Bryce Harper is a Phillie, finally. It was a long, drawn-out process that turned fans insane and made reporters stupid. But the seeming interminability of it all ultimately served Harper’s purposes: It wasn’t until this last week that the Phillies offered record money or a 13-year contract. Harper and Scott Boras waited out the market, even as the market tried to wait them out, but in the end, it wasn’t Harper that blinked.
Harper’s deal is for 13 years and $330 million, and it’s a monster of a deal, eclipsing Giancarlo Stanton’s 13/$325M. Harper very much wanted quantity on both sides of that slash, we’re told in this tick-tock by SI’s Tom Verducci. He wanted the record, and, from the very beginning of his free agency, he reportedly told Boras to “prioritize length of contract.”
The Phillies’ initial offer was for 10 years, and that offer stood for nearly four full months with Philadelphia refusing to budge. The Phillies felt confident their offer wouldn’t be topped, and seemed justified in their confidence, as for the longest time there weren’t any other serious bidders. But that lack of a market may have benefited Harper—all the chatter about the lack of offers is what convinced the Dodgers and Giants they had a chance, and to swoop in with serious offers after the start of spring training. That finally spooked the Phillies into raising their offer to 13 years.
Here’s how Verducci tells it:
“It took a hell of a long time to get those [last three] years,” Boras said.
Starting with the Friday dinner, it took one last whirlwind of a week for Boras to work his stagecraft and get the years needed to surpass the Stanton contract. On Saturday the Middletons ate with the Harpers again, this time for lunch before John and Leigh zipped back to Florida on their private jet. On Sunday, with the exhaust from Middleton’s jet barely dissipated, a contingent from the Dodgers flew into McCarran Airport in Las Vegas to offer Harper a record amount of money per year, but only on a deal covering four or five years. (The top average annual value bid to Harper was $43 million; Boras would not confirm it was from the Dodgers.) On Tuesday, right behind their divisional rival, the Giants jetted in with a 12-year offer worth around $310 million. All the stagecraft had the desired effect.
On Thursday morning Middleton called Boras to offer $330 million over 13 years. Boras hung up the phone and at 11:34 am PT he called Harper. Kayla joined Bryce on the phone.
“I’ve got it,” Boras said. “I’ve got the terms of the final deal. Just give me the okay and it’s done.”
Bryce and Kayla quickly gave their consent.
Through reporting here and elsewhere, we now know the basic shape of Harper’s other offers. The Giants were close, with 12 years and $310 million. The Dodgers’ fascinating shorter-term bid was, according to Verducci, either four or five seasons for either $172 million or $215 million. (Jon Morosi pegs L.A.’s offer at four years and $180M). Could Harper have re-entered free agency at age 30 and signed a contract that, combined with the Dodgers’ deal, would ultimately equal what he got from the Phillies? Maybe. But it does appear that he valued the security of a lifetime contract now.
And the Nationals’ reported 10-year, $300 million offer made to Harper before the end of the regular season? It included so much deferred money (it would have paid Harper through the year 2053) that its present-day value wasn’t in the same ballpark as the other offers. $184 million, according to Verducci, or $240 million, per the Post’s Neil Greenberg. The math on deferred contracts is tricky, but since the former figure is coming via Boras and the latter via the Nats, you should feel safe pegging the true value as somewhere in between.
So, the Phillies got their man. The length of the contract means that it’s likely to be pretty unpleasant in the last few years, but they’ll happily accept that since they’ll be getting a bargain up front. Harper’s AAV of $25.4 million doesn’t crack the current top 10, and it’s just about what Philadelphia agreed to pay Ryan Howard nine years ago.
And Harper, even if it’s not the $400 million people seriously talked about as recently as a year ago, has a job until he’s 39 years old, and a record that will last exactly two years.
Let the Mike Trout sweepstakes begin.