There’s a rather large contingent of Philadelphia Phillies fans who would prefer the team issue a record contract to Bryce Harper, rather than Manny Machado. In the end, beggars maybe can’t be choosers – the Phillies lineup would be significantly improved by adding either – but the club hasn’t closed the door on adding the 2015 National League MVP.
Quite the opposite, in fact.
According to Jeff Passan of ESPN, the Phillies are among a trio of teams that are willing to offer Harper a contract that will last at least 10 years long:
Harper has met multiple times with representatives of the Washington Nationals, according to a club source, and the possibility of a return to the place he spent the first seven years of his career persists, despite Nationals owner Mark Lerner’s insistence that Washington would not stretch beyond the $300 million offer Harper rejected near season’s end. The Phillies and White Sox are the other two teams known to be willing to guarantee Harper the decade-plus-long deal he and Machado, each 26 years old, are seeking.
NBC Sports Philadelphia‘s Jim Salisbury says that a contingent of Phillies brass is going to meet with Harper for the first time soon:
Even while they negotiate with Machado, the Phillies remain interested in outfielder Bryce Harper, the other megastar on this winter’s free-agent market. In fact, a person close to the player tells NBC Sports Philadelphia that a face-to-face meeting between Harper and Phillies officials is being planned for “the next week or so,” in Harper’s hometown of Las Vegas. Phillies officials met with Harper’s representative, Scott Boras, at the winter meetings in Las Vegas last month. The player was not in attendance at that meeting.
Per Chelsea Janes of The Washington Post, the six-time All-Star rejected a 10-year/$300 million contract extension offer from the Nationals on the final day of the 2018 regular season. Nationals owner Mark Lerner told Chris Lingebach of 106.7 The Fan, seemingly referring to this reported offer, that he had told Harper and his agent, Scott Boras, that this deal was the best the club was prepared to offer. Harper ultimately didn’t accept the deal, and shortly after the Nationals signed two-time All-Star lefty Patrick Corbin to a lucrative six-year deal Lerner seemed to publicly waive the white flag on Harper.
It now appears that was a negotiating tactic, though it it fair to wonder after signing Corbin just how much the Nationals would be willing to increase their offer. Maybe the Nationals will find some more money to tack onto the deal at some point early in 2019. The initial offer, from what has been gathered, didn’t include a no-trade clause, so maybe Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo will ultimately use that to sweeten up the deal. But with the emergence of rookie phenom Juan Soto in 2018, the Nationals will seemingly have a competitive team even if they lose Harper. So there’s a very real chance they won’t finish with the best offer on paper.
If the Harper sweepstakes ultimately comes down to what team offers the most years and money, the financially flexible Phillies are seemingly in a great position. Though the Chicago White Sox may be capable of topping the Phillies offer, it’s unclear if owner Jerry Reinsdorf is serious about outbidding other suitors to secure Harper. And as you may have heard, Phillies managing partner John Middleton is very motivated to spend his ample money
Notably, Passan says that Harper is willing to wait out the market as long as it takes – a source told him Harper will wait until February if need be – for him to land the type of deal he is seeking. What’s going to change between now and then? Well, Manny Machado, the offseason’s other top free-agent, will likely be off the board. And there’s more time for teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs to potentially clear salary if they want to make a run at Harper, a six-time All-Star. But even if Harper would prefer to live in a city other than Philadelphia, it’s entirely possible he and Boras will come back to the highest bidder, as Boras clients tend to do, and that bidder could prove to be the Phillies. And it is interesting that the Phillies, according to Passan’s report, are willing to offer Harper a deal of at least 10 years, something they reportedly may not be as keen on doing for Machado.
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