The Philadelphia Phillies finally delivered on their promise to their fans on Thursday by signing Bryce Harper to the largest contract in the history of professional sports in terms of total value with a 13-year, $330 Million deal that includes a no-trade clause, no opt-out, and no deferred money.
The Phillies, the San Francisco Giants, and the Los Angeles Dodgers were the favorites for Harper until the very end, but Philadelphia has always been seen as the frontrunner.
The promise the Phillies made to their fans at the beginning of the offseason was, of course, that “We’re going into this expecting to spend money, and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it,” Phillies owner John Middleton told Bob Nightengale of USA Today, before adding, “we just prefer not to be completely stupid.” After a claim like this, and with how close the Phillies were to the playoffs in 2018, not signing Machado or Harper would have caused an outrage among Phillies fans.
The man who made this promise, John Middleton, was according to Scott Boras, one of the big reasons why Harper chose his former division rivals.
“John Middleton came out two times to Las Vegas to meet with Bryce,” Bryce Harper’s agent Scott Boras said. “He’s a guy that illustrated to Harp that he’s about winning. He’s very involved with his franchise — and I love the fact that Bryce plays so well in that ballpark and sees the ball so well there.”
Harper hit a meager .249/.393/.496 batting line with 34 home runs and an Major League Baseball best 130 walks in 2018. Harper posted just a 1.3 WAR partly as a result of his lack of production at the plate, and partly because of his recent defensive woes. Harper was much better in 2017, when he hit a slash line of .319/.413/.595 (156 OPS+) with 29 home runs and a 4.7 WAR in 111 games prior to a knee injury suffered when he slipped on a wet first base bag.
While I am not personally buying what Scott Boras is selling when he says that, “I could have done $42 or $43 million in A.A.V. on a short-term deal. You really want to serve your client’s interest,” especially with Zack Grenkie being payed the most in baseball per year at $34.4 Million, it is reasonable to think that Harper was drawing short term offers that were in the vicinity of $35 Million.
“He wanted to go to one city, stay there, build a brand and identity and recruit players,” Boras said. “He wants to tell players: ‘Come play with me.’ He knows it will help winning more if he’s with one team the whole time.”
Harper was most likely the last signing of a plethora of aquisitions the Phillies have made this offseason that include catcher J.T. Realmuto, shortstop Jean Segura, outfielder Andrew McCutchen, and reliever David Robertson. One could argue that the Phillies had the best offseason in baseball and they plan to reik havok on the National League East in 2018 after barily losing out on the division to the Atlanta Braves.
It is clear that this will be the last major contract of his career and quite possibly his last ever. Harper will almost certainly retire with the Phillies as this contract will lock him down in Philadelphia until he is 39.
“It’s hard to get the length of contract the player wanted,” Boras said. “I could have done 10 years with opt-outs, but that’s not what he wanted.”
Now that Harper has signed, all the major free agent pieces are off the market, leaving room for other teams to pick up the remaining free agents on the market. Harper will most likely have a bounce back with Philly and the Phillies will be in the thick of the four horse race for the National League East in 2019.