Is Bryce Harper worth the biggest MLB contract ever?

The 2019 Major League Baseball free agent list includes many who are past their prime.  Only five hitters are in their best years and of them one, Jason Heyward, 29, would be foolish to opt out of a $106 million contract.

Bill James , the granddaddy of sabermetrics, developed the “Value Approximation Method” (VAM) to measure player performance. He found that the player-age of 27 had the highest total performance of any other age. “If you must assign a five-year peak period to all players regardless of description, the best shot would be 25 to 29,” he said.

Twenty-six-year-old Bryce Harper is thought to be the cream of the free agent crop. Rumors have had him seeking the biggest contract in major league history. In reality, the right fielder, who has the speed to play center, hit just .249 in 2018 with 13 stolen bases. On the plus side Harper clobbered 34 dingers and knocked in 100 runs. The outfielder is a .279 hitter with 184 homers, during his seven-year career. The most favorable stat for Harper is his .900 OPS. Harper has averaged .267 with 28 home runs over the past three seasons.

Owners getting smart?

By way of comparison JD Martinez, 2018’s top paid free agent, signed a five-year $110 million deal with the World Series champion Red Sox. Martinez hit .330, with 45 homers and s AL-leading 130 RBI. He hit .315 with 110 dingers in the past three seasons.

Last year owners were accused of collusion for avoiding long-term, expensive contracts. However, when one looks at the bad deals given to players in the past it a simple matter of economics. The Mets were scheduled to pay Yoenis Cepedes $29 million in 2018, but he only played in 38 games.  He made an immediate impact after the Mets traded for him in 2015, but Cepedes only played half of 2017.

Similarly Miguel Cabrera was set to make $30 million from the Tigers last season, but injuries limited the 36-year-old to just 38 games. Miggy will be one expensive DH in ’19. Dare we mention Albert Pujols? The future Hall-of-Famer hit just .243 over the past two years, but it has cost the Angels $41 million.

Player’s worth

Unlike Harper, Heyward had a couple of good contract years. The result was the Cubs signing Heyward to an eight-year $184 million deal in 2016. The right fielder has five Golden Gloves to his credit.  Of course that is a whole lot of money for an average hitting outfielder who is challenged in the speed and power departments.

By the way, Cepedes, Heyward and Mike Trout were the highest paid outfielders at the start of 2018. Most baseball analysts say the Los Angles center fielder is “worth” his $32.3 million, but Trout’s contract expires in a couple of years. Giancarlo Stanton’s $25 million salary from the Yankees is another deal Harper-watchers should consider. The former Marlin inked a 13-year, $325 million deal before the Bronx Bombers acquired him. Stanton hit a MLB-leading 59 homer with an MLB-leading 132 RBI and won the MVP in his contract year.


Who are the best to ever suit up as Washington’s nine?

Washington has only been home to the Nationals for 11 years, but between 1891 and 1971 the District of Columbia enjoyed a rich, though rarely successful, professional baseball tradition. The Washington Statesmen threw out the first pitch in 1891. It was a major league franchise in the American Association.

The team switched to the National League the next season and changed its name to the Senators. A few years later, they changed the moniker back to the Nationalss. They were never very good. During their best season the Nats — probably short for National as in the league, but the city is built on a swamp and has plenty of gnats — drew 223,000 fans in 1895 their best year at the gate, but, never came close to a .500 winning percentage.

The club mercifully folded after losing 101 games in 1898 and 98 in 1899. The fact that the club drew only 86,000 that year, or next to last in the NL, may have figured into the decision.

The city had a new team, the Nationals and new league, the American League, in 1901 for a new beginning. The only problem was this team played like the old ones. A few years later, they were the Senators again. It was the same old story for another decade, until 1912 when Walter Johnson and Bob Groom combined for 57 wins between them.


Contrary to popular belief the Senators were not always losers. In fact, Washington was competitive with those Damn Yankees during the roaring ’20s. The Senators went to three World Series and won one. Naturally, most of the best players in DC history date back to those days. However, two play on the Nats today.

Sorry Bryce, Hondo and Max, but you guys don’t even get honorable mentions yet. The Homestead Grays, who played half of their Negro League home schedule in DC during the war years and two-thirds it during the late 1940’s, have a few players.


