6For the last two months, Bryce Harper’s movements around North America have been monitored as if he was Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. Every step, every breath he took on his wine-and-cheese tour attracted attention and speculation.
The Nationals still wanted him. The White Sox wanted him. The Giants wanted him. The Dodgers wanted him. The Padres wanted him. Maybe even the Yankees wanted him, too.
Meanwhile, the Phillies never denied they really, really wanted him, as well, and since the first day of free agency, when their ownership said it would spend “crazy money” to become relevant again, you had the sense they might get him.
On Thursday, Philadelphia, the city that once booed Santa Claus, got Harper. And all it took was a monstrous 13-year, $330 million deal that will keep him with the team until he is 38 years old in 2031. Agent Scott Boras wins again.
“It’s a sunny day in Clearwater (the Phillies spring training home),” tweeted the team.
The $330 million is the richest contract ever awarded a professional athlete in North America, $5 million more than Giancarlo Stanton’s original deal with the Miami Marlins.
“Good for him. Good for the city of Philadelphia.” Stanton said.
The average of $25.4 million annually, falls below the take of Nolan Arenado in Colorado (eight years, $260 million) and Manny Machado (10 years, $300 million) in San Diego.
Once Machado and Arenado signed, it seemed likely Boras would try to get this No. 1 client more total money, even if the annual take was not as much. And he got exactly what he wanted.
“We had average values of $45 million offered on shorter-term deals,” Boras told the New York Post. “We had a full buffet. The goal was to get the longest contract possible. Bryce wanted one city for the rest of his career. That is what I was instructed to do. It is very difficult in this time to get length of contract that takes a player to age 37, 38, 39.”
There is no opt-out clause, meaning Harper won’t have the chance after five years or so to back out of the deal and seek another. There is also a full no-trade clause or deferred money. He and Philadelphia are together forever, like Cheese Whiz on a steak hoagie.
The deal seems to be friendly to both sides. The annual $25.4 million hit should be absorbed easily into Philadelphia’s expanding payroll. Their payroll was just under $126 million before the signing. And now, Harper doesn’t have to worry where he will live and play for the remainder of his earnable years.
“It’s certainly franchise-altering and season-altering,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said Thursday. “We were a great ballclub coming into the season without Bryce Harper. And we will be an even better team with him here.”
The Phillies, who were 80-82 last season, have now signed Harper, former NL MVP Andrew McCutchen and reliever David Robertson and acquired shortstop Jean Segura and catcher J.T. Realmuto. No Phillies player has been even as high as 10th in MVP voting since 2012.
They are now the favorite to win the NL East and perhaps the pennant. The last time they had a winning season and made the playoffs was 2011, the final of five straight division-winning seasons.
Harper, 26, is a six-time All-Star who reportedly turned down a 10-year, $300 million deal to stay in Washington at the end of the 2018 season. MLB.com reported he had also been offered 10 years by the Giants.
It was Washington who chose Harper first overall in the 2010 Draft as a 17-year-old out of Las Vegas. He skipped his final two years of high school, getting his GED to become eligible for the draft. And then he attended the College of Southern Nevada.
The Nats signed him to a five-year, $9.9 million and he made his Major League debut in April 2012 at 19. Since 2015, when he was the MVP, Harper has been an All-Star each season. In 2018, Harper hit just .248 with 34 homers and 100 RBIs after batting .214 in the first half of the season. He also led the NL with 130 walks which enabled him to be fifth in the league in on-base percentage (.393).
In 927 games over his seven-year career, Harper has a .279/.388/.512 slash line with 184 home runs and 521 RBIs. Harper has 14 career home runs at Citizens Bank Park, the most at any road ballpark in his career. His .564 career slugging percentage at Citizens Bank ranks first among 71 players with at least 200 plate appearances there.
According to The Athletic, Harper will receive $44,929 per at-bat, based on his lifetime statistics. The average household income in Philadelphia in 2019 is $41,500. The Westgate Sports Book in Las Vegas now lists Harper as the favorite to win the MVP (5-to-1) this season.