MLB Trade Rumors is a site which describes themselves as "a clearinghouse for relevant, legitimate baseball rumors." Each week at Phils Baseball, we grab their latest Phillies rumors and put them all together in one weekly post.
Here are the latest Phillies rumors:
The Phillies introduced the new face of their franchise, $330MM outfielder Bryce Harper, at a press conference Saturday in Clearwater, Fla. Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Scott Lauber and Matt Breen of Philly.com, Todd Zolecki of MLB.com and Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia were among the reporters on hand to cover the presser, which also featured agent Scott Boras and Phillies owner John Middleton.
After Middleton stated in November that the Phillies were expecting to spend “stupid”money in the offseason, it came as no surprise that they emerged with Harper on a record-setting contract. And Middleton referenced his famous November declaration on Saturday, asking, “Does this look like stupid money?”
The answer is no for the Phillies, who have already sold upward of 220,000 tickets since reeling in Harper, their former division rival who spent the first seven years of his career with the Nationals. However, Middleton stressed this signing isn’t about profit for the franchise. Rather, it’s about returning the Phillies to superpower status after seven years among the dregs of the league.
“I’ve made enough money in my life,” Middleton told Boras during negotiations. “I don’t need to make more. My franchise value has risen dramatically over the last 25 years. I don’t need it to rise more. I’m here to win. I think your guy can help me win, and that’s all I want to talk about.’”
Boras, as is his wont, was colorful in summing up the Middleton-led Phillies’ successful courtship of Harper.
“The maestro wanted to build a championship, and he wanted his harp,” the game’s most famous agent quipped. “The Philadelphia-Phil-Harp-monic symphony is built.’’
While the Phillies’ pursuit of Harper was a well-publicized, months-long dance, Middleton revealed the club didn’t begin negotiating a contract with Harper’s camp until Feb. 20, the day after the Padres signed Philly target Manny Machado to a 10-year, $300MM deal. Those talks began before Middleton and his wife, Leigh, ventured to Las Vegas to meet with Harper and his wife, Kayla, on Feb. 23. It was there that the Phillies closed in on securing the coveted Harper, a six-time All-Star and onetime NL MVP whose career is on a Hall of Fame course.
“Me and my wife walked away [thinking], ‘Wow, we’re blown away by these amazing people,’ ” Harper said. “They really understand where we’re coming from, understand the family aspect of our life, understand the city of Philly and what it’s all about.”
Now that his trip to free agency’s in the rearview and he has possibly found the team with which he’ll finish his career, Harper is focused on helping the Phillies to a championship – which has eluded him to this point.
“I want to be on Broad Street, on a frigging boat, bus, or whatever it is,’’ Harper said, “and hold a trophy over my head.”
In the estimation of Harper’s camp, the structure of the contract should help the player and team achieve their goal of winning titles during the two sides’ long marriage. Because it’s a 13-year deal, the average annual value is worth a reasonable $25MM-plus per season, which will aid the Phillies from a luxury tax standpoint. And Boras noted Harper didn’t want an opt-out clause in his contract because his desire is to remain in Philadelphia and recruit future free agents to the city.
Harper even brought up the game’s foremost player, New Jersey native and Philly sports fan Mike Trout, as a potential future teammate.
“I know there’s another guy in about two years that comes off the books. We’ll see what happens to him,” Harper said of the Angels’ all-world center fielder, who’s slated to reach free agency after 2020 and whose next contract figures to eclipse Harper’s. Trout, it seems, helped influence Harper to pick the Phillies, as the latter revealed he “talked to [Trout] a lot” throughout his four-month stay on the open market.
It’s anyone’s guess whether Trout will join his friend in Philly in the next couple years. For now, the Phillies are satisfied with their current roster, with the addition of Harper serving as an exclamation point to a productive few months. Having added Harper, catcher J.T. Realmuto, shortstop Jean Segura, outfielder Andrew McCutchenand reliever David Robertson since last season ended, Middleton regards the Phillies as the front-runners in what should be an ultra-competitive NL East – a division Harper believes is a “juggernaut.”
“I just want to win,” said Middleton, “and with Bryce, we are going to win.”