Hall-of-fame first baseman Buck Leonard played for the Grays in Washington between 1943 and 1948. It’s hard to compare Leonard’s numbers to white players, because segregation banned him from the majors. Still Leonard compiled a .300 batting average and 19 home runs in Washington. Bucky Harris was the second baseman/manager of the Senators in the club’s glory years of the ’20s. Harris batted .275 with 64 triples. Joe Cronin spent seven years a Washington’s shortstop in the 20s and 30s. He was a two-time all-star for the Senators. Ryan Zimmerman was on the hot corner between 2005 and 2013. In that time he was a solid .280 hitter, Zim offered 20+ HR potential each season and he brought runs home.


Sam Rice 2

Sam Rice

The best leftfielder in Washington baseball history is Goose Goslin. He hit .323 during his 12-year career, held an .888 ops and scored 100 or more runs three times in his career. The Homestead Grays of the Negro League played parts of their seasons in Washington and Pittsburgh during World War II. Their centerfielder, James “Cool Papa” Bell, is the best to ever play the position in DC. He played the final four seasons of his 24-year career with the Grays. Bell’s statistic’s amounted to what an average position player starting in the majors with 511 at bats. Cool Papa hit .344 at the ages of 40 – 44. Noted for his speed throughout his career, Bell stole 16 bases for Pittsburgh/Washington. Nineteen-year veteran Sam Rice roamed various outfield positions for the Senators, but mostly right field. The career .323 hitter collected 183 triples, 200 or more hits five times, 346 stolen bases and an .804 OPS.


Walter Johnson is the best pitcher Washington ever had. It’s in a book, look it up! The Big Train twice won more games in a season that Max Scherzer will start this year. Johnson won 25 or more games in seven consecutive seasons. Johnson struck out more than 3,500 in his 21 years, pitched more than 5,900 frames and kept an ERA of 2.17 over his career. Did I mention his .600 career win/loss record in spite of playing on some awful teams? By the way, the Big Train was a career .235 hitter, with 24 homers and a .616 OPS. The southpaw is none other than Gio Gonzalez. While his numbers are not great, Gio has a .586 win/loss percentage and a 3.51 ERA in Washington. If you didn’t like the Gio selection, you’ll probably like this even less. Darold Knowles was a fireman with the expansion Senators. Beginning in 1967 he was called on to keep the team in games and even save the few those Nats’ won. Over 229 games, Knowles hurled 374 innings, struck out 268 batters in 374 frames, saved 60 games and kept his ERA around 2.45.

Gibson (2)

The best catcher in Statesmen/Nationals/Senators/Grays/Senators/Nationals is Josh Gibson. He hit .381 during the last four years of his career with the Grays. That included 33 home runs in 483 at bats. “There is a catcher that any big league club would like to buy for $200,000,” Walter Johnson is attributed as saying after his career ended. “His name is Gibson…he can do everything. He hits the ball a mile, and he catches so easy he might as well be in a rocking chair. Too bad this Gibson is a colored fellow.”

MLB hope springs eternal thanks to June amatuer draft

Washington turned its fortunes around with smart selections, will others follow suit?

The 2017 amatuer draft features plenty of young arms.-

The only good thing about being one of the worst major league teams last year, is the high selection number you will be “rewarded” with in next year’s amateur draft. That’s when the worst teams have an opportunity to plant seeds to become contenders. If a bad team is really awful, it might be lucky enough to receive back-to-back first player picks. Consider the 2008 Washington Nationals, they were MLB’s worst team at 59-102. Then they drafted a kid named Stephen Strasburg with the first selection in 2009. The ’09 Nats were even worse falling to 59-103. So the club took a kid on the cover of Sports Illustrated as the first player chosen in 2010.His name was Bryce Harper.

Washington has since moved from pretender to contender. This year’s bottom feeders and cheapskates, that’s teams in the everlasting rebuilding state, would like to do the same. They are about to receive their inoculation of hope.

Here is a preview of some of the top names scheduled for draft beginning June 12. Being the first player taken may guarantee wealth — via a signing bonus — but it doesn’t ensure success on the field. Busts since 2002 include Bryan Bullington and Luke Hochever. The latter has made millions with the Royals this decade, but his performances have been subpar. Matt Bush spent 12 years in the minors — four as an infielder — before cracking the Rangers’ staff as a reliever last year. Technically he is ungraded. A few others are working through the minors as is expected.

