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The wait is over: Bryce Harper agrees to contract with the Phillies



Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) looks on from the batters box during the MLB game between the Washington Nationals and the Philadelphia Phillies on August 28, 2018 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia PA. (Gavin Baker/Icon Sportswire)

When thinking of the biggest free agent signings in Phillies franchise history, names such as Pete Rose, Jim Thome and Cliff Lee quickly come to mind. We now have a fresh, new name to add to that list of superstars who have chosen to join the team after establishing their career elsewhere.

Per Jon Heyman of MLB Network, free-agent outfielder Bryce Harper has agreed to terms with the Phillies on a 13-year, $330 million contract. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the deal has a full no-trade clause and will include zero opt-outs. This will be the largest contract in Phillies history, topping the six-year, $144 million extension signed by Cole Hamels back in July of 2012.

In addition, this will also be one of the largest deals in MLB history. The deal certainly fulfills principle owner John Middleton‘s prediction that the club could spend “stupid money” this off-season.

Thus ends a prolonged saga that has been at the forefront of Phillies Nation chatter ever since the 2018 season ended. The process began with Harper reportedly declining a 10-year, $300 million extension from his former team, the Washington Nationals, as the season drew to a close.

The Phillies were always at the top of the list when it came to suitors for the outfielder, if only because they had more money to spend than any other club. But there were a few reports which doubted that Harper would ever actually come to the City of Brotherly Love.

The day after Christmas, Joel Sherman of the New York Post wrote the following: “…neither player (Harper or Machado) particularly likes Philadelphia and both would have preferred the Yankees, who have shown little interest in Harper.

The clear turning point in the Harper chase apparently came when Phillies brass, including Middleton, general manager Matt Klentak, president Andy MacPhail and manager Gabe Kapler, met with Harper, his wife Kayla and agent Scott Boras in Las Vegas on January 12th. That meeting went so well that the Phillies began to be listed as the front-runners for Harper by many, including USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale.

Having played against the Phillies for the National League East-rival Nationals since breaking into the big-leagues back in 2012, the former National League MVP will instantly become the biggest and best of a group of new stars to join the Phillies over the winter. The six-time All-Star has a career .279/.388/.512 slash line with 184 home runs, 521 RBI, 922 hits and 75 stolen bases, as well as a 27.4 bWAR mark.

Last season, Harper slashed .249/.393/.496 with 34 homers, 103 runs and 13 stolen bases, and registered an .889 OPS mark. He also set career-highs in RBI and walks with 100 and 130, respectively. Harper did struggle some a year ago. In addition to his low batting average, he also registered a bWAR of just 1.3, his lowest since the 2014 season, and struck out a career-high 169 times.

It is clear that Harper is a solid fit for the Phillies. The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Scott Lauber mentioned his plate approach as something that would benefit the entire lineup:

Kapler admires hitters who see pitches and work the count. Harper saw a career-high 4.14 pitches per plate appearance last season and has a .388 career on-base percentage, sixth among active players with at least 1,000 at-bats.

In 50 games at Citizens Bank Park, Harper has a career batting average of .268 with 14 home runs and 32 RBIs. Lauber explained that Harper’s 14 home runs in Philadelphia are tied for the most by any active visiting player. Harper also has a .930 OPS at his new home ballpark.

Harper will become the Phillies new long-term right fielder, with fellow new free agent signee Andrew McCutchen playing over in left field. That leaves incumbents Odubel Herrera, Nick Williams, Roman Quinn, and Aaron Altherr battling for time in center field and as reserves.

The signing of Harper could now lead to a trade of one of those other outfielders. The Phillies are believed to still be looking for starting pitching, and could package one of them with a young pitcher to obtain a more veteran arm to bolster their rotation. Of course, increased outfield depth is never a bad thing either.

Still, other free agents are still on the table. Nightengale had reported a month ago that the Phillies had “visions” of signing Harper, starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel and closer Craig Kimbrel:

Kimbrel and Keuchel remain unsigned, with their markets apparently in a bit of a lull. The Phillies could now perhaps see an opportunity to strike again. Keuchel would appear to especially fit their needs. Bringing aboard either or both would only add to what is already an unprecedented off-season for the club.

Regardless of any further moves, it is undeniable that the signing of Harper signifies that the Phillies are legitimate contenders for the foreseeable future. In order to break the now seven-year playoff drought, a bold move had to be made. While there are plenty of risks, Harper is a generational talent. The hope is that he will now begin to add postseason success to his regular season accolades.

