As the Washington Nationals inch closer to their first World Series title, former face of the franchise Bryce Harper is watching from home. The $330 million man signed his 13-year contract during the previous offseason, making Harper a likely career-long member of the Philadelphia Phillies.
By signing Harper to the largest contract in the history of North American sports at the time, the Phillies’ hopes were high. This kind of paycheck is only given to individuals whom a team believes will bring significant success.
It has only been one season, but the Harper-less Nationals are two games away from the first-ever championship, while the Phillies missed the postseason entirely.
Fellow MLB stars like Mike Trout and Manny Machado signed similarly large deals, and neither resulted in playoff appearances. This is a strong example of why a single player does not define an entire team, which makes these absurd contracts detrimental to the sport.
Beyond the money, deals longer than a decade potentially lock players into a single franchise for the entirety of their careers. Both players and organizations would be better off signing shorter contracts with more money per year. This would help regulate the free agency market, as the long-term deals being signed in 2019 have set a dangerous precedent for the future of baseball.
Since players are already locked into six-year, non-guaranteed rookie contracts, most players are unable to test the free agency waters until their late twenties. Other teams are hesitant to give an almost-30-year-old a lengthy deal, which then pressures players into signing extensions with their current teams. Free agency is by no means free, as this is an incredibly restrictive market. In order for this to improve, shorter deals must be promoted.
High school and college baseball players will be impacted by these new contracts as well. The future of baseball will be determined by the free agency market, which is currently severely flawed. College athletes such as those at UO will be drafted or signed into what some call a broken system.
The most desirable contracts in all major sports are those signed by the league’s top players. These contracts set the bar for executives, agents and players when free agency begins, and players with similar talent levels typically want to be compensated like their peers.
By altering the standard of a superstar’s deal, promoting one that is shorter and shells out more per year, the sport will be improved.
Ultimately, a single player does not make or break a franchise. Fewer years with more money per year will help regulate the free agency markey, along with shorten the length of rookie contracts. Unless major changes are made, the future of MLB hangs in the balance.