Bryce Harper's deal with the Washington Nationals is a win for both sides, right down to the funny structure of the deal: $9.9 million spread out over five years plus $100,000 in salary, allowing the Nats to say it was under $10 million and Harper and Scott Boras to say it reached that milestone.
The major league contract puts Harper on the fast track to the majors, as he'll have four option years to finish his minor league apprenticeship, after which he would have to pass through waivers to return to the farm system.
Harper now likely moves out from behind the plate to right field to speed his path through the minors. As a catcher, he had the potential to become one of the most valuable players in baseball, an offensive force at a position where teams are constantly messing around with Bengie Molinas and Rod Barajases. At the same time, leaving him behind the plate would have meant more development time as he improved his receiving and worked on game calling, and catchers are far more prone to injury than right fielders. Third base, another potential destination for hard-throwing Harper, is filled rather well in Washington right now by Ryan Zimmerman.
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Keith Law joined ESPN.com in June 2006 as the lead baseball analyst for Scouts Inc., covering the majors, minors and amateurs. He appears regularly across the ESPN family of networks, providing analysis on all baseball topics.
Before joining ESPN, Law spent 4½ years with the Toronto Blue Jays as a special assistant to the general manager, and was previously a writer for Baseball Prospectus. He graduated from Harvard College and holds an MBA from the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon.