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.


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