Top prospects

Don’t be surprised if the Twins go after a pitcher with the first pick this year. Prep star #Hunter Greene and Vanderbilt’s Kyle Wright are high on their list. Wright has struck out 273, walked 82 and has a 2.57 ERA after 59 college games. Greene also plays shortstop. The thinking in Minnesota would fit in Greene is a potential power-hitting middle infielder, according to #BaseballAmerica (BA).

All told six of the top 10 prospects on BA’s list are hurlers, including the first five. If the Twins pass on Greene — a high school all America — the Reds are expected to take him with the next pick. Cincinnati also has its eye on Brandon McKay, a pitcher/first baseman for Louisville. McKay posted a .705 slugging percentage and was 9-3 on the mound with a 2.37 ERA.

Baseball America sees the Twins going for pitchers with Greene dropping to San Diego in the third pick. Many talent evaluators like the right handers 90+ mph fastball and believe he has potential. Greene’s athleticism always makes shortstop a nice alternative.

Greene is graduating from Notre Dame High School in Southern California, the same school Giancarlo Stanton attended. He has committed to UCLA.

Young arms

If Greene falls to third selection, high school players could be the third, fourth and fifth selections. Tampa is looking for the best player available and that will be 2017 High School All America Royce Lewis of JSerra Catholic High in California. UC-Irvine has recruited Lewis. Southpaw MacKenzie Gore, if available, would be a likely target for Atlanta. Gore is graduating from Whiteville High in North Carolina. Gore went 9-0 with a save and played right field and first base. He has committed to East Carolina. TCU-commit Shane Baz is expected to be on the Braves short list if Greene and Gore are already taken. Baz is also a high school all America. #MLB’s amateur draft

AL flag is up for grabs

Pitchers, catchers and fantasy gods like Mike Trout and Josh Donaldson are in their respective camps. It is never too early to ask who will win the 2016 pennant. After crunching the numbers, the Fantasy Baseball Algorithm (FBA) foresees Houston in the World Series come October.

Six Astros are listed in’s  top 100 fantasy projection. Five are in the American League’s top 25 players. Cleveland also has a half dozen Indians in the top 100, but four are pitchers, including a closer.

The FAB has the Red Sox, which feature some speed this year, winning a tight race in the East, the Indians in the Central and Astros in the West. The wild card races are not nearly as easy to pick. FAB has the Chisox and Blue Jays continuing their seasons.

The bookies see things differently. They have Toronto repeating in the East, Kansas City on top in the Central and Houston claiming the West. Bettors foresee Boston in the playoff with the Yankees, with the Indians, Tiger and Yankees slugging it out for the final spot.

Sonny Gray

The FBA works with fantasy projections similar to bacon and eggs. If you plug in the projection name with the corresponding number below, then you should find which team is the likely pennant winner, barring injuries or Ian Desmond-like 2015 seasons. For example, Oakland starter Sonny Gray is projected to have a great season. Some see him winning 15 games on a bad team. He will do this by allowing only one base runner per inning, which in turn should lead to an ERA of less than 3. Gray is also capable of striking out 200 batters. Gray is a fantasy owners dream.

Players rated 1-17 are superstars; they bring fantasy owners at least four contributions of five categories. Chris Davis only brings power hitting, but in the eyes of, that is enough this year. By the way, defense or being a “good clubhouse influence” doesn’t matter in fantasy baseball, but it does in the real game.

Players ranked 19-49 will probably have great seasons; these guys bring solid numbers in multiple categories, but their power potential is a little less or pitchers might have a slightly higher rate of yielding base runners per inning pitched or less strike outs. That may mean something to a fantasy owner, but it means nothing at all to a fan looking to project a division or league winner.

Baseball players in 50-100 should produce well in multiple facets of the game. Most of these guys are either up-and-coming or on the downside of their careers. David Ortiz, for example, is 40. He has played half of his life in MLB already. Still, the Cookie Monster is projected to hit 30 home runs and collect more than 90 RBI in 2016.