Former National and Phillie Jayson Werth was unsurprised to hear about his former teammate’s decision to sign in Philadelphia, per Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. Werth knows the trek up I-95 well, as he went the opposite direction in the winter before 2011 when he ended a four-year run in Philly by joining a DC club that had drafted Harper the June prior. Werth’s perspective is unique, obviously, because of his relationship to mentee Bryce Harper, but Werth said he and Harper never discussed free agency or Philadelphia, despite speaking a couple of times over the winter. Werth likes the deal for both sides,“You’re getting a young Bryce Harper for his whole career,” says Werth. “You’re going to get him through tons of prime years. Compared with some of the other deals that are out there, it’s fair in the market for both parties. If you’re Bryce, I think you love the years. If you’re Philadelphia, you probably love the price.” Werth fans will appreciate this update from his post-playing days, which is going about as one might expect: he has his hands full with organic farming, snowboarding, and the launching of his own hemp processing business in Illinois. Let’s check in on a couple other Harper notes…
Reuben Frank of NBC Sports Philadelphia takes a look at the ten free agents in Philly history who made the biggest splash upon signing. Current 76ers GM Elton Brand makes the list, as does Werth’s former teammate Cliff Lee and MLB’s hit king Pete Rose.
The Nationals bid Harper a fond farewell from their Twitter account in advance of his introduction in Philly. There does not appear to be quite the level of heartbreak one might expect from fans in Washington, perhaps due to Harper’s early flirtations with the Yankees, or the protracted nature of his departure, or the fact that his national fame predates his Nats career. Of course, the suppression of hurt feelings is a time-tested defense mechanism after a breakup, though the development of Juan Soto and Victor Robles certainly helps soften the blow. Harper leaves the Nationals second to only Ryan Zimmerman in many offensive categories since the club moved to Washington, including home runs, walks, runs, RBIs, extra-base hits and total bases. Add in the organization’s history in Montreal and Harper’s .900 OPS ranks second all-time, bested only by Vladimir Guerrero’s .978 OPS with the Expos.
Harper’s future teammates, meanwhile, are excited about the expectations Harper brings to the club, per MLB.com’s Richard Justice. Already many of the comments from Phillies players like Rhys Hoskins and Andrew McCutchen center on this team’s potential as a World Series contender. “[Harper] wants to be a Phillie for the rest of his career, pretty much. I get goosebumps thinking about it,” says Jake Arrieta, a guy who knows something about what it takes to win a World Series. “I doubt I’ll play for another 13 years, but I would love to be here for 13 years with him.” It’s safe to say Arrieta will need to kick his pilates routine into high gear if he’s to stick around that long, as he will turn 45 in March of the final year of Harper’s deal.
Newest Phillie Bryce Harper will be available to the media at his introductory press conference today at 2pm EST in Clearwater, Florida. You can watch the press conference live on MLB.com and MLBNetwork.
Along with Harper and agent Scott Boras, GM Matt Klentak and managing partner John Middleton will be present and available to the media from the top of the first base dugout at Spectrum Field, where the press conference is taking place. The Phillies gave word of their 13-year union with Harper via tweet yesterday.
In a separate press release, the Phillies officially announced the signing. The Phillies title Harper “one of the premier players in Major League Baseball” and “a multi-media star” while often referencing Harper’s age alongside his varied career accomplishments.
Harper himself tweeted a photo of the new cover for Sony’s MLB the Show 19, on which he appears in his new Phillies garb. After wearing number 34 in Washington, Harper will switch to number three in Philadelphia.
TODAY: The deal is official, as per a simple tweet from the Phillies’ Twitter feed stating “We got him.”
THURSDAY, 7:23pm: Harper will receive a $10MM salary and a $20MM signing bonus for the upcoming season, tweets Heyman. He’ll then be paid $26MM annually from 2020-28 and $22MM annually from 2029-31.
1:51pm: The Phillies and star outfielder Bryce Harper have made quite the commitment to one another, according to reports. The sides have agreed in principle to a 13-year, $330MM deal that puts Harper in Philadelphia through his age-38 season.
Unlike virtually all recent mega-contracts, this one comes without caveats. Harper gets full no-trade rights and does not possess any opt-out opportunities. The contract won’t come with deferrals, though it is said to have a front-loaded structure.
