Similar to how Jayson Stark penned the definitive account on the Cliff Lee signing in 2010, it would appear Tom Verducci has provided us the inside look at the Harper signing.
Here are the highlights.
Bryce Harper valued length above all else
According to Verducci, Harper gave Scott Boras one mandate: length of contract. He wanted to remain in one place for the rest of his career, and wasn’t interested in opt-outs, despite prior reports.
“It was not only important not to have an opt out, he refused to allow me to do it,” Boras said. “He said, ‘I want to be with one team.’ I tried to talk him out of it. He gave me my marching orders.”
John Middleton is a Philly F-ing GOAT
John Middleton has emerged a dick-swinging owner. With “stupid money” and “I want my fucking trophy back” quotes attributed to his name, Middleton is the kind of win-at-all-costs owner every sports fan wants. And better yet, he’s a genuine ambassador for Philly.
He and his wife, Leigh, met with Harper and his better half, Kayla, twice last week in Las Vegas during the famed trip -once for dinner on Friday, and again for lunch on Saturday. Much of the time was spent talking about the ancillary benefits to calling this town home:
Middleton spent most of the time giving his best Chamber of Commerce speech. He talked up the Philadelphia area’s schools, hospitals, restaurants and general quality of life. When the Phillies began their courtship of Harper back in December, they kicked it off with a slickly-produced video in which the club found as many prominent Philadelphians as possible—athletes, politicians, restaurateurs, coaches, business owners, etc.—and had them speak directly to Harper to join them in the city. The video also included marquees of local arenas with his name in lights.
Odds on appearances in that video:
Doug Pederson -120
Mayor Kenney even
Jay Wright +180
Chase Utley +190
Carson Wentz +200
Joel Embiid +220
Ed Rendell +300
Claude Giroux +420
Michael Rubin +500
Jeffrey Lurie +600
Cole Hamels +20000
I was right
This is what I tweeted earlier this week… and last week:
My not-so-hot-take theory on Harper-Phillies: Boras is trying to extract every last drop and Phils are actually doing a decent job of not blinking. With no other sizable offer, Boras pulling out all the stops and “reports” to see if Phils panic. Middleton not as stupid as thought
— Kyle Scott (@CrossingBroad) February 20, 2019
After reading this, I go back to my Tweet from last week that Phils were actually doing a decent job of holding firm since they appeared to be only real interested. Now Dodgers report and this firm figure. I bet they get it done for something less than expected. https://t.co/S1OwhJ3UNm
— Kyle Scott (@CrossingBroad) February 25, 2019
I was mostly right– the Phillies were holding strong with the best offer. But money wasn’t the hold-up– it was years.
So Boras called in the Dodgers and Giants:
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.
That’s what pushed the deal, and the Phillies, over the finish line– with Middleton calling Boras yesterday and making The Godfather offer of $330 million, with a manageable $25 million AAV, which is actually quite reasonable for a player of Harper’s stature. Consider Ryan Howard was making this much eight years ago, and it’s what Harper will be making a full 20 years later. The Phillies held firm – rigid, even – and only blinked after Boras brought in the heavy artillery. Both sides compromised, with Harper getting the years he wanted, and the Phillies not being totally stupid with their money.
I DON’T KNOW WHY YOU’D READ ANY OTHER SITE!
One particular winner, so far yet so near
Big market team, yo:
“Bryce took less AAV. He took more years,” Boras said, comparing the deal to the Machado contract. “And we’re playing on a winning team. Bryce Harper wanted to play on a winning team now and one that has the revenues to sustain it. He got all those things. When Manny Machado is 35, let’s see if he gets those millions over the remaining three years. You’d better be a real good defensive player, too. I did it for [Adrian] Beltre.”
Anyone still think Bryce didn’t want to play here?
The Nationals were never really serious
Ted Lerner, who once overpaid Jayson Werth, got outbid by the Phillies on his own superstar:
Before the process even began he lost a huge bargaining chip when Harper’s incumbent team, the Washington Nationals, sent an offer on the last weekend of the regular season. It was reported to be $300 million over 10 years, but included so much deferred money over such a long period—Harper would be 60 years old when the last payments were made—that the net present value was $184 million. The Harper camp saw the offer as little more than a publicity gesture to appease fans.
A source close to the Nationals described how Boras responded: “crickets.”
Surely, he wasn’t serious. And we’ll call him Shirley.
Other teams quick to take shots at their new Eastern overlords
Frankly, some teams, such as the Braves, just didn’t see Harper as worth a record contract. “Harper is great friends with Freddie Freeman and would have loved Atlanta,” said one club source, “but [we] just didn’t value him that high.”
“Corner outfield is the easiest place to find a bat,” said one club president. “He doesn’t stand out as much as Machado, a righthanded-hitting third baseman who hits righthanded pitching.”
Said another club executive, “At best, he’s an average defensive player. At best.”
Some worried about how his violent swing would hold up.
“He’s Tiger Woods with that swing,” said one GM. “I’d take him for a few years, but it’s hard to see how that body is going to hold up when you swing like that. You saw how Tiger’s body broke down.”
Yeah, Tiger Woods won 8 majors after he was the age Harper is now. If Bryce wants to go down in sex-fueled flames after that sort of run, I’m here for it.
He’s our superstar
I like greatness so much:
“The reality is the greatest and most successful aspect of Hollywood are the stars,” Boras said. “George Clooney, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper … whatever movie they are in is about them. People identify with the greatest of great people. In sports you think about Michael Jordan and Tom Brady. When you think about the people who are the billboards of teams it creates what we expect in sports. People want to watch greatness and they want to watch the greatness of individuals.
“What is best for baseball is what the fans tell us: when you have the greatest, most iconic players, the fans will come.”
Consider me coming.
Harper takes care of himself
Boras’s next job was to convince the Phillies that Harper would hold up over more than 10 years. Harper, he told them, was a Mormon who didn’t drink or smoke, and who was both a baseball rat and a gym rat.
What it all came down to
This sounds familiar:
This is what Harper wanted: to chase records, chase titles, chase endorsements, and chase a legacy with one team rather than becoming a baseball nomad. And this, too: more money in one contract than has ever been handed over to a ballplayer. Ten years in the making, he got what he wanted.
Did someone say Chase?
Read the article here.