You’ve heard the choruses by now:
“Where’s the stupid money?!”
“Just give him the opt-out and get it done!”
“Offer the guy $350 million and GET IT DONE!”
“Middleton is a fraud if he doesn’t get Harper!”
“They didn’t offer more than $300 million? Are they stupid?!”
“Should’ve matched Machado! Boras played the Phils!”
But the aforementioned choruses come from a place of misplaced rage. I get the knee-jerk reaction to every report of the Dodgers’ and Giants’ interest in Bryce Harper. It sucks. As a fanbase, we’d collectively bought into the notion that John Middleton’s “stupid money” comment with the voracious hunger we felt after Brett Brown uttered “Star Hunting
or Star Developing“. We didn’t learn. That’s fine, but screaming for the owner to just throw even MORE money at the player doesn’t jive with what we’ve seen in other sports. Sometimes money isn’t everything.
Forgive the possible reach on this one, but I think we’ve begun to see a paradigm shift in how top athletes approach their contract negotiations. When Kawhi Leonard chose to push for a trade, he knowingly declined the opportunity to earn a super-max extension worth roughly $219 million over five years. By forcing a trade, he cost himself roughly $36 million. If he chooses to leave Toronto, the max he’ll be able to sign for is roughly $140 million over four years. The numbers are staggering. Think about that for a second. He’s potentially cost himself $79 million because he presumably wants to play in a larger market (and his hometown, hey Clippers). We’ve seen Anthony Davis make a similar power play earlier this month. He’s seemingly willing to leave a possible $239 million deal on the table to pursue a larger market (hey, Lakers). In fact, since the NBA instituted the “Kevin Durant Rule” with the idea of giving a small market team an inside track to re-sign their own players to the most massive deal possible, only four – Steph Curry, James Harden, John Wall, and Russell Westbrook – have signed a super-max deal. Steph’s on the best team of this generation, Harden’s been an MVP on the best threat to Golden State, John Wall would’ve been stupid to turn down that guaranteed money with his up-and-down play (he’s NEVER going to be worth the $40m+ salary he’ll earn at the end of that deal), and Westbrook became the face of the franchise after Kevin Durant left.
That brings me back to Harper. Basketball and baseball players might not be wired the exact same way, but when you’re making the money that some of these guys will make on the field/court, perhaps $30 million doesn’t move the needle. If the Dodgers or Giants defy some reports and offer $300 million over 10 years for Harper, while the Phillies make a 10-year/$330 million offer, does that $30 million make that much of a difference? You and I don’t know. Have you ever signed a multi-million dollar deal? If yes, you’re the only one. We can’t fathom that kind of money. Perhaps Harper, like LeBron James, sees the marketing/sponsorship opportunities in LA and decides that those deals could more than make up the $30 million the Phillies offer. It’s entirely possible that proximity to his hometown of Las Vegas means something. Harper and his wife Kayla Marner were both born and raised in Las Vegas. If they choose to have kids, being in close proximity to their families in Vegas could be a massive selling point. Maybe that alone is a strong enough reason to turn down more guaranteed money. Again, until Bryce Harper himself comes out and speaks on any of the rumors and reports, we won’t know anything for sure.
Feel free to scream on Twitter/Reddit/sports-talk radio about it. I won’t. He’ll either sign here or he won’t. Unlike some Phillies writers, I’m not sick of Harper Watch 2019. It’s giving us something to talk about at this point in the spring. Baseball features a long – perhaps too long – season. We’ll have plenty of time to learn about an adjustment Nick Pivetta has made this offseason to his slider. We’ll have the next month to hear about a young Latin American signing who defied a terrible set of circumstances and exceeded expectations. This insanity is something diehard and casual fans alike should embrace. The Phillies are better now than they were at the end of 2018. Maybe it’ll work out and maybe it won’t. I, for one, am looking forward to this season.