Bryce Harper's slump: After signing huge contracts, these stars struggled

Thomas Barrabi
Fox Business

Philadelphia Phillies star Bryce Harper has already endured his fair share of boos after a slow start in his first season since signing a $330 million contract, but he isn’t the first superstar to struggle after landing a massive deal.

Harper is hitting just .220 with 7 home runs and 25 RBIs through the first 42 games of the season. The 26-year-old slugger has 57 strikeouts, more than any other National League hitter. His on-base plus slugging percentage – a crucial barometer of offensive production – stands at .801, more than 80 points lower than last year.

“I don’t have a tangible reason why we shouldn’t play him,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said earlier this week, when asked if he’d consider temporarily benching Harper. “We think he gives us our best chance to win tonight. We think he will be positively impacted by being in tonight’s lineup. We’ll consider it on a day-to-day basis. He and I will have those conversations.”

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Harper’s contract with the Phillies ensures that he will be a fixture on the franchise for the next decade. The former Washington Nationals star signed a 13-year, $330 million deal that does not include an opt-out clause, meaning that he is locked into his contract for the duration. The contract briefly ranked as the richest in MLB history, until Mike Trout signed a $400 million extension with the Los Angeles Angels.

Slumps are an unavoidable part of any pro athlete’s life, and Harper is less than one-third of the way through his first season in Philadelphia. But the size of Harper’s deal has generated even more scrutiny on his lackluster early season performance.

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FOX Business breaks down other players who slumped after signing major contracts below, including some stars who have managed to reverse the trend.

Albert Pujols, MLB’s Los Angeles Angels, $240 million contract

A surefire Hall of Fame inductee, Pujols fell into one of the worst slumps of his career after signing a $240 million contract with the Angels before the 2012 season. Pujols did not hit his first home run as an Angel until the 29th game of the season and was hitting under .200 in mid-May.

Pujols eventually rallied, ending the year with a solid .285 average, 30 home runs and 105 RBIs. He is considered one of the most prolific hitters in MLB history.

Chris Davis, MLB’s Baltimore Orioles, $161 million contract

After establishing himself as one of the most feared hitters in baseball, Davis signed a 7-year, $161 million contract with the Orioles before the 2016 season. Since then, his production has fallen off a cliff, culminating in a 2018 campaign in which he hit just .168 with 16 home runs and 49 RBIs.

Gilbert Arenas, NBA’s Washington Wizards, $111 million contract

Arenas was an All-Star guard when he signed a 6-year, $111 million contract with the Wizards before the 2008-09 NBA season. He battled injuries and off-court issues during the following three seasons, including a high-profile locker room dispute with former teammate Javaris Crittenton that led to a lengthy suspension.

Arenas never regained the form that made him a star and was out of the NBA by age 30.

Albert Haynesworth, NFL’s Washington Redskins, $100 million contract

A run-stopping defensive tackle, Haynesworth was considered one of the NFL’s best defensive players when he signed a massive 7-year, $100 million contract with the Washington Redskins before the 2009 season.

Haynesworth’s game fell apart in Washington, culminating in a dismal 2010 season in which he posted just 13 total tackles in 8 games. He was ultimately traded to the New England Patriots and was out of the NFL one year later.

JaMarcus Russell, NFL's Oakland Raiders, $61 million contract

After a standout career as a quarterback at LSU, the Raiders selected Russell with the first overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft and signed him to a $61 million contract before he had played a professional snap. Russell never found his form in the NFL, amassing a 7-18 record as a starter. He is considered one of the  worst draft busts – and financial mistakes – in NFL history.

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