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The Baseball Show: Time to sign Harper to an extension?

May 26, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT

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This week’s episode of ‘The Baseball Show’ again featured lots of talk about Bryce Harper, but it’s probably safe to assume that Nationals fans can’t get enough right now. The guy is playing like an MVP at just 22 years old and almost every night he’s doing something amazing.

In this first segment from the show, Mark talks with host Rob Carlin and analyst Joe Orsulak about when the Nationals should try and sign Harper to a long-term extension.

Giancarlo Stanton broke records with a $325 million deal this past winter. Could Harper be in line for something similar?

This second clip looks at Harper’s ejection from Wednesday’s game and Orsulak explains what he can do next time to avoid getting tossed:

In this third video, I examine Max Scherzer’s impact so far both on and off the field:

  1. scnatsfan - May 26, 2015 at 11:34 AM

    I can’t imagine Harper signs an extension here right now… and I have a pretty good imagination. I would love it though.

    • bowdenball - May 26, 2015 at 11:40 AM

      Everyone has a price. I’m pretty sure if they put a 15 year $500 million offer sheet on the table Harper would sign it, but I seriously doubt the team would do it. Just as I’m sure the team would happily offer him 8 years $150 million right now and there’s no way Harper would sign it. The question is whether there’s a middle ground there that works for both sides.

      That said, this seems like the worst possible time to have such discussions. Last year was probably the time to do it, or maybe if he ever goes into a prolonged slump and starts to doubt his market value. Right now Harper probably thinks he’s worth $400+ million, and I’m not sure he’s wrong.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 26, 2015 at 1:31 PM

        I’m pretty sure if they put a 15 year $500 million offer sheet on the table Harper would sign it

        Probably, but there’s always what’s known in real estate as the Greater Fool theory. If there’s one fool out there who’s willing to pay 15/500M, maybe there’s an even bigger fool willing to top that. There’s only one way to find out.

      • drazthegr8 - May 26, 2015 at 2:34 PM

        Mr. Sofa, the challenge for Harper is he would have to wait over 4 years to test out that theory. If he gets a $400MM deal now, he’d have to take it.

      • rlndtln - May 26, 2015 at 2:39 PM

        you are nuts.Better to give him a 5 per cent ownership.

    • Eugene in Oregon - May 26, 2015 at 11:41 AM

      At this point, I think the only way the Nats could extend Bryce Harper before he becomes a free agent would be for the owners to sign a blank contract and then have Scott Boras fill in the various numbers (i.e., total years, dollar figures, opt-out year). And, even then, I’m still not sure that would work.

    • tcostant - May 26, 2015 at 1:29 PM

      Ironicly. the Nats have Haprer locked into $5M next year, because of Boras opt-out screw up and two year contract that “fixed” it. I syll could see a 12 to 15 years deal for over $300M that buys out three years of under team control with an opt out after 6 years. He could still be a free agent before 30 years old while backing around $100M. It’s dueable.

  2. davebinmd - May 26, 2015 at 11:38 AM

    The Harper extension talk is a moot point, as long as his agent is Scott Boras, it’s not going to happen. That’s not to say the Nats couldn’t keep him, but they will only do it by being the highest bidder after he hits the open market, and of course, he wants to stay here.

  3. Steady Eddie - May 26, 2015 at 11:51 AM

    Takes two to tango. Anyone raising this topic who doesn’t prominently factor in two key words — Scott Boras — is missing the central factor in this. This conversation is therefore pointless until minimum a couple of seasons more to establish, potentially, a superstar level of production to warrant the highest possible contract.

    On past form, Boras would wait until Bryce becomes a FA to start a bidding war to end all bidding wars. But there may be a possibility that he may want to have a different pattern here, to show owners and GMs that there can be rewards to playing as nice with him as the Nats have, which is as much as anyone realistically can do. No way that provides any discount in the ultimate astronomical price, but there could be a benefit to the Boras brand that lets the team that takes as many Boras clients as the Nats have get an early, proprietary first crack at a macro bucks extension for the players they drafted.

    • ward5nedc - May 26, 2015 at 12:00 PM

      That makes a lot of sense Eddie.

    • drazthegr8 - May 26, 2015 at 2:36 PM

      Disagree. This isn’t a typical Boras contract and Harper is atypically young. Even with a 8 year contract, he’d be FA eligible at 30 years old. Harper/Boras would be crazy not to lock in $300MM now with the option of another bite at the apple during his prime years.

  4. Candide - May 26, 2015 at 11:59 AM

    I was going to say, “Don’t argue with the ump and you’ll never get tossed,” but then I remembered the story about how catcher Clint Courtney (who was with the Senators for a couple of years) once got tossed without having said a word.

    The story is that Courtney was arguing with the ump on a number of calls, and the ump finally told him that the next word he said would get him tossed.

    So Courtney squatted behind the plate, and the next time the ump called a ball, Courtney drew a vertical line in the dirt with his throwing hand.

    Next ball, he repeated it.

    Finally, on the fifth ball called by the ump, Courtney drew a line through the four previous ones and the ump threw him out.

