Here are 5 players who could top Bryce's deal

Record payday could be in the future of Trout, Betts, Bryant, Bregman, Soto

March 1st, 2019

Of all the fascinating aspects to ’s 13-year, $330 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies -- no-trade clause! no deferrals! no opt-outs! -- it came down to that big number at the end: $330 million. That is, of course, the largest amount ever guaranteed to a player in baseball history, besting the $325 million Giancarlo Stanton got from the Marlins in 2014. (And later, of course, the Yankees.)

All told, five years is about how long these records tend to stand: Stanton’s contract broke the record that Alex Rodriguez set in 2008, six years before. And A-Rod broke his own record, set prior to the 2001 season.

So this makes us wonder: How long will Harper’s record stand? Here are the five players with the best chance to beat it. And remember: There is a good chance these guys will top Harper’s annual average value ($25.4 million), not to mention Manny Machado’s ($32.5 million), but the challenge here is getting a deal that will surpass $330 million in total value.

(Players are listed in order of when they will become free agents, starting with the soonest.)

, OF, Angels

The most likely answer is the most obvious, right? Trout’s the best player in baseball, he’s been the best player in baseball for several years now and he’ll hit the market before he turns 30, following the 2020 season. Still: It is not a slam dunk that Trout beats Harper. He’ll hit the market three years older than Harper was this year, and one of his most likely suitors (Philadelphia) might have dropped out of the race by signing Harper.

Is someone going to give Trout $35 million for 10 years? At the age of 29? Even with a player of Trout’s caliber, that’s a major risk. (Ask the Angels about Albert Pujols, after all.) There’s a non-zero possibility that Mike Trout is still Mike Trout for the next two years and still doesn’t beat Harper’s overall total. Harper’s combination of age and production is going to be difficult to beat. Even for Trout.

, OF, Red Sox

Like Trout, Betts is a free agent after the 2020 season, and, from all accounts, he and the Red Sox aren’t particularly close to an extension. He’s coming off an MVP season -- he has finished in the top six in MVP voting the last three years -- and he already plays for a team that has shown it’s willing to spend with any team in the game. He’s charismatic in a way that, frankly, no other player on this list quite is. And he’ll be hitting free agency the same year as Trout, which could end up raising both their prices in a bidding war ... and remember, Betts is actually 14 months younger than Trout.

, 3B, Cubs

This is the shakiest one on this list, if only because he’s older than Harper, won’t be a free agent until after 2021 and will turn 30 before Opening Day 2022. But if he recovers from last year and has a monster 2019 -- which looks like a distinct possibility -- he could reasonably ask the Cubs for the Nolan Arenado extension ($260 million over eight years) plus a little bit more, either on the years or on the average annual value.

It’d probably have to be an extension for Bryant to beat Harper’s value -- since that would buy out a couple of arbitration years, and he’d probably be too old when he hits the market otherwise to hit $330 million or 10 years -- but at his peak, he’s probably even a better player than Arenado. He also has the advantage of that whole fielding-the-last-out-of-the-Cubs’-first-World-Series-title-in-more-than-a-century thing going for him as well.

, 3B, Astros

Bregman isn’t a free agent until after the 2022 season, but he’s only 24 years old now (meaning he’ll hit the market at 28) and looks like the best player on the Astros, one of the best teams in baseball.

He’s the sort of player you can build a whole team around and he’s as close to a social-media, NBA-style fun trash talker as baseball has right now. You don’t think, say, New York would embrace a guy like that? If he has three more years like the one he just had, the deal Arenado just signed probably doesn’t even get the conversation started.

Juan Soto, OF, Nationals

All right, so it’s probably a bit silly to start projecting out a contract for a guy who just turned 20 and won’t be a free agent until after the 2024 season (he’ll turn 26 that October). But of the three candidates for the “What if it takes another six years to break Harper’s record?” possibilities -- Soto, Ronald Acuna Jr. and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. -- Soto seemed like the best bet. First off, he’s a year younger than Acuna, and he plays for a team that (traditionally) spends more money than the Braves do. Second, he’s only six months older than Guerrero but will (probably) hit free agency two years earlier.

But the primary reason is that Soto was an absolute monster last year, and he is roughly on the same track and timeline as the guy whose record he is trying to beat. It’s a stretch, but it’s not impossible.