Getty Images

The Nationals’ “$300 million offer” to Bryce Harper was not as good as you think

89 Comments

All offseason, whenever the matter of the free agent market has arisen, readers have swooped into my mentions and comments to tell me that everything is fine and that it’s actually the players who are unreasonable. The evidence cited: “Bryce Harper turned down a $300 million offer from the Nationals!” If I’ve heard that once I’ve heard it six hundred times.

Well, turns out that there was a catch: a full one-third of that was deferred money, reducing the deal considerably in terms of present value. From MLB.com:

Sources told MLB.com on Wednesday that the Nationals have no plans to give Harper a mega-deal comparable to Machado’s 10-year, $300 million contract with the Padres, likely ending any chance for Washington’s longtime face of the franchise to remain with the club. The Nationals offered Harper a contract worth $300 million over 10 years before the end of the 2018 regular season. Harper and his agent Scott Boras rejected the deal.

Two sources said that roughly $100 million of that offer would have been deferred money, lowering the present-day value of the contract.

As Craig Edwards of Fangraphs tweeted a bit ago, a ten year, $300 million deal that pays $20 million a year for ten years then $10 million a year, deferred, after that has the same present value as a straight 10-year deal for $244 million. There are other ways to structure that — shorter deferral periods or longer, Bobby Bonilla-style periods — but no matter how you slice it, deferring one-third of a $300 million deal is a big financial hit for the player compared to the stated and widely-reported “$300 million offer.”

To be petty: when that “$300 million offer” was reported last November, I said this:

The offer was reportedly for roughly $300 million over a ten-year span. How much of that was deferred, backloaded or what have you is unknown . . . As with all reports like these, it’s worth appreciating that someone may have an incentive to put this out there. In this case, I suspect, the Nationals, to signal to fans that they made an effort to lock Harper up before he was able to negotiate with teams other than Washington. Doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, but just how specifically good or bad the deal was is not something we can know.

Well, now we know.

Anyway, as the MLB.com story notes, Harper was not taking that kind of deal from the Nationals and the Nats aren’t sweetening it, so the chances of him going back to Washington are, apparently, nil.

The takeaway: be wary of reported offers. Both when they favor the team’s interest and when they favor the player’s interest. Every single on of those reports, however interesting, and however often they may be correct, have an agenda behind them.

The Giants are winning but they’re still gonna sell

Getty Images
6 Comments

The state of baseball in general, the state of the National League in particular and the state of the San Francisco Giants as a competitor are conspiring to create what seems like at least a mildly absurd situation.

The Giants, a veteran-laden team that, as recently as this past offseason but definitely within the past couple of years, were at least talking about being on a win-now footing, just swept a four-game series, have won five straight games and have won 12 of 14 to pull themselves to within two and a half games of a playoff spot.

Yet, that’s all for temporary show, because they’re about to sell off. At least according to Jeff Passan at ESPN. Giants president Farhan Zaidi tried to push back on that in a radio interview yesterday, denying that the club has foreclosed the possibility of a postseason push, but I’m not really buying that and I don’t think most people are.

On one level it makes sense to ignore the recent surge and forge on with a rebuild. Sure, the Giants are winning but they’re not exactly good. They’re two and a half out of the Wild Card, but there are many teams ahead of them. There’s a lot of reason to think that they’re playing in good fortune right now and that that, rather than finding some extra gear of sustainable better play, is what’s to credit. Hot streaks can happen at any time but the trade deadline only comes once a year. When you have the best starter available in Madison Bumgarner and the best reliever available in Will Smith, you gotta make those deals. That’s what I’d probably do if I ran the Giants and I think that that’s, wisely, what Zaidi will do.

Still, it’s an odd look, less for the Giants specifically than for baseball as a whole. We may in an era of cheap front offices who don’t like to contend if it means spending money, but it’s unfair to paint the Giants with that brush. They’ve spent money and acquired talent and have done whatever they can to extend their 2010-2014 mini-dynasty a few more years and in doing so they’ve made a lot of fans happy. That team has pretty much reached the end and, even in an earlier, more competitive era, they’d not be properly criticized for starting in on a rebuild. Heck, they’d be excused if they had done it a year or two earlier, frankly.

But, because so many teams have punted on improving themselves, these aging Giants are at least superficially competitive. As such, when they do sell off in the coming days, it’ll look to some like they’re waving a white flag or something when they’re not really doing that. I mean, the Rockies and the Pirates, among other teams, should be much better than they are but didn’t seem all that interested in improving, thereby helping the Giants look better, right? It’s less a knock on the Giants for rebuilding when they’re within striking distance of the playoffs than it is on the rest of the league for allowing a team like the Giants to be within striking distance of a playoff spot.

But that’s where we are right now. An insanely competitive Wild Card race from teams that, on the whole, are rather unconcerned with being competitive. What a time to be a baseball fan.