San Francisco Giants: How to Creatively Structure a Bryce Harper Contract

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 23: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals gets ready to bat against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on April 23, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 23: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals gets ready to bat against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on April 23, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

The San Francisco Giants are in desperate need of a legitimate outfielder. Bryce Harper is a legitimate outfielder that is currently a free agent. Let’s make a deal.

While the current news surrounding the San Francisco Giants is all about landing Farhan Zaidi and stealing him from the Los Angeles Dodgers, the biggest piece of business the Giants have ahead of them this offseason is trying to sign Bryce Harper.

Bryce Harper endured one of the worst years of his career in 2018. However, he still posted a higher fWar (3.5) in 2018, than the Giants outfield has over the last two seasons combined (0.9). So how can the Giants land Bryce Harper, make a competitive offer financially, all without handicapping them in the long term financially? Well, it’s going to take creativity.

Let’s talk about moving the money in blocks between opt-outs. It’s similar to how the Marlins were creative in the contract they offered Stanton. The Marlins made that contract with the idea that they were buying out his arbitration years which is what made the front end of his contract cheap. The Giants, honestly, should do the very opposite.

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The Giants should offer to pay Bryce Harper $40 million a year for his first five years of the contract. That seems like a high number, but hear me out.

If they offer Harper that $40 million a year deal for the first five years, and give him an opt out, he still gets to make that super high AAV in those years that he’s looking for. In other words, he can bet on himself, and the Giants can bet on him being his top level self through those five years. But, after that opt out, he makes less. Why do that?

For one, an opt out after five years (for the 2024 season) guarantees the Giants to have $0 committed right now going into 2024. It allows them to get through a rebuild in the farm system and have their current top prospects up and ready by then. It also allows for Harper to bet on himself

Harper will be entering his 30 year old season in 2024, and after a five year deal making $40 million in AAV, if he thinks he could command more than what his opt-in price is on the open market, then he can opt-out and go get another massive deal. So what do you offer him then to get you through?

Well, if he opts in after that, he gets another five years for $90 million. I think a good look at a deal that would be somewhat similar is a Hunter Pence‘s. That means there is two parts to this deal, but the latter end of the deal still allows the Giants AAV to be less than that $40 million. It would guarantee that the Giants aren’t paying Bryce Harper $40 million in his age 35 season.

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Harper would/could be guaranteed 5 years/$200 million, which by AAV standards is the largest contract any player has ever received. But, with the second part being 5 for $90 million on Harper’s opt-in, it makes the AAV the Giants would carry, and luxury tax number only $29 million as opposed to $40 million.

Why is that important? Well, that allows them to not have to go too far into the penalty for adding him, and trying to build a roster and compete in the next two years. It gives them financial wiggle room to still build around him while he’s playing in SF, and guarantees him that he gets $40 million a year through his 30 year old season.

It’s a win-win scenario for the Giants and Harper. And if they have to raise the number for those first five years, why not? It still keeps their AAV over the life of the contract less than that $40 million, which is what is beneficial to them in the long run. They get their star power in the outfield, and still have the ability to build around him.

So to be clear here, this is what, in my opinion, the Giants should offer Bryce Harper:

  • 10 Years for $290 Million Dollars
  • $40 million a year ($200 million total) for the first five years with an Opt-Out for 2024
  • $90 million over the remaining 5 years if he chooses to opt in.
  • Obvious bonuses and such for MVP, All-Stars, Postseason awards, and all the fun accolades

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And as for those concerned as to how it would affect a Madison Bumgarner contract, if the Giants had the intent to give him a $30 million dollar a year contract starting next season, they could do it and potentially be under the Luxury Tax in 2020, and be guaranteed to be under the luxury tax in 2021.

So 10 years, and $290 million is the total offer to Harper, but with some quirky options in there that benefit both sides. It could be one of the most creative contracts ever offered. If the Giants want to land Harper and have room to add elsewhere over the next few years, they might have to get creative. And maybe, just maybe, that creativity would be enough to land one of baseball’s biggest free agents, ever.