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Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Sources: Nationals made Bryce Harper ‘aggressive offer’ last month, did not reach agreement

This sounds like a PR leak.

According to multiple people familiar with the negotiations, the Nationals discussed terms for a new deal with Harper and his agent, Scott Boras, throughout September. Those conversations led to what one person called “an aggressive offer.” That offer included no opt-outs, and was less than the $400 million some have speculated Harper could receive, according to a person with direct knowledge who would not disclose the exact terms.

Jim Furtado Posted: November 07, 2018 at 10:15 AM | 42 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: bryce harper, nationals

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   1. JL72 Posted: November 07, 2018 at 10:48 AM (#5783594)
Don't disagree, but suspect it was by both sides. The Lerners get to look good because they tried. Boros gets to say that there is a real, sizeable offer out there.

Good for both sides.
   2. Bote Man Posted: November 07, 2018 at 11:09 AM (#5783617)
Chelsea Janes @chelsea_janes
Nationals’ offer to Bryce Harper was roughly $300 million for 10 years — so an AAV of $30 million — according to multiple people familiar with it. No opt outs.

Highest AAV in baseball history: Greinke (34M), Price (31M), Kershaw (31M), Scherzer (30M). No position player has ever made more than 27.5M in a free agent deal (A-Rod, Cespedes).


Harper Gordek rightly points out that the Nats have a history of deferring large chunks of contracts, but no info on that yet.

   3. jmurph Posted: November 07, 2018 at 11:11 AM (#5783619)
No opt-outs in a 10 year deal for a 26 year old is not really a serious offer in 2018.
   4. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: November 07, 2018 at 11:32 AM (#5783639)
What are the realistic expectations for Harper? With poor defense and injuries dragging down his offensive value looks like he can be anywhere from a 1 to 10 WAR player.

Does anyone have an updated FA cost per WAR? Is it still around $8.5 million per WAR? So Harper would need to exceed 3.5 WAR per season to make him 'worth' the 10-year $300 mill contract?
   5. catomi01 Posted: November 07, 2018 at 11:46 AM (#5783655)
What are the realistic expectations for Harper? With poor defense and injuries dragging down his offensive value looks like he can be anywhere from a 1 to 10 WAR player.


I thought most of the poor defense was just him playing out of position in Center, but he was pretty bad in right also...far worse than the rest of his career though, and he's still on the right side of 30, so I'd count on a least some bounce back in the short term. Long term his defense will be a detriment, not an asset. I would be signing him with the idea of him being a 1B/DH for most of the 2nd half of the contract though, if not sooner.

Basically, a long way of saying that if I'm in on Harper, I wouldn't really let the defense scare me away. Committing to someone for 10+ years is scary enough, but whether or not he earns that money has a lot more to do with what he does with the bat than the glove.
   6. JL72 Posted: November 07, 2018 at 12:09 PM (#5783668)
I thought most of the poor defense was just him playing out of position in Center, but he was pretty bad in right also


I wonder if putting Harper at a position that he was poorly suited for hurt his defense at his normal position?

If he goes back to RF full time, will he improve. Of course, it could be just a bounce back as well.
   7. catomi01 Posted: November 07, 2018 at 12:18 PM (#5783676)
Either way, I would think we're more likely to see him as average to slightly below average in one of the corners next year if that's his full time slot. (As opposed to terrible)
   8. PreservedFish Posted: November 07, 2018 at 12:18 PM (#5783677)
The time is right to move him back to catcher.
   9. Ziggy's screen name Posted: November 07, 2018 at 12:30 PM (#5783694)
No opt-outs in a 10 year deal for a 26 year old is not really a serious offer in 2018.


It is if you offer him enough money. I'm not sure if 30 per does it, but "highest paid position player ever" sounds pretty good.

That said, I think I'd be out on the Harper sweepstakes. There's a lot to dream on there, but, good though he is, he's more famous than good. And that will drive the price higher than it should be. If you squint you can see a young Miguel Cabrera, but I wouldn't want to be the one betting $300,000,000 on that squint.
   10. jmurph Posted: November 07, 2018 at 01:46 PM (#5783754)
It is if you offer him enough money. I'm not sure if 30 per does it, but "highest paid position player ever" sounds pretty good.