    Wish I could find the source for that story. As an old history prof of mine was fond of saying, “If it isn’t true, it should be.”

    Entertaining bio of Courtney here. Nothing about the above story, but a fun read regardless.

    • rmoore446 - May 26, 2015 at 1:24 PM

      Thanks for the link to the entertaining story n Scrap Iron Courtney. Paul Richards had a group of coaches and players who followed him from franchise to franchise. I lived in Atlanta when he brought in Courtney to teach and condition to catchers and remember Joe Torre used to talk about tough he was on them. I think Uecker may have overlapped with him in Atlanta. I bet he’d have some stories.

  5. langleyclub - May 26, 2015 at 12:02 PM

    Not going to happen. Boras was openly critical of the Mike Trout deal. There is no hometown discount for any Boras client, and Harper’s value climbs with each at bat. Think that there is a good chance that Harper re-ups with the Nats when he is a free agent, but Boras wants to wait and see what the open market brings (and it will be ridiculous unless Harper suffers a major injury).

    Hard to question Boras’ strategy given his success, but if Strasburg continues his downward spiral, there is a downside to refusing to negotiate early long term deals as the money that the Nats might be willing to offer SS is less now than it was a year or two ago and his value will continue to drop until and unless he turns it around.

  6. Hiram Hover - May 26, 2015 at 12:12 PM

    Scott Boras is not all powerful. He is opposed to extensions and so advises his clients. Bryce picked Boras as his agent, knowing his history.

    But if Bryce really wanted to explore an extension, then Boras would be obliged to do so. Boras clients have signed extensions in the past.

    In other words, don’t put this on Boras.

    • adcwonk - May 26, 2015 at 12:44 PM

      It might be a combination. I mean, I can envision Boras convincing Bryce, “wouldn’t it be cool to get the largest contract in the history of MLB?”, and Bryce going for it. In such a case, I’d put it on both of them.

      But, you’re right — no matter what happens, you can’t put it all on Boras. (But, possibly a lot, in some circumstances)

      • Theophilus T.S. - May 26, 2015 at 1:38 PM

        Boras’s position would be that he can get the biggest contract in baseball history either way. But he can get the biggest biggest contract by having a bidding contest. The problem with this is that Boras doesn’t play fair. He got Alex Rodriguez’s $252MM contract by lying about an “offer” from the Red Sox that didn’t exist. That is why he won’t allow — and I really mean allow — Harper to sign an extension: Boras needs to create a bidding “war” even when none exists. If Harper has a vision from God that says, “Sign an extension,” he’ll have to break with Boras to do it. And I don’t see that happening.

      • adcwonk - May 26, 2015 at 1:43 PM

        If Harper says “sign an extension” and Boras says “no” — then, yeah, there should be a break, because Boras has then violated the terms of his contract. Boras works for Harper, not vice versas.

  7. adcwonk - May 26, 2015 at 12:42 PM

    Off topic, but got new-posted, and it’s fun, so . . .

    Were the Nats ever at .600 in 2014 like today? Seems like a milestone of *sum* sort.

    Nice observation! Last year, after their 15th game (at which point they were 9-6) they never again reached .600

    They never got to .590 until game 159, and finished at .593

    From game 30 thru game 152, they were below .570

    This year: hit .590 last Friday, and then, after yesterday: .600

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 26, 2015 at 3:04 PM

      h/t to HomeParkDC on that original post, btw.
      Credit where it’s due.

  8. Candide - May 26, 2015 at 12:57 PM

    There’s a downside to waiting for free-agency, too. Say he goes into September leading the majors in every offensive and defensive category known to man, then catches a cleat and tears up his knee or a shoulder.

    And then the next two years, he hits .275 with 22 home runs per season, loses something off his throws as a result of the nagging shoulder (tell Ryan Zimmerman that can’t happen), can’t run down balls in the outfield or take the extra base any more like he used to – and that becomes his new baseline.

    How much would that cost him in future earnings? It would certainly cost him nine figures, the only question being whether the leftmost number is a one or a two (i.e., $100 million or $200 million…).

    I think Mark’s right – If you’re going to offer an extension, it would have to start at Stanton-type money. But I also think he’s wrong when he says the price will only go up. That’s assuming no career-altering injuries

    • masterfishkeeper - May 26, 2015 at 1:01 PM

      Right, but most players and almost all Boras clients are willing to take that risk, rather than settle for a contract that isn’t the maximum.

      • Candide - May 26, 2015 at 1:28 PM

        True, that. But one might justifiably wonder if after his last two injury-ridden seasons, Harper realizes at long last that he ISN’T indestructible.

    • adcwonk - May 26, 2015 at 1:10 PM

      The horror-story you mention for waiting for free agency — that’s the downside for the player.

      But same he horror-story you mention, but he signed with the team — is the downside for the team.

      It’s reported that Ian turned down a great deal last year — it may have cost him big time.

      But had he signed — that might have cost the Nats big time.

      Ya’ never know . . . .

