deal but Philadelphia opted to go three years longer. But why?

Had the Phillies met Harper at the 10-year, $330 million mark, the AAV of the hypothetical contract would be at $33 million. Adding three years to the deal lowers the AAV to $25.8 million while also giving Scott Boras and his client the record-setting total value they desired.

Jeff Passan of ESPN reported the year-to-year breakdown of the contract, which makes the deal look great for the Phillies:

The first two years of the deal are important here. Had it been a ten-year deal, Harper would be making $66 million in 2019 and 2020. Going with a 13-year deal and adding the signing bonus to year one, only $36 million will go against the payroll the first two years.

Why is that important? Philadelphia can now stay under the $206 million luxury tax in 2019, saving money for the Phillies. With expiring contracts, Philadelphia could also stay under the $208 million luxury tax in 2020, giving the Phillies plenty of savings for a loaded free agency class in two years.

The free agent class of 2020 includes names like Giancarlo Stanton, Mookie Betts, and Mike Trout. With the short-term savings of Harper now, the Phillies could afford any of these players in two years while flirting with the luxury tax number.

The long-term of this deal also benefits the Phillies as well. Years two through nine of the deal gives Harper $26 million per year, which takes the now 26-year-old to his age 35 season. After the first nine years, the deal drops to $22 million from the tenth season until the end of the deal.

This deal gives the Phillies a bit of protection from a presumed regression due to age. Maybe Harper will regress at age 35 and maybe he won’t, we’re obviously a while away from finding out. We can however compare current player salaries around that age to what Harper will make starting in 2029.

Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, and Felix Hernandez are all at the tail end of long contracts. Pujols is entering his age-39 season and in 2019 his salary will be $28 million. Cabrera will be 35 this season and the Tigers will give him $30 million. Hernandez is just 32 but is coming off several off-years and will make $27.8 million in 2019.

Pujols, Cabrera, and Hernandez combined for -0.2 WAR in 2018. Harper from ages 35 to 38 will make significantly less than those three will in 2019.

The numbers are definitely daunting. 13 years is a long time. $330 million is a record-setting amount of money. Philadelphia made sure to protect themselves financially with this deal and somehow turned those numbers into somewhat of a team-friendly deal.

Date Starting Pitcher
Friday, July 1 @ 7:10 pm A's James Kaprielian vs. Mariners Marco Gonzalez


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Why The Harper Deal Is A Good One For the Phillies