Oh it's an incredible offer, don't get me wrong, I just think it's very obvious that a 26 year old is not signing a 10 year contract without any opt-outs. So in a way I'm not sure it's even a good faith offer from the team.
   11. The Duke Posted: November 07, 2018 at 01:58 PM (#5783762)
Yes. This is akin to the 5 year high AAV offer the cards made to Pujols. Thes things have to be done to convince your fan base you made an effort. If he now signs for $300 with two or three opt outs, they can say to their fans “ look how close we were!” There is still a minority of fans in STL that think that Pujols turned down a great deal from The Cards so this tactic works.
   12. Zonk qualifies as an invasive species Posted: November 07, 2018 at 02:07 PM (#5783767)
I accept the reality of opt-outs. I accept the reality of why opt-outs are just one-way benefits.

But damn... What's the proportion of such instances where fans of the team in question end up pleading for the player to exercise the opt-out vs instances where the player DOES opt-out?

10 to 1? Worse?
   13. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: November 07, 2018 at 02:14 PM (#5783770)
But damn... What's the proportion of such instances where fans of the team in question end up pleading for the player to exercise the opt-out vs instances where the player DOES opt-out?

10 to 1? Worse?


If the players value them this much and the teams are pricing them into their offers, but the players don't end up using them, doesn't it stand to reason that they'd be making even *more* if there wasn't an opt-out? IOW, if the Cubs still had signed Heyward, but didn't give him the opt-outs, how much more per year would he be making? So even with the one way benefit, teams are still going to have no issues offering them, right?
   14. Nasty Nate Posted: November 07, 2018 at 02:15 PM (#5783774)

10 to 1? Worse?
Much less than that, assuming we count Sabathia and Kershaw as people in the opt out column.
   15. Nasty Nate Posted: November 07, 2018 at 02:21 PM (#5783776)
IOW, if the Cubs still had signed Heyward, but didn't give him the opt-outs, how much more per year would he be making? So even with the one way benefit, teams are still going to have no issues offering them, right?
Right. It's similar in some ways to a no-trade clause.
   16. Bote Man Posted: November 07, 2018 at 02:59 PM (#5783804)
It's weird for me as a Nats fan: I never invested that much in Harper's presence on the Nats roster. I guess I considered him a mercenary who planned to test the hoopla-filled waters of free agency ASAP.

Plus, watching him as a 2-way player I've seen too many times the downside that his defense can bring when he tries to play hero by overthrowing 2 cutoff men to miss home plate by 10 feet, allowing the runner to score anyway and the batter-runner the bonus of reaching 2B. That kind of stuff curbs my enthusiasm a bit. I don't know whether any of that kind of misjudgment makes its way into defensive metrics or not, but it seems that it should be counted against him.

At the plate, when he's cold his mechanics are all out of whack and it shows, but the hitting coach is nowhere to be found so it continues for a lot longer than most guys' slumps. But if he puts up another 6+ WAR season somebody somewhere will be happy to write him onto the lineup card.

Now with RoY-in-waiting Juan Soto and now Victor Robles showing the Big League club just how valuable they can be, I don't see Rizzo in a rush to answer calls from Boras.

So long, Bryce!
   17. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: November 07, 2018 at 03:11 PM (#5783818)
If you squint you can see a young Miguel Cabrera, but I wouldn't want to be the one betting $300,000,000 on that squint.


I can also squint and see Gary Sheffield. Strong, athletic, but not really all that good defensively, potential make up issues (Sheffield admittedly was already past 'potential' issues at 25 years old). Sheffield was worth 43.3 WAR (53.3 oWAR) from 26 to 35. Not bad at all, but is that really worth $300,000,000?
   18. Ziggy's screen name Posted: November 07, 2018 at 03:45 PM (#5783839)
Wow, Sheffield was a disaster defensively. Here are Cabrera's 26 to 35 numbers: 48.5 WAR, 53.1 oWAR. Identical oWAR but Cabrera has a five win advantage over all. And Miguel Cabrera ain't cashing his paychecks for his glove.
   19. Walt Davis Posted: November 07, 2018 at 04:03 PM (#5783867)
"highest paid position player ever"

Except it's not. Miggy's 8/4240 extension matches it for AAV, Trout's AAV is $34, Stanton's extension beats it in total $$ and the remainder is 9/$270 and he hits a $32 AAV in the middle of it. The author misleadingly went with "largest FA contract" which ignores all the extensions. But sure, you can wrangle some comgination of years, AAV, ignore arb/FA differences, ignore age, decide whether/how to take deferred money into account, etc. to make this the biggest contract.

