The talk of the offseason is and will continue to be Miami Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton. With the organization’s management looking to rid itself of the slugger’s not-so-friendly contract — 11 more years at $25-32 million per year — many teams will call in to see what their demands are for the right fielder. Being that teams are aware of Miami’s desire to get Stanton’s contract off the books, his trade value is not all too great.
However, while that contract can serve as a major roadblock for any team looking to trade for his services, consider the contract that another star right fielder will receive next winter — that being Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals.
Harper is bound to hit the open market after the 2018 season and will, for sure, be looking to cash in big. According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, such a contract, whether that be an extension with Washington or with another team in free agency, will likely exceed $400 million. Such a deal would overtake Stanton, in terms of money, as the largest contract in sports history. When taking into account the presence and mastermind that’s agent Scott Boras, chances are he’ll get what he’s looking for.
Boras is arguably the most successful agent in sports history. He convinced the Nationals that Max Scherzer was the Peyton Manning of baseball and worthy of $210 million. He also got them to give Stephen Strasburg, who came off an injury-riddled 2015 season, $175 million. He got the Yankees to give Jacoby Ellsbury $153 million. He’s now trying to convince teams that J.D. Martinez is the “King Kong of Slug” and that Jake Arrieta is “a big squirrel with a lot of nuts.”
Will he get his way? It would not be shocking by any means if he executes, and with Harper hitting free agency next winter, that thinking will only further on Boras’ end, and likely to the 25-year-old’s benefit.
But many fans, players and executives will say that Harper is worthy of every penny in a potential mega-deal, and that they have no issue with him getting such a contract. When comparing Stanton and Harper to one another, is the Nationals’ prized stallion really that much better than the Marlins’ star?
Last year, Harper endured, yet another, successful season. Hitting .319/.413/.595, to go along with 29 home runs and 87 runs batted in, he was a key component to the Nationals winning the NL East for the fourth time in the last six seasons. Harper, though, missed a significant amount of time late in the year with a hyperextended left knee after he violently came down on first base.
It’s also important to keep in mind that before this season, Harper strung together just one truly great season. Hitting a career-high .330/.460/.649 in 2015, to go along with 42 home runs, 99 runs batted in and 118 runs scored, Harper put forth his best all-around year at the plate, as well as in the field, which resulted in him winning the NL MVP. The ensuing year, he slipped.
Hitting just .243/.373/.441 and pushing out 18 fewer home runs than he did in 2015, Harper failed to work off his MVP season. Harper has always been one of the premier names in MLB, albeit the inconsistency, but that inconsistency is a discouraging presence, as is his injury history, when offering the 25-year-old in excess of $400 million in free agency.
Then, there’s Stanton. Throughout the duration of his career, the righty has been one of, if not the most, intimidating hitters in all of baseball. His power and overall presence make him a threat to hit two home runs on any given night. Thursday afternoon, he was granted the 2017 NL MVP after hitting an astonishing 59 home runs and driving in 132 runs, both leading the majors, in what was, by far, his most productive year.
In year’s past, Stanton has always been a power threat, but hasn’t played at a high level on a consistent basis. In 2015 and 2016, he hit .265/.346/.606 and .240/.326/.489, while getting ahold of only 27 long balls per season. In fact, before 2017, the most home runs Stanton hit in a single season was 37 — which he executed in 2012 and 2014.
There’s no doubting Stanton’s presence at the plate, as well as in the field. When he gets ahold of a fastball, there’s no telling how far he can send it, and has always been smooth in right; he has a strong arm and gets behind fly balls at ease.
So who is the more impactful, reliable franchise player, Stanton or Harper? It’s not a no-brainer, nor is it unanimous, which proves that the two aren’t $100+ million better than one another.
Stanton is due approximately $314 million over the next 11 years. However, if Harper gets what he seeks — $400+ million — that will mean he’s raking in nearly $100 million more than Stanton.
Stanton is 28, Harper is 25. While he may never hit 59 home runs again, Stanton appears to have established himself and shown what he can do when he plays a full season. The same goes for Harper; they’ve both won and played at MVP levels. They can both be the missing piece or the player that puts a contending team over the top.
Whether it be the Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox or even the St. Louis Cardinals, Stanton can propel a mediocre or playoff-caliber bunch to the promise land. While the contract isn’t ideal, the figure for young, high-octane players is only going to rise; Harper is the perfect example of this.
Taking in Stanton’s $314 million is a major commitment, but if teams are intent or have no issue with breaking the bank for Harper in historic ways, why would this be an issue? The two are arguably the best at their position and have only a slight drop-off between one another. When deciding on whether to trade for Stanton or sign Harper, $100 million is quite the starting point based on how they’re on the same level as each other.
Stanton is the best and most intriguing player available on the trade or free agent market this offseason, despite the contract. However, that liability doesn’t look so bad when comparing it to the amount Harper is seeking and will most likely get in his upcoming 2018 free agency.