With the off-season stove getting hot and lots of chatter linking the White Sox with more than a mild interest in Bryce Harper the question begs to be asked. What would a Bryce Harper contract look like?
I am by no means a contract expert, so feel free to take this for what you will. I personally think a Harper contract will be anywhere between 10 – 12 years with a value of $375 million. If you break it down a 10-year contract would have an Average Annual Value (AAV) of 37.5 million, whereas a 12-year deal would have an AAV of 31.5 million. To be honest the years and AAV are irrelevant for two reasons, one appearance and one business. Let me explain why.
We know that Scott Boras will want his client to have the biggest contract of all time. This contract regardless of 10 or 12 years accomplishes that. Just because he signs a long-term contract DOES NOT mean he will be around for the entire contract. This is where the most important element of the contract comes into play. An opt-out after the 3rd year. This is a critical element for the White Sox and even more so Harper. Why you ask. The White Sox answer is very simple. After three years the rebuild should be in the rear-view mirror with a wide-open competitive window and a farm system that will hopefully be supplementing the major league roster where needed. The Harper answer is actually very simple. I heard people speculating on MLB Radio and in all honesty, I probably blinded someone with the light bulb that went off over my head when I heard this. To get to the answer we must look at some of the expected events of 2021. As we know the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the players union and ownership will expire. One of the critical elements of the CBA that will be a point of contention will be the luxury tax. The reason Harper will want an opt-out after year three is because if the Luxury Tax is altered, or abolished, he can go back on the market still in his prime and make even more money.
This is why the years and total value of the contract are just ego pieces. The contract will be front loaded so that the first three years’ salary will be much more than the AAV.
Does this mean the White Sox will sign Harper? I wish I knew the answer. But if you run the numbers with the way the team has managed their roster and expenses the last few years, they could sign him and still have a very comfortable payroll as well as Rick Hahn’s beloved payroll flexibility.
The hell with it. GET IT DONE!