The end to Harper’s drawn-out free agency seemed to come suddenly. It may be that the Phillies finally met his asking price after late-breaking interest from the Dodgers and Giants.
When the dust settled, Harper had landed the biggest contract in MLB history. He just tops the $325MM guarantee the Marlins gave Giancarlo Stanton over a 13-year term, though it’s important to note that deal came in an extension scenario.
In taking the largest overall contract, Harper did make a clear sacrifice on average annual value. He’ll earn just over $25MM per season annually, well under the $30MM average commanded recently by Manny Machado in his deal with the Padres and $33.4MM promised in the seven new seasons covered by Nolan Arenado’s extension with the Rockies.
That reduced annual value won’t likely mean much in the way of sacrificed earning power, as it covers only three late-career seasons. It does help the Phillies to reduce the annual competitive balance tax hit from the signing, which could assist the organization as it looks to maintain competitiveness over a long marriage with its new star.
Beyond the market impact, this move sets the stage for a fascinating season (and beyond) in the National League East. The Phillies, Nationals, and Mets have all made win-now moves in hopes of dethroning a Braves team that is still full of young talent.
Harper’s move up the interstate from D.C. brings an end to a productive tenure with the Nats, reversing the career arc of recently retired former teammate Jayson Werth on a much grander scale. Harper’s exciting debut campaign was punctuated by a memorable run-in with the Phillies and then-ace Cole Hamels, the club that the Nationals were then seeking to eclipse as the premier outfit in the division.
The Washington organization did make a run at keeping Harper, but wasn’t able to work things out. Some might say that he’d have been better off taking the ten-year, $300MM offer that was reportedly put on the table. Reports have made clear that a roughly a third of that money would have been deferred, greatly driving down its true value.
Rather than take a deferred contract, Harper searched for and found the type of fully guaranteed, non-deferred deal he sought with the Philadelphia organization. The move punctuates an offseason that lived up to expectations for the Phillies’ faithful. The club already added the game’s best catcher in J.T. Realmuto, acquired a strong shortstop in Jean Segura, and added veterans including Andrew McCutchen and David Robertson. It’s imaginable that there’s more still to come, though perhaps the initial focus will be on making a roster-clearing move to accommodate the newest addition.
Investing in Harper gives the Phillies the game’s most recognizable player. He’s also quite a good one, even if he hasn’t shown that he can consistently produce at the otherworldly levels he did in a magical 2015 season. Harper’s ups and downs have come with a very lofty mean, of course — he’s a .279/.388/.512 career hitter with 184 home runs in nearly four thousand career plate appearances — though the aggregate remains every so slightly disappointing given his nearly unmatched talent level. Defensive questions arose last year, as Harper graded quite poorly. That was cause for concern in some quarters, though there’s also reason to believe that he can turn things around.
We at MLBTR would be remiss not to acknowledge that the out-on-a-limb estimation we put forth on Harper early in the offseason — a 14-year pact worth $420MM — ultimately proved to be a dramatic overreach. At the time of our initial top 50 rankings, we were of the belief that because Harper and Machado were non-traditional free agents (i.e. legitimate superstars who’d not yet played their age-26 seasons), traditional contractual structures wouldn’t apply to them. With so much talk in the preceding offseason about the teams who bend over backward to dip below the luxury tax in advance of this offseason’s crop of free agents, our team fully anticipated a widespread level of interest that simply never came to fruition.
Rather, with only three to four serious bidders for most of the winter, Harper and Boras had to claw to reach a point at which we expected the bidding to begin. The end result — a significantly lengthier term with the intent of tamping down the average annual value/luxury tax hit — was, as noted at the time, a highly plausible outcome, though securing a record-setting guarantee required lowering the AAV further than our forecast.
Predictions aside, Harper’s deal sets a new high-water mark on which premier players of the future will set their sights when seeking open-market contracts or, at least, extensions on the cusp of free agency. One can imagine, to varying extents, the Harper guarantee at least serving as a talking point when Mike Trout and Mookie Betts, both controlled through the 2020 season, begin to take an earnest look at their next contracts. Of course, they’d reach free agency at three and two years older than Harper was this winter, respectively, so it’s far from a direct comparison. But, as the Stanton contract did in this instance, the Harper contract will now serve as a barometer that agents and superstar players alike will aim to topple — even if by only a narrow measure.
