Well, the time has come. According to Jon Heyman, Bryce Harper has officially signed with the Philadelphia Phillies, and the sun has set on his free agency. There were times when we were excited. There were times when we were angry. There were times when we were bored. Now, everyone (especially Phillies fans) can breathe a sigh of relief, because the whale has landed in Philadelphia for a whopping $330 million. At last, we can get ready for the rest of what is sure to be an exciting offseason… What’s that? Spring training has already started?… F**k it, we’ll do it live.
The Free Agent Harper Saga was a drawn out affair that honestly started sometime in 2017, when it was rumoured that the slugger would look for $500 million in free agency. Fast forward to 2018, and teams are refusing to breach the luxury tax threshold — oftentimes citing the impending Harper sweepstakes as a reason for wanting to save money. Then Harper had a bit of a down year (by his standards). He hit 34 bombs, but early season struggles resulted in just a .249 batting average at season’s end. Plus, the Nationals didn’t make the playoffs, in spite of a talented roster — which reflected badly on Harper as a leader. When he finally entered free agency, teams didn’t seem as interested as they had a year ago.
Still, Harper reportedly turned down a $300 million offer from the Washington Nationals, his old team, signaling his desire to earn more on the open market, and the reports started trickling in: Harper engaged in talks with the Phillies… Harper reportedly visited by the San Francisco Giants… Los Angeles Dodgers owner and manager to meet with Harper… I’ll tell you what, the suspense was torturous.
Harper, and fellow star Manny Machado, dominated the offseason hot stove chatter. Machado wound up signing with the San Diego Padres in December, but it’s taken until the last day of February for Harper to sign. But today, Jon Heyman reported that Harper had reached a $330 million, 13 year agreement.
The deal, which reportedly includes a full no trade clause and no opt-out, makes Harper’s contract the biggest in the bigs. Sure, Harper’s average annual salary — about $25.4 million — is not the highest in the sport. The Arizona Diamondbacks’ Zack Greinke is the the highest paid player per year (he makes about $34.4 million), and the Colorado Rockies’ Nolan Arenado has an average salary of $33.5 million, which leads all position players. But Harper’s contract is the first, and only contract to guarantee $330 million (he eclipsed Giancarlo Stanton’s $325 million, 13 year deal).
“Good for him,” Stanton said, according to ESPN’s Coley Harvey. “Good for the city of Philadelphia.”
With Harper signed, Craig Kimbrel, starters Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez highlight the list of free agents still looking for teams.
The problems between owners and players concerning free agency are surely not solved, but for now the baseball world can celebrate. Bryce Harper will play baseball for a team in 2019, and we will get to watch at least some of the time. Hopefully, the Phillies are good. They certainly projected to be good (though not great), given that before they signed Harper the computer gizmos and whizzes had them winning 88.5 games in 2019. You’d think Harper puts them over 90 Ws, but who knows. They still need to play those games…
At the very least, it’s a good thing that a good player will be playing baseball this summer.