  9. David Proctor - May 26, 2015 at 1:18 PM

    As Boswell pointed out today, it’s too soon. Stanton had already put up 3 30 homer seasons before the Marlins gave him his mammoth contract. And you know if Boras is going to talk extension, it’s going to eclipse Stanton’s.

    And any contract would certainly include an opt out for the player, similar to Stanton’s. I could envision something like 12 years, 400 million with an opt out after 6 years. That would enable Harper to become a free agent at age 29 and cash in another massive contract.

    Almost all the risk in that type of deal falls on the team. I’m not sure how eager the Nats will be to get something like that done.

  10. unterp - May 26, 2015 at 1:30 PM

    there are only two possible outcomes for Mr. Harper: he extends and makes a lifetime commitment to the Nationals as he has hinted as being as like Jeter or Ripken; or plays the rest of his career for the Yankees. It’s one or the other. It won’t come down to money since either organization can pay him…

    • jd - May 26, 2015 at 1:49 PM

      It always comes down to money.

    • David Proctor - May 26, 2015 at 2:26 PM

      I don’t understand this insistence the Yankees are always going to be the highest bidder. You realize there are probably 20+ teams that could afford him. The Marlins just paid their star $325 million dollars.

      Not every team can afford to have a ton of massive contracts, but most can afford to have one or two. The Reds are in one of the smallest markets, they gave Joey Votto over $200M. The Brewers gave Ryan Braun a big deal. The Mariners just pried away Robinson Cano from the Yankees last season.

      I think there are a lot of antiquated ideas about payroll and big market teams.

      • Eugene in Oregon - May 26, 2015 at 3:33 PM

        As you know, the Yankee focus (from fans) is based on Bryce Harper’s comments as a 16-year-old and his (or is it his father’s) worship of Mickey Mantle. I agree with you that lots of teams can afford his contract. And, in my mind, I don’t take the musings of 16-year-old as forever deterministic.

  11. Sec 3, My Sofa - May 26, 2015 at 1:34 PM

    For the record, FWIW, I think it’s too soon for both sides, too.

    I just can’t help imagining what a healthy Bo Jackson would get now. Caramba.

  12. homeparkdc - May 26, 2015 at 2:24 PM

    The idea of not looking directly at an ump or not looking him in the eye, isn’t that what we do with *strange* people on the street or on a subway?

  13. rlndtln - May 26, 2015 at 2:43 PM

    Nats must sign Harper to a long term agreement or there is no baseball in DC.I would think a 15 year deal similar to Scherzer but for 25 million a year.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 26, 2015 at 3:00 PM

      Nats must sign Harper to a long term agreement or there is no baseball in DC.

      Not only is that the only responsible position to take, I think they should be forced to sell the team, and move it to … lessee …. BROOKLYN! Yeah, that’s the ticket! Brooklyn! And rename them The Sewer Gators.

      • adcwonk - May 26, 2015 at 3:32 PM

        I think you misunderstand. I think the original poster suspects that Bryce’s birth name was Bob Short.

        Or something like that . . .

  14. naterialguy - May 26, 2015 at 3:03 PM

    Okay, so here what I think is an interesting possibility. We always talk about salaries going up and up. But I read an article talking about how live sports is the last fromtier for television’s massive profitability. In this article they wer talking about how the recent fight while it raised a ton of money it also was fairly openly pirated and watche for free. This led me thinking back on the Napster phenomena and what ultimately the MP3 revolution has done to the music industry.
    Is it possible that the same thing could happen with professional sports? Could the astronomical fees they receive from TV contracts start to shrivel as less and less people have to rely on standard broadcasts to see the games?

    Not sure. But nobody would have predicted the decline of the music industry, the decline of print media and other such market shocks.

    If this did happen then the days of multi-million dollar contracts may become a thing of the past with athletes becoming much more reality based as far as incomes.

    • homeparkdc - May 26, 2015 at 4:03 PM

      Interesting take on things. Off the top of my head, I’d say that music is not comparable because you listen to music repeatedly for years. Seldom do we watch old games. On the other hand, the younger generation might be happy with video baseball games – not live ones at all. Bottom line, this is for the next generation to worry about – I’m too old.

  15. Ghost of Steve M. - May 26, 2015 at 3:31 PM

    It’s an interesting question to have fun with. I always thought Bryce would be the first $300 million man before Stanton eclipsed that. Have to think Lerner would have to go 17 years and $375+ million or close to $400 million.

    It’s just play money but people watch the Nats now to see what Bryce does. He is big box office now.

  16. natsdial8 - May 26, 2015 at 5:26 PM

    SO much money at stake and SO many variables. We are talking life time wealth and providing for generations. As bad ass and difficult as Boras is he HAS to take a position to lock up X $ and build in options. Seems to me some type of extension before FA is in order. Unless Boras has an insurance policy in force for mega $ covering all contingencies can he direct 34 to play chicken? We’ll see:)

  17. TheBigDummy - May 26, 2015 at 6:14 PM

    Back up the Brinks truck to his house. Back up two or three of them. Make the man an offer he can’t refuse.





As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...

MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.

*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at Click here for past audio clips.

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