EDIT: I should add that if there really was a 10/$300 offer on the table, that is certainly a serious first offer. Setting aside deferred money games, I'm guessing he doesn't top 12/$360.
   20. Bote Man Posted: November 07, 2018 at 04:28 PM (#5783898)
My guess is that the Lerners insist on deferred money for these huge contracts (a la Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg) in the hopes that a satisfactory settlement in their MASN dispute with the Orioles comes before both Ted (the father) and Mark (the son) both kick the bucket. It has been 11 years and counting, so don't hold their breath!
   21. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: November 07, 2018 at 04:29 PM (#5783899)
Miggy's 8/4240 extension


That is some SERIOUS cash!

I'm guessing he doesn't top 12/$360.


I don't know, but if I were a GM, I would not sign him for that. I'd be more inclined to sign Manny to more money. The dude is always healthy and he's consistent.
   22. Fancy Crazy Town Banana Pants Handle Posted: November 07, 2018 at 05:29 PM (#5783954)
I don't know, but if I were a GM, I would not sign him for that. I'd be more inclined to sign Manny to more money. The dude is always healthy and he's consistent.

Sometimes, I think I must be watching a completely different sport than some people. And looking at completely different numbers than other people. If I had to give a brief description of Harper, it would be "wildly inconsistent, and frequently hurt."

Seriously, his average year to year change in OPS+ is 45.5. Let that number sink in.

His WAR totals are like a roller coaster ride: 5.2, 3.7, 1.1, 10.0, 1.5, 4.7, 1.3.

He has topped 150 games twice in 7 years. Averaging 132 games a season. Actually slightly better than I thought, but still missing 30 games a season on average is hardly iron man stuff.

If I ran a team, I would not even come close to offering him 10/300. Which - yes I understand - means I wouldn't come close to signing him. Which fine. He has been below average more often than not the last 5 seasons.

ETA: I just realised I completely misread the post. Going to let this stand. But I thought that read: sign him to Manny (Ramirez) kind of money... Probably because there is only one 'Manny' in my brain. Machado is Machado. Manny is Manny.
   23. Bote Man Posted: November 07, 2018 at 05:30 PM (#5783956)
I'd be more inclined to sign Manny to more money. The dude is always healthy and he's consistent.

Manny had a good World Series. Not a great one.
   24. Fancy Crazy Town Banana Pants Handle Posted: November 07, 2018 at 05:33 PM (#5783958)
If the players value them this much and the teams are pricing them into their offers

Part of the problem I think is that teams have not been pricing them properly into their offers. At least not all teams consistently (and it only takes one after all).

I do think teams have started to catch on to just how valuable they are, and how much risk it means they are assuming, with no potential for upside. And I think that is a large part of the reason we have seen so many unhappy free agents the past few years. Players had gotten used to getting the years, the AAV, and the opt-outs... and teams have started to clamp down on that.
   25. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: November 07, 2018 at 05:36 PM (#5783962)
Sometimes, I think I must be watching a completely different sport than some people. And looking at completely different numbers than other people.
Right there with you. I've been saying the same thing as your post for more than a year.
   26. McCoy Posted: November 07, 2018 at 05:38 PM (#5783966)

If the players value them this much and the teams are pricing them into their offers, but the players don't end up using them, doesn't it stand to reason that they'd be making even *more* if there wasn't an opt-out? IOW, if the Cubs still had signed Heyward, but didn't give him the opt-outs, how much more per year would he be making? So even with the one way benefit, teams are still going to have no issues offering them, right?