Jon Heyman of MLB Network (Twitter link) first reported the deal. Jeff Passan of ESPN.com (Twitter links) and Jim Bowden of The Athletic (Twitter link) had the key terms, with Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post (Twitter link) and MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez (via Twitter) adding details.
“Harper’s Bazaar” has reached a conclusion. The Phillies reached an agreement to sign Bryce Harper to a 13-year, $330MM contract that now stands as the largest fully guaranteed contract in all of professional sports. While the journey to this terminus was tedious (surely even more so for those involved than for those of us following at a distance), it would appear that Harper and Boras ultimately met the goals they set out to achieve.
Boras, speaking to Joel Sherman of the New York Post (all Twitter links), made clear that Harper’s goal all offseason was to secure the longest contract possible. “Bryce wanted one city for the rest of his career,” said Boras. “That’s what I was instructed to do. It is very difficult in this time to get length of contract that takes a player to age 37, 38, 39.” That difficulty led to a trade-off in terms of annual value. Boras added that the hitter-friendly nature of Citizens Bank Park and owner John Middleton’s commitment to the courtship process both helped to sway Harper as well.
One notable aspect of Harper’s deal was the lack of a player opt-out clause — a contract term that has largely become a standard feature of big deals. Boras went on record with Tom Verducci of SI.com on this point, saying that his client “refused to allow me” to negotiate an opt-out because he wanted “to be with one team.” While some may raise an eyebrow when hearing an agent suggest that his client didn’t want an opt-out clause in the contract, Harper’s former manager, Dusty Baker, suggested the same thing in a recent interview on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (Twitter link, with audio). “I’ve been told that he wants to be a free agent one time in his career, so I’m sure that’s probably got a lot to do with his decision,” said Baker. If you’re looking for a broad narrative account of Harper’s market experience — with loads of intriguing details and Boras’s commentary on many aspects of the deal and process — you’ll want to give Verducci’s piece a full read.
Talks between the Phillies and Harper’s camp escalated so rapidly on Thursday morning that general manager Matt Klentak didn’t even have time to get to the team offices, per Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. According to Zolecki, Klentak closed out the negotiations alone from his condo. Zolecki details some of the many twists and turns negotiations took this weekend, noting that at one point, because the Phillies were worried about losing Harper to a shorter-term deal with a record-shattering average annual value, they put forth three separate offers: a short-term deal with that same type of AAV, a “mid-term” deal and the 13-year, $330MM offer to which Harper eventually agreed. Tacking on those final three seasons without actually upping the $330MM guarantee many expected it’d take to sign Harper was indeed a means of lowering Harper’s luxury tax hit to provide future flexibility when constructing rosters.
The Giants’ top offer to Harper checked in at a hefty $310MM over a 12-year term, as first reported by Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area (via Twitter). The Giants would’ve been willing to go higher, according to Pavlovic, but they’d have had to push their final offer quite a ways north of $330MM given the discrepancy between taxes in California and taxes in Pennsylvania. At the end of the bidding, Boras asked the Giants to top the winning bid “by at least $20 million,” per Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic (subscription link). San Francisco was long rumored to be interested in Harper only on a short-term pact, though it appears that the team did indeed step up and make a larger push for Harper in the late stages of negotiations. Notably, as Baggarly reports, team CEO Larry Baer says that it was president of baseball ops Farhan Zaidi — not ownership — that “was the leading advocate for Harper.” While the Giants entered the fray relatively late in the game, Baer says the club’s interest emerged after Zaidi had spent time evaluating his resources and watching the market develop.
