Throughout their baseball careers, the Chicago Cubs’ Kris Bryant and the Washington Nationals’ Bryce Harper have competed against and compared with each other. Both are highly regarded throughout the league, and both are looked at as the best players on their teams, and the faces of their respective franchises. Next year in free agency at the age of 26, Harper is likely going to be the first player in history to be awarded a $400 million contract. Bryant will not reach free agency for another four years when he is 30 years old. This raises the question: Is Bryant worth that much money as well? Or is he worth more? To answer this, its best to look at it from a few different angles, specifically the career statistics and the personality of both.
The Chicago star has a career average of .289, with 102 home runs, 28 stolen bases, and a career fielding percentage of .957. Over the three years of his career, he has averaged 33 home runs a year, with 97 runs batted in and an average strikeout to walk ratio of 167 to 88. He has made the all-star team twice, won the Rookie of the Year in 2015, and won the National League MVP award in 2016.
Harper’s career statistics are incredibly similar, and most of the differences are because Harper has two more years of major league experience over Bryant. Harper has a career average of .282, with 163 career home runs, 66 stolen bases, and a career fielding percentage of .982. Over his five-year career, he has averaged a .282 batting average, 33 home runs a year, 90 runs batted in, and a strikeout to walk ratio of 99 to 139. Harper was the Rookie of the Year in 2012, the National League MVP in 2015, has made the all-star team five-times, and won a Silver Slugger award in 2015.
Comparing the two, the biggest difference statistically speaking is the stolen bases and the fielding percentage. Harper is statistically a better fielder than Bryant and has stolen 38 more bases. Despite the disparity between the two in stolen base count, they are similar in their ability to score runs, both managing to score an average of 100 plus runs a season, so Harper’s ability to steal bases hasn’t led to being able to score more runs than Bryant.
Where the difference between the two becomes starkest when you look at how they carry themselves. Bryce Harper is a non-traditional baseball player. He is flashy at the plate, brash, energetic, and seems to make baseball look more fun than the standard baseball player is able to. Kris Bryant is a typical baseball player in how he carries himself. He is reserved and confident, but not cocky. He doesn’t speak out and plays his part well on the field, while normally staying out of the center of attention off the field. Harper on the other hand often gets heated on the field and speaks openly and honestly about how he feels off the field.
Bryce Harper will be awarded the massive contract because he is a rare five-tool player who has speed, arm strength, can field, can hit for average, and hit for power. His persona itself is a draw for people to come to the ballpark, but when matched with his talent, he becomes a true face for any franchise that he is a part of. His biggest asset will be his age, as he will only be 26 when he hits the open market, meaning he will have at least eight years left of his prime. All of this together makes him attractive for every team in the MLB.
Kris Bryant has the possibility of getting a similar contract to Harper, but more than likely will be closer to Giancarlo Stanton‘s contract of $325 million than Harper’s possible $500 million deal. His tool set is nearly equivalent to Harper’s, except for the speed on the base paths. Bryant does have more utility to offer, as he can play 1st and 3rd base, along with the outfield positions. His biggest assets will be his consistency, as in each of his first three seasons he has put up around the same numbers, and his predictability. How he carries himself on and off the field is safe in comparison to Harper, so he will likely not cause any trouble for the team. His biggest disadvantage when he hits the market will be his age. At 30 years old, he will likely only have five years left of his prime, so a long-term contract that would be suited to the massive pay isn’t as reasonable to most teams.
The answer to the question is Kris Bryant is worth a lot of money to the right team, but not as much as Bryce Harper is to any team. The story of Kris Bryant vs Bryce Harper is far from over, and the comparisons will likely never stop, nor should they. The two of them are both exciting young players who have once in a generation kind of talent, and both will deserve the massive contracts they will receive. But, in this contest, Harper’s raw talent is worth more than Bryant’s, if only because of his age.