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Pros and cons of Harper signing 1-year deal

theScore logo theScore 2/7/2019 Jason Wilson
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It's February, which means spirits are high with spring training kicking off in a couple weeks. And, somehow, Bryce Harper still doesn't have a contract for 2019.

Harper - and fellow free agent Manny Machado - remaining jobless this far into the offseason is concerning for the league, the players, and the fans. No team appears eager or willing to meet the 2015 MVP's demands for a deal covering the prime years of his career.

And so, as we approach the regular season, at least eight teams are reportedly interested in the slugging outfielder. But only on a short-term deal, and not the decade-long contract he's seeking.

Let's explore what the pros and cons might be for Harper if he inks a one-year contract for the 2019 campaign.

Pro: Possible record-breaking deal

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A short deal would be unprecedented, and it could give teams more incentive to splurge on Harper.

A massive contract also wouldn't hamstring front offices in the future when trying to make free-agent additions or offer extensions. Harper would be off the books this fall, and the signing team wouldn't risk crossing the luxury tax threshold for multiple years.

Only one player has commanded a contract worth more than $300 million (Giancarlo Stanton), and only six contracts have been issued that average north of $30 million annually, according to Cot's Contracts.

For Harper to even consider a short deal, it will have to be for an impressive amount. If he and agent Scott Boras are seeking a contract worth more than $300 million over 10 years, then a one-year, $30-million deal is out of the question. Would $40 million get the job done? Fifty? The amount would have to be astronomical for Harper to acquiesce.​​​​​​​

Injury-ridden 33-year-old third baseman Josh Donaldson signed a one-year deal worth a reported $23 million with the Atlanta Braves this offseason. Harper, who's several years younger with no lingering injuries, should eclipse that number by a wide margin.

Nolan Arenado and the Colorado Rockies avoided arbitration with a record-setting $26-million contract for the upcoming campaign. Surely, Harper will command much more than that, as the Arenado deal is less than he was asking for annually on a longer agreement.

A one-year contract would be limited to contenders, or teams on the fringe of contention. Signing Harper wouldn't make sense for the Baltimore Orioles or Detroit Tigers, or other rebuilding teams. Granted, contenders don't appear very interested right now, which is shameful.

Con: Serious injury or poor season would be catastrophic

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One of the main reasons Harper would ask for a record-breaking salary on a one-year contract - besides pure capitalist impulses - is insurance.

Harper has remained relatively healthy throughout his career, but nothing is certain. If he signs for one season and suffers a horrible injury, his chances of landing the contract he desires next offseason will be even more remote.

Likewise, if Harper doesn't perform at or near an MVP level, he'll hurt his cause going forward. Had he hit free agency immediately following his 2015 season when he slashed .330/.460/.649 with 42 home runs in 153 games, maybe things wind up differently.

However, he's failed to reach that level in each of the past three seasons for various reasons. If he has a fourth straight underwhelming year, what kind of contract will Harper get?

Pro: Dealer's choice

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For the sake of argument, let's say the Rockies - a fringe playoff team - are considering a run at Harper. That could be a mutually beneficial idea. Harper would get to play his home games at Coors Field while batting in front of, or directly behind, Arenado. It'd be an ultimate win-now move, too, with Arenado slated to hit the open market after 2019 as well, and it would put Harper in an excellent situation to boost his stock.

There's much less margin for error if securing a long-term deal is Harper's ultimate goal. Going to a pitcher-friendly home field like Petco Park probably isn't happening unless the San Diego Padres give him a decade of security. Going to Coors Field in Denver, or taking advantage of Yankee Stadium's short porch, are far more appealing options.

While it isn't the perfect scenario for Harper, being open to a short deal gives him more choices. He doesn't have to settle for the only team willing to give him close to what he wants.

He would also re-enter free agency without a qualifying offer attached, meaning interested teams won't have to forfeit a draft pick. He'd be 27, too, younger than Arenado, Chris Sale, Paul Goldschmidt, Anthony Rendon, Khris Davis, and other pending 2019 free agents.

Con: Massive step backward

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Under the guise of intelligence, teams have apparently concluded that giving into Harper's demands isn't in their best interests. Which is understandable if the player in question is in his 30s, and teams aren't looking to be handcuffed to a contract that will lead to diminishing returns on the back end. But that's not what would happen here.

On a 10-year deal, Harper would hit free agency again at 36. Teams shouldn't be hesitant to give significant money to a player of his caliber and age.

Call it pride, or call it whatever you want, but settling for a one-year deal, even a record-setting one, is a loss for Harper and his camp. And that goes beyond Harper in the end.

Mike Trout, the best player on the planet, is scheduled to be a free agent in 2021. What will his contract look like?

It sounds ridiculous to suggest no one will want to give Trout a lot of money as he continues to cement his legacy. But Harper getting a 10-year deal was also seen as a stone-cold lock up until about a month ago. Trout is amazing, but will owners think the second half of his career is worth the investment?

Harper settling for a short-term contract would be a shame for him, and a major loss for the players union going forward. It's embarrassing that the league's spending hesitancy has gone this far already.

Expecting Harper to sign a prove-it contract on the off chance something changes next offseason is laughable and insulting.

He's proven his worth. He's Bryce Harper.

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