Is this a good idea for the Nationals?
On one hand, Harper appears to be one of the best young players in baseball. He has the skills, he has the pedigree, and he has been one of the most hyped players in the country since he was 16 years old. Most believe that he's on track for a Hall of Fame career, and he'll likely be an All-Star for most of the 12 years that would hypothetically be included in this deal.
Also, he's only 20 years old. Even if the Nationals were to acquiesce and give him this absurdly long contract, he'd still be in his prime when the deal ended. They could theoretically be getting his 12 best seasons if they made this deal.
Additionally, the market value for top players has been increasing steadily, meaning that in 5-6 years, even the most generous of deals for Harper could be considered a bargain.
That having been said, 12 years is an absurdly long time. We have no idea what could happen to Harper and the Nationals between now and 2025. Sure, there's a chance that he could be one of the best players in baseball. But isn't there also a chance that he could suffer a bizarre injury, or run into a couple more walls? I mean... it wouldn't be the first time.
If you look at teams that are saddled by huge contracts, the story is always the same. It's not the amount of money involved in the deal, it's the number of years that they've committed to a player.
When Josh Hamilton was a free agent, teams had no problem offering him huge money deals, they just didn't want to offer him a lot of years, since he had a questionable history.
Big-money deals aren't the ones that cripple a team financially. It's the ones that last for 5 years beyond a player's usefulness.
There's a good chance that Bryce Harper will be a great player for the next 12 years. But is it worth the risk?
I don't think so. The Nationals still have him locked up for a few more years through salary arbitration, and it would be foolish for them to go all-in on a guy this early when there's no predicting what could happen next.
Just say no to long-term deals like this. The risk is high, and the reward isn't any more than if you just wait and sign him to several shorter deals.