Probably the same amount. I would guess the opt outs are there because teams aren't going higher in dollars.
   27. Fancy Crazy Town Banana Pants Handle Posted: November 07, 2018 at 05:39 PM (#5783967)
Right there with you. I've been saying the same thing as your post for more than a year.

I edited that post, because I completely misread what I was responding to. But yeah, stand by the general statement about Harper.
   28. Nasty Nate Posted: November 07, 2018 at 05:50 PM (#5783971)
Part of the problem I think is that teams have not been pricing them properly into their offers. At least not all teams consistently (and it only takes one after all).

I do think teams have started to catch on to just how valuable they are, and how much risk it means they are assuming, with no potential for upside.
I guess it varies wildly from player to player. E.G. the David Price opt-out probably wasn't very valuable at the time of the signing. Whereas the JD Martinez opt-outs were valuable at the time of the signing due to the likelihood that one of them would be used. And it seems likely that the JD had to "pay" more for his than Price did.
   29. BrianBrianson Posted: November 07, 2018 at 06:20 PM (#5783979)
If I ran a team, I would not even come close to offering him 10/300. Which - yes I understand - means I wouldn't come close to signing him. Which fine. He has been below average more often than not the last 5 seasons.


You can't evaluate a player on what's bad about them, ignore what's good, and then expect to sign anybody. He's averaged just shy of 4.0 WAR/year - about 33 M$/year on the free market. Sure, it's stochastic, but ~10 years, $300 million is a sensible offer. He's only 26, I don't think you expect serious decline over 10 years (maybe a smidge, but okay). So, $300-$350 million, if you're seeing your way to 10 years, makes sense.

I don't know that I'd ever want to offer anyone 10 years. The downside is so brutal.
   30. Zach Posted: November 07, 2018 at 07:27 PM (#5784001)
Part of the problem I think is that teams have not been pricing them properly into their offers. At least not all teams consistently (and it only takes one after all).

An opt-out is an expensive contract provision masquerading as a cheap one.

Given the rates of injury, regression, and plain old aging in baseball, there's a very good chance that you end up eating the second half of the contract. In return for what? A little bit of a price discount on the part of the contract that precedes the opt-out?

Just making numbers up here... Say you're offering a $300 million contract over 10 years, with an opt-out after five. You give the opt-out because you want to hold the line at $30 million per year instead of going to $35 million.

It seems to me that you're putting $150 million on the line in hopes of saving $25 million. And you're betting on the proposition that ballplayers only get better (or at least get paid better) as they age.

I think to break even on that kind of guarantee, you'd have to get such a big discount on the first five years that the ballplayer wouldn't be interested.
   31. Zach Posted: November 07, 2018 at 07:30 PM (#5784003)
You'd have to get out actuarial tables and look at aging curves to figure out a fair price, but I would be amazed if it came out to less than $50 million.
   32. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 07, 2018 at 09:30 PM (#5784024)
An opt-out is an expensive contract provision masquerading as a cheap one.

Given the rates of injury, regression, and plain old aging in baseball, there's a very good chance that you end up eating the second half of the contract. In return for what? A little bit of a price discount on the part of the contract that precedes the opt-out?

Just making numbers up here... Say you're offering a $300 million contract over 10 years, with an opt-out after five. You give the opt-out because you want to hold the line at $30 million per year instead of going to $35 million.

It seems to me that you're putting $150 million on the line in hopes of saving $25 million. And you're betting on the proposition that ballplayers only get better (or at least get paid better) as they age.

I think to break even on that kind of guarantee, you'd have to get such a big discount on the first five years that the ballplayer wouldn't be interested.


You have to look at it from the point of view of the GM or President of Baseball Ops. If the 10/300 contract goes bad in the first 5 years, they're likely fired anyway, unless they've won a championship.

So, much better to pay 10/300 with the opt out, than 10/350 without, especially if you have all that extra $50M to spend in the early years to try and get the championship that will earn you a 5 year extension. If the contract goes south, it's the next GM's problem.
   33. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: November 07, 2018 at 09:55 PM (#5784034)
#22,

sorry my original post wasn't clear. As you figured out, I would much rather sign Machado as he's proven to more far more healthy and a darn sight more consistent then Harper.

I think Harper will produce at a decent rate however I think whichever team he goes to, the fan base will be severely disappointed at times as the expectations are going to far greater then what the production has been thus far.

Forget about Trout, Betts or Lindor. It's not like you are even signing a guy like Goldy who consistently gives you 5 WAR and 150+ games a year. I don't see why anyone would pay Harper more the Machado.
   34. Walt Davis Posted: November 08, 2018 at 04:59 AM (#5784086)
Lots of misunderstanding about opt-outs. From a GM's perspective, 10/$300 with an opt-out is WAY WAY WAY WAY better than 10/$350. If the guy's willing to walk away from 5/$150 ... and you're not willing to offer him 5/$200 (bringing your total costs up to the original $350), then hooray for you ... you got 5 years of good production and saved $25 M and aren't on the hook for the rest. It's a shame he'll be signing for more than 5/$150 somewhere else but it's hardly the end of the GM's world.

Opt-outs simply aren't worth much -- or at least rarely are. Almost nobody is going to walk away from a 5/$150 M option -- about at most they'll wrangle another year out of it and get 6/$180. (See Kershaw, CC, Upton for recent examples, probably others). The NPV of that extra year 7-11 years out is pretty trivial and opt-outs are priced accordingly.

So in your example, what are you considering as the GM's alternative? He's not getting 10/$300 without the options and he's nuts to turn that down while offering 10/$350. Meanwhile the player is nuts if he turns down 10/$350 for 10/$300 with an option after 5 years (cuz he ain't getting better than 5/$200 later). For exactly those reasons, opt-outs usually aren't very valuable to player or team.

Now opt-outs like Jason Heyward's are valuable options for the player -- at least at that discounted price. He was paid (well guaranteed with deferrals) about $28 AAV for the first 3 years. The remaining years are now 5/$100. If he was still racking up 3-4 WAR per year, he'd have walked away from it ... from the Cubs' perspective, if he could get back to producing 2-3 WAR per year, it won't really be that painful. The Cubs didn't want to commit 8/$200-220 and presumably were worried about cliff-diving/injury; Hewyard wasn't gonna sign for 8/$184 guaranteed but, as long as the contract was front-loaded (in its way) and he could get out of it, that's pretty attractive. ... So if the deal the player took over 10/$350 was 5/$200 plus an option for 5/$100 then that's worth thinking about ... I'll wait to see if any team offers a deal like that to our superstars.

This means they are also quite valuable in a relative sense for very short-term contracts. Obviously a 1-year deal with a player option for year 2 is pretty sweet; just as a 1-year deal with a team option for year 2 is pretty sweet; with the 2-year guaranteed deal sitting there in the middle somewhere.

Stanton's option on the other hand, although it's fairly early, he'd be walking away from 7/$218 covering his age 31-37 seasons. He'd have to be very confident to walk away from that -- you don't walk away from that for a chance at 7/$230, you've got to be really confident in something like 7/$250 or 10/$270 or something. That's really unlikely for those ages unless the FA market goes absolutely nuts. The deal is structured such that the $35 M ($25 + $10 M buyout) in his age 37 season is already just the excuse to make a deferred payment covering all the money the Marlins saved in the first 3 years of the contract -- and is why the Yanks made them pay nearly all of it if it comes due. So that means he would be walking away from 7/$218 in a contract that had pretty much already conceded that he would only be worth 6/$183 after age 30. That would take a lot of chutzpah.

Obviously you don't turn down $325 M but other than that, it's structured quite badly for him because of those early discount seasons. He gave the Marlins about $25-30 M discount across those years and, if he opts out, he's never getting that money "back". He similarly is in a very weak position to wrangle that extra year from the Yanks ... unless that somehow keeps the Marlins money coming. They Yanks might, for example, guarantee that option year for age 38 ... but not if it also means losing the $30 M from the Marlins.