Meanwhile, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports that the Dodgers never really deviated from their insistence on a short-term deal (Twitter link). Per his report, though, Los Angeles put forth offers with enormous annual values — a three-year, $135MM pact ($45MM AAV) and a four-year, $168MM offer as well ($42MM AAV). That’s contrary to what Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported (subscription link); his sources indicate that the Dodgers were “well below $40 million” in annual value in their bidding. It’s worth noting that Boras, in his previously mentioned comments to Sherman, flatly indicated that he received offers of $45MM in AAV (without specifying the source) and stated that Harper had a “full buffet” from which to choose. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes opines (via Twitter), that the Dodgers “went overboard” with their insistence on a short-term deal in not even showing a willingness to pay Harper into his age-30 or age-31 season on a five- or six-year contract. It seems fair to say, too, that Harper also made a bold choice in his own right by turning down those fantastical annual salaries — if indeed they were on offer.
While many will tab the contracts given out to Harper and Manny Machado as overpays, Eno Sarris of The Athletic argues to the contrary, calling each deal a relative bargain (subscription required). Looking at long-term projection models for each player’s production, Sarris concludes that the Phillies are effectively paying Harper at a $/WAR valuation that starts at $6MM in the first year of the contract (and increases from there with inflation). That, he notes, was considered the going rate for a win in free agency more than a decade ago (in 2008). As Sarris notes, projection systems are hardly flawless, and the same goes for the dollars-per-win argument. However, he also notes that when factoring inflation into the equation, the Harper and Machado contracts don’t rank anywhere near the top of the scale in terms of present-day dollars despite the fact that MLB revenues are higher than ever. (To that end, I’ll point out that Harper’s AAV is scarcely even higher than the $25.2MM annual value achieved by Alex Rodriguez with the Rangers nearly 20 years ago.)
The Phillies put an end to the lengthiest, most high-profile free agent pursuit in MLB history today when they agreed to terms with Bryce Harper on a 13-year contract worth a record $330MM, And while there have been suggestions that the Phils could look into Dallas Keuchel and/or Craig Kimbrel once their pursuit of the market’s top two position players (Harper and Manny Machado) had wrapped up one way or another, Todd Zolecki of MLB.com tweets that it’s “unlikely” the Phils would sign either unless one pitcher’s asking price suddenly dropped to a short-term deal. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman offers similar thinking, tweeting that while the Phils “may” look into the market’s top remaining free agents, the organization’s “initial thought” would be short-term.
It’s been a quiet offseason in terms of rumors surrounding both pitchers. Keuchel and Kimbrel have different agents but both entered free agency reportedly hoping to score contracts of $100MM or more; that initial asking price may have turned off some suitors entirely, as there’s been little in the way of teams reported to have interest in the duo. That certainly doesn’t mean that the two haven’t had any interest, but the fact that they’re unsigned with just hours until the calendar flips to March also (obviously) suggests that their current asking price isn’t generating much in the way of bites from potential suitors. Unsurprisingly, both are still in search of multi-year deals, per Mark Feinsand of MLB.com.
Either pitcher would be an obvious fit for the Phillies, though after adding Harper, Andrew McCutchen, David Robertson, J.T. Realmuto and Jean Seguraalready this winter, it doesn’t seem as though GM Matt Klentak, president Andy MacPhail and owner John Middleton are prepared to pay top-of-the-market prices. Still, the Phillies are presently relying on a trio of unproven starters — Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin, Vince Velasquez — behind ace Aaron Nola and veteran Jake Arrieta. Velasquez has long been tabbed as a potential reliever in the end anyhow, and bringing Keuchel aboard could push him to that role while adding a durable, dependable arm to the mix.
In the bullpen, the Phillies are looking at Robertson and sophomore Seranthony Dominguez as a formidable one-two punch at the back end of games. A rebound from Hector Neris and/or better health from veterans Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunterwould give Philadelphia an even deeper collection of ’pen arms, but even with that potentially strong quintet, Kimbrel would push everyone down a peg and give manager Gabe Kapler a cavalcade of impressive arms. (It should be noted, too, that there’s at least a bit of early concern surrounding Hunter’s right arm.)
Even after adding Harper on his record-setting deal, the Phillies’ 2019 payroll projects at just north of $163MM. Their luxury-tax ledger is a bit more crowded at a projected $191.1MM at present (per Roster Resource’s Jason Martinez), so adding either Kimbrel or Keuchel would likely put the Phils over the $206MM barrier (barring the trade of another player on a guaranteed contract).comments powered by Disqus