MORE FROM PHILLIES NATION

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  4. Phillies Could Be Left To Decide Between Aaron Altherr And Nick Williams When Dust Clears
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12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Mike B

    February 28, 2019 at 3:18 pm

    “This deal likely ends the hunt for Manny Machado. It was probably a pipe dream that the Phillies would pursue signing both in an effort to put together a super-team at this point.”

    Pretty sure this isn’t what ended the hunt for Machado. 😉

  2. Mr. Kraft Mac & Sleeze

    February 28, 2019 at 3:31 pm

    “This deal likely ends the hunt for Manny Machado. It was probably a pipe dream that the Phillies would pursue signing both in an effort to put together a super-team at this point.”

    “While they may not be pursuing Machado, other free agents are still on the table.”

    Looks like you’ve had a template of this article sitting around for a while

  3. Jeff Orbach

    February 28, 2019 at 3:37 pm

    YESSSSSS!- I am eating my crow now with maple flavored Harper Sauce. Didn’t think we’d get him , glad we did.

    • Roland

      February 28, 2019 at 4:21 pm

      very very good on with the show

  4. betasigmadeltahag

    February 28, 2019 at 4:27 pm

    I really did not think the Phillies needed to sign him to be competitive, and not a big fan of having him in his 36-39 seasons. But I will stand and cheer for him and back him as long as he does not become a premadona and plays the game right. I hope he matures into a good Phillie The fact that they are really paying him less per year is nice. And the luxuray cap will be pretty far up there by the time the second half of the contract comes up. I would hope that the structure is to pay him 30 million plus for the first 3-5 years so as his production declines so does his pay. I would like to see Kuetchel in red pinstripes but Hope they leave Kimbrel to rot on the vine with his demands. only four more weeks til opening day, and I am excited. Hope this works out, I don’t want to say I told you so.

    • Ted Bell

      March 1, 2019 at 5:45 am

      Year 13 (2031) would actually be Harper’s age 38 season. There’s really very few long term deals that look good by the end, but the relatively low AAV makes this deal a little more palatable.

  5. Ken Bland

    February 28, 2019 at 4:30 pm

    For the time being, the following remain in tact in their places as the best Phillies RF ever.

    In no particular order…..

    Johnny Callison

    Bake McBride

    Glenn Wilson

    Jayson Werth

    Bryce Harper begins his quest to make the list, and perhaps misplace one or two of those guys. His quest starts soon.

    Tip of the hat to Phillies management. Hope this winds up as fulfilling as it feels exciting right now.

    • Steve Bosell

      March 1, 2019 at 5:55 am

      OPS as a Phillie:
      Callison .795
      McBride .770
      Wilson .708
      Werth .885

      Bryce Harper has a career .900 OPS.

      • Ken Bland

        March 1, 2019 at 12:43 pm

        that is a really incredible reply.

  6. Phil Auxt

    February 28, 2019 at 5:00 pm

    I thought that the Phils we going to bow the Harper deal. We’ll have him for 13 years, 13 YEARS!

  7. Lou Possehl

    February 28, 2019 at 7:39 pm

    Congratulations to the Phillies ownership and FO. Best “Hot Stove League” off-season, ever for the Phillies. Maybe as compared to what any other club has ever done, as well.

  8. Ken Bland

    March 1, 2019 at 12:56 pm

    Day after thoughts on the Harper deal….

    In no particular order…

    this is like Yom Kippur, almost spring edition…the one where one atones for their sins, or in this case, misguided predictions…

    Based off Cleveland, and maybe elsewhere that I don’t recall, back when I followed attendance figures much closer, I figured when Phils attendance dropped off the last few years, even a return to solid contention wouldn’t drag them back in large throngs. Now, I wonder if another sellout streak might get a cranking.

    It’s only a day, but with either Harper, or Machado, I figured the Phillie fan base would have a wait and see attitude. I mean neither is perfect. It SURE doesn’t feel that way a day later.

    Tip of the hat to Schenkman (apologies if that’s misspelled) on his objectively made point about opt outs being reduced in weight as agents negotiate other things to offset. I thought Boras would do better than the 5 year opt out in Machado’s deal. Looks like I overrated its importance as it’s not universal.

    Additionally since there’s not a right or wrong on this one, one thing that’s largely been missing the last few years was on things like alumni weekend, it was so boring with the Phils out of contention, or consisting of a roster with whome the fans didn’t connect. That’s a special weekend, or at least it mostly is, and certainly should be. This year, with Rollins, Chase and RyHo coming back for special nights, it damned well should be ELECTRIC, and as of yesterday, it figures to be.

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