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The Phillies just paid $330M for a Joe Mauer clone

Still think the Twins should've signed him?

After being unsigned for months, Bryce Harper has finally landed his coveted contract.

Harper has reportedly agreed to a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies that includes no opt-out clauses. He won't be a free agent until 2032. 

Some speculated – including this website and writer – whether the Twins could land baseball's most coveted free agent, but after hearing those terms the Twins probably dodged a bullet.

Since the dawn of humanity, or at least since the Pohlad family bought the team in the 1980s, Twins fans have wanted their club to open up the checkbook for every free agent imaginable. 

This is despite the fact this organization remains towards the bottom in revenue and net worth.

Meanwhile, many of the same fans begging the team to spend top dollar on top free agents have spent the past five years complaining about Joe Mauer's eight-year, $184 million deal that he signed in 2010. 

That's where Harper's new mega deal gets interesting. 

In terms of average annual value, Harper will only make about $2 million more than Mauer did.

  • Mauer's annual cap hit: $23 million
  • Harper's annual cap hit: $25.3 million

Some argue Harper is already a better talent than Mauer was, even though Harper's coming off a season in which he hit just .240 (Mauer never hit under .250 in a season). 

What's really scary is how the two have had very similar careers. Both were No. 1 overall picks, both won MVP awards by their seventh year in the league, both have battled injuries and their career slash lines are nearly identical through seven seasons. 

The one thing that Harper does better than Mauer was put the ball in the seats. Harper has averaged 32 home runs while the St. Paul native averaged just 16, and that number was inflated with one big season. 

But the comparisons from their first seven seasons don't stop there. 

  • Mauer per 162 games: 16 home runs, 92 RBI, 85 walks, 68 strikeouts
  • Harper per 162 games: 33 home runs, 92 RBI, 103 walks, 146 strikeouts 

In terms of accolades, Mauer was the better defender and better all around player while Harper made more All-Star Games.

  • Mauer: 4 Gold Gloves, 4 All-Star Games and 3 Silver Sluggers
  • Harper: 1 Gold Glove, 6 All-Star Games and 1 Silver Slugger

And finally, and the analytics community is going to love this, Mauer had a higher WAR (Wins Above Replacement) than Harper. 

Supply and demand in free agency has changed in the last 10 years so obviously things cost more than they did. But if Mauer was in Harper's shoes in 2019, he very well could've gotten even more money than Harper.

The Twins have dodged a bullet

My question for Twins fans, especially those who complained about Mauer's contract: Would you have been cool with the Twins paying Harper what the Phillies are?

The Twins would have gone from one costly contract to another, and while there would no doubt have been a short-term buzz about Harper, that would certainly wear off in the event he sees the same decline as Mauer after signing, the only difference being there's be an extra 5 years and $100 million of payments to make.

That's why for all the desire for the Twins to open their checkbook and splash the cash, doing so comes with incredible risks – how often do these lengthy mega contracts truly work out? 

As a human being, I wish Harper nothing but the best and I hope he and the Phillies have success in the years to come.

But then there's part of me that really wants to see him collapse in on himself like a dying star and see what the reaction is in Philly which, by the way, is a hell of a lot harder on their athletes than they are here in Minnesota.

The Twins' payroll might not be at the top – or even where it was last year – but at least they're no longer bogged down by a gigantic contract that could end in tears.

That said, if the Twins fancy dropping $500 million on free agent Mike Trout next year, they have my blessing...

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