The Marlins never expected him to be worth anything after age 36 (which means not much at age 36) but wanted to defer money. The Yanks don't expect him to be worth anything after age 36 (which means not much at age 36) so insisted the Marlins pick up the "deferred" payment. Stanton's going to be hard-pressed to convince any team that he's going to be worth a lot after age 36 and, if he can't, nobody's rocking up with 6/$218 much less the 6/$240 it would take to make sense to walk away from a 7/$218 option.
   35. Adam Starblind Posted: November 08, 2018 at 06:49 AM (#5784093)
You have to look at it from the point of view of the GM or President of Baseball Ops. If the 10/300 contract goes bad in the first 5 years, they're likely fired anyway, unless they've won a championship.

So, much better to pay 10/300 with the opt out, than 10/350 without, especially if you have all that extra $50M to spend in the early years to try and get the championship that will earn you a 5 year extension. If the contract goes south, it's the next GM's problem


Are there owners who permit their GM or President of Baseball Ops to sign this kind of contract without approval? Because what you are describing would be a very good reason never to permit such a thing.
   36. PASTE, Now with Extra Pitch and Extra Stamina Posted: November 08, 2018 at 08:56 AM (#5784119)
Executives, in baseball or anywhere else, acting out of their own self-interest rather than their employer's interest is so much the norm that it's hard to find exceptions.

In the case of baseball and opt-outs, the team president tells the owner "we can sign this player but only if we include the opt-out," Marketing (which in most organizations holds a lot of power) tells the owner "SIGN HIM SIGN HIM SIGN HIM SIGN HIM!!!" and the owner isn't nearly savvy enough about baseball to know a good idea from a bad one. As for the team president, he is certainly aware that if the first five years of this megacontract go south then he'll be fired anyway and won't personally have to deal with the consequences of a $35M/year albatross the last five years. It's an extra incentive to roll the dice, to gamble: the house is subsidizing your bet, as it were.

But in any case, with the biggest star free agents, I think it's common for owners to pressure team presidents to sign this guy, more so than the other way around.

Opt-outs have become standard in high profile contracts for the very simple reason that players value them more highly than teams do.
   37. Bote Man Posted: November 08, 2018 at 11:06 AM (#5784236)
the owner isn't nearly savvy enough about baseball to know a good idea from a bad one.


A fool and his money...were lucky ever to have come together in the first place. -- Harry Anderson
   38. Zach Posted: November 08, 2018 at 12:26 PM (#5784294)
Opt-outs simply aren't worth much -- or at least rarely are. Almost nobody is going to walk away from a 5/$150 M option -- about at most they'll wrangle another year out of it and get 6/$180. (See Kershaw, CC, Upton for recent examples, probably others). The NPV of that extra year 7-11 years out is pretty trivial and opt-outs are priced accordingly.

Yeah, that's the problem. You're guaranteeing ten years in order to get five years. And the rate of ballplayer attrition is too high to make that a good bet without a significant discount.
   39. Zach Posted: November 08, 2018 at 12:39 PM (#5784309)
I think you're pricing the option as though the risk is that the player will walk out. Whereas I'm treating it as the risk that the player will stay but not be good anymore.

Ballplayers are an extremely risky asset around age 30. Normal aging is to lose about 10% of your value per year. Guaranteeing five years of that, where the aging curve is on your side in the age 27 and 28 years is one thing. Guaranteeing ten years, when the aging curve is against you for seven or eight of them, is something else entirely.
   40. Nasty Nate Posted: November 08, 2018 at 12:41 PM (#5784313)
I think you're pricing the option as though the risk is that the player will walk out. Whereas I'm treating it as the risk that the player will stay but not be good anymore.
The risk that a player will not be good anymore is in all long-term contracts - it's not created by the opt out.
   41. BrianBrianson Posted: November 08, 2018 at 12:51 PM (#5784324)
Really, yes - a lot of it comes down to "what is the value of an opt out?" I don't think anyone has a good estimate of this. It must be possible to Monte Carlo something ...
   42. Zach Posted: November 08, 2018 at 02:36 PM (#5784406)
The Marcel the Monkey projection system uses a regression to the mean of something like 2/5 (it's a little tricky to back this out, but it averages 1200 at bats of league average rates with the last three years of the player's statistics, so 2/5 is about right).

That's for a one year projection. We're looking at a guarantee that starts five years from now, with five year of regression in our projections.

I think the projected performance of almost any player five years out is going to be close to league average.

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