Phillies free agency target profile: Outfielder Bryce Harper

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 26: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals bats against the Miami Marlins in the first inning at Nationals Park on September 26, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 26: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals bats against the Miami Marlins in the first inning at Nationals Park on September 26, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

Bryce Harper is expected to sign a record-setting contract this offseason. Should the Phillies be the team giving him one?

It’s finally here. The class and the player the Phillies have been waiting for. The “Harper Bazaar” as super agent Scott Boras has deemed it has officially begun and Matt Klentak and his team have cast themselves as main players.

While it’s no secret that Philadelphia is quite possibly the front-runner to land Harper, with USA Todays Bob Nightengale even saying you could “bank on it”, it becomes more of a question of how far should they go to get the six-time All-Star.

Harper will undoubtedly turn down the Nationals qualifying offer Monday and has already turned down a 10-year, $300 million dollar offer from them, showing he is ready to leave the nation’s capital. With the Yankees reportedly out, Giants interest “overblown” and the Dodgers and Cubs both quiet on the matter, the Phils signing Harper is appearing to become a question of when rather then if.

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But at his asking price, is Harper worth it?

Boras has already made it clear he is expecting a contact within the price range of $400-$500 million dollars over 10 or more years. Boras and Harper look to exceed the 13-year, $325 million dollar contract Giancarlo Stanton signed back in 2014 while also rising above Zack Greinke’s $34.4 million a year deal, the highest annual average salary in baseball.

When discussing Philadelphia, Nightingale said they “won’t mind giving him at least $400 million” while Mike Axisa of CBS Sports suggests matching 12-year contracts for Harper and Manny Machado.

In his contract year, Harper failed to live up to standards needed for a man looking to become the richest in league history. He batted a career-low .249 while setting a career high with 169 strikeouts, third-most in the National League. In a season highlighted by his home run derby victory, Harper had his lowest WAR in a season in which he played more than 110 games.

Harper’s durability is a question mark as 2018 marked only the second time in his career he played more than 150 games. A wet base cut short a potential second MVP season for Harper in 2017 when he was on pace to set career highs in home runs and RBI while batting .319.

But do the positives outweigh the negatives? Short answer: yes.

After struggling in the first half of the season, Harper turned things around, batting .300 during the second half with just three fewer hits in 104 fewer at-bats. Despite the low average Harper was able to draw a league-leading 130 walks with a .393 OBP, the fifth-best in the National League.

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Since entering the league in 2012 Harper has averaged 29 HR and 81 RBI a year, excluding an injury-filled 2014. Harper has also posted a .279/.388/.512 slash, all higher than any active Phillie.

Harper’s generational talent was best shown during his 2015 MVP season in which he slugged an NL-best 42 home runs while leading all of baseball in OBP, SLG, OP, and OPS+. He also topped baseball with a WAR of 10.0.

Harper will bring an electricity to Phillies baseball it has long missed. After a promising start to the 2018 season, the downfall put a magnifying glass on the several holes the team will need to fill if they plan on contending in 2019. In a what will appear to be a wide-open NL East, not to mention National League in general, adding the talent that is Bryce Harper will set up the Phillies for many years to come.

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Harper is not Trout. His game alone might not be worth $35 million dollars a year but electricity that will be Citizens Bank Park 81 times a year for the next decade will be. Bryce Harper is the player to invest in. Now it’s time for Klentak to “be bold” and get our man.