Harper seems destined for Philadelphia
CARLSBAD, Calif. — It was the Bryce Harper show on Wednesday, or as agent Scott Boras cleverly called it, “Harper’s Bazaar.”
It has nothing to do with the fashion industry but everything to do with a man who’s about to become the richest player in baseball history, unless fellow free agent Manny Machado happens to topple him.
“It’s fashionable,” Boras said. “It’s historical. It’s elite. Global certainly. And certainly, it has inspirations that deal with great shoes and great hair, inspirations on the part of Bryce.”
Yep, and the man who is touted to be more popular than the Liberty Bell, free agent outfielder Bryce Harper certainly looks likely to be headed to Philadelphia, the city of Brotherly Love.
It appeared all along Harper would wind up in Washington, but that was before word leaked out Tuesday that he flatly rejected a 10-year, $300 million contract at the end of the regular season.
You can eliminate the rest of the suitors, too.
The Cubs don’t want to spend the money unless someone takes Jason Heyward or Yu Darvish off their hands.
The Dodgers don’t have the interest. The Cardinals don’t have the bright lights.
The Giants are changing course.
It leaves one team for Harper, who will not mind giving him at least $400 million.
Yes, we’re talking about the Phillies. The Phillies are the most desperate team to land a star, and with Manny Machado wanting to go to the Yankees, and New York having the greatest need for him, Philadelphia is the logical destination for Harper.
He will be standing in right field with the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on March 28 when they open the season at home against the defending National League East champion Braves. Bank on it.
It’s hard to find an executive, scout or rival agent who doesn’t believe that Harper will eventually sign with the Phillies, maybe a month from now when he can drive from his Las Vegas home to Mandalay Bay and make the official announcement himself.
The Nationals seemed to be the favorite until Tuesday, when two baseball officials told USA TODAY that they made a 10-year, $300 million offer to Harper on Sept. 26. The offer would make Harper the highest-paid active player in baseball, second only to Giancarlo Stanton’s 13-year, $325 million contract four years ago.
Now, the Nationals say, the offer if off the table.
They gave it their best, and when there was not a single counteroffer, the Nationals are prepared to walk away.
Yes, even if it means seeing Harper 19 times a year when they play Philadelphia.
Oh, sure, talks can still resume, of course, but the Nationals are trying to sign at least one starting pitcher and a catcher in free agency. They don’t want to be left without anyone filling any of their voids if Harper departs for another team.
Yet the Nationals are making it clear they have no intention of giving Harper his preferred 13-year deal, and certainly not with an annual average salary of $40 million a year.
Barring a sudden change of heart, they will simply go with an outfield of Juan Soto, Adam Eaton and Victor Robles and use that extra money to beef up the rest of their team.
“I’m comfortable with the alternative,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said, “but I’m uncomfortable with the statement that we’re a better team without him.”
Harper and Boras certainly are comfortable with walking away too, seeking a deal that pays more than pitcher Zack Greinke’s $34.42 million average annual salary, along with Stanton’s $325 million extension that he signed four years ago when he wasn’t a free agent.
This is a player, Boras told nearly 100 baseball reporters Wednesday, that can singlehandedly turn around a franchise, educating everyone on the 600,000 annual attendance increase since Harper’s arrival, the tripling of their TV rates and the franchise increasing from $480 million to $2 billion.
So who wouldn’t want the cash cow, Boras says, of the only player in baseball who produced a 1.100 OPS (on-baseplus-slugging percentage) since his arrival in 2010, and the only player since Hall of Famer George Brett to accomplish the feat since the 1980s when you discount the steroid era.
“You have an iconic player,” Boras said. “For an owner to know the rocket ship of economic opportunity is just blasting off because the player is just entering the prime of his career. You’re really talking about a unique and rare opportunity. He’s almost a lock to be a Hall of Fame player.”
Boras knows that someone will pay the price he seeks, and while no one can completely count out the Cardinals or even the Giants, who were willing to assume the bulk of Stanton’s contract a year ago, the Phillies are going to be the ones who pay the biggest contract in baseball history for his services.
This is the splash the Phillies want for a team that ranked just 21st in runs scored, 24th in OPS and was last in virtually every defensive metric.
Oh, and did we mention they have lots and lots of money, with only Scott Kingery and Odubel Herrera signed past the 2020 season.
The Phillies aren’t blinking.
This is the player they want. This is the player they’re going to get.
Bryce Harper rejected a Nationals’ $300M offer.