Bryce Harper and the Washington Nationals avoided any drama by reaching a one-year contract deal. Harper will make $13.625 million.
The contract, announced after the 1 PM deadline for settling arbitration cases without exchanging salary numbers, exceeds MLB Trade Rumors estimate by $4 million. Harper’s contract settlement last year was agreed to in advance. He made $5 million in 2016.
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After a year where Harper dropped coming off his unanimous National League MVP award, the dollar amount should not be a surprise. This is a makeup deal for being underpaid in 2016. No word on any long-term talks or an extension to go past his first year of free agency. The agreement is for 2017 only.
The size of Harper’s deal is unexpected. The second time through the arbitration process, and coming off a down season, anything around $10 million would be the conventional wisdom. Despite a low .243 batting average, the right fielder drew 108 walks and ended 2016 with an OPS of .814, outside the top ten in the National League.
Adjusting for ballpark and league averages, Harper’s OPS+ of 116 is 16 percent above-average. Although there was a drop in power, his production remains high. High enough for his new deal.
Without specifics, you cannot say whether this bodes well or not for any upcoming long-term talks. Harper has one year of arbitration left and then will become a free agent after the 2018 season. If on the open market, his value could top $40 million a season as he will turn 27 by the 2019 year, the prime seasons of his career.
Still, when asked to break eight figures, the Nationals did. Remember, most expected Stephen Strasburg to test free agency this year before signing his seven-year extension last spring. It can happen.
For now, the focus turns to Spring Training in West Palm Beach and not an arbitrator’s office in New York. Happy new year.