Harper signs record breaking deal

Taylor Jordan, Courier Staff

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Bryce Harper has signed a record setting 13-year, $330 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday. The 26-year-old MVP-winning outfielder has officially ended his seven-year journey with the Washington Nationals who drafted him back in 2010.

Winning a National League Rookie of the Year Award in 2012, an NL MVP Award in 2015 and six All-Star nods, Harper became a free agent for the first time in his career back in October.

“From day one, when I got drafted,” Harper said, “it was all about ‘He’s going to the Yankees. He’s going to the Dodgers. He’s going here. He’s going there.’ That’s all everybody talked about. That’s all anybody wanted to talk about. They wanted to talk about this moment.”

Back in 2015, Harper led the National League in runs, homers, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Though his 2018 campaign wasn’t like his breakout season, he still hit 34 home runs and ranked ninth in on-base percentage. Harper also finished the season with a slash line of .249/.393/.496 and has a career slash line of .279/.388/.512.

Harper’s deal outdid Giancarlo Stanton’s 13-year, $325 million extension with the Miami Marlins in 2014 as the largest contract in the history of major North American sports. But Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, fell short of making him the game’s highest-paid player by annual salary.

“He wanted to go to one city, stay there, build a brand and identity and recruit players,” Boras said. “He wants to tell players: ‘Come play with me.’ He knows it will help winning more if he’s with one team the whole time.”

Last month, Boras invited owner, John Middleton to meet with Harper without any other representatives from the Phillies. Middleton brought his wife, Leigh, where the two dined with Harper and his wife, Kayla, on Feb. 22. Arranged to leave the next day, Middleton scheduled a lunch meeting with Harper that lasted several hours.

“As we sat down at the table, I said, ‘Scott, I want to tell you something. I’m not interested in talking about marketing dollars, tickets sold, billboards and concessions. There’s only one reason I’m talking to you, and that’s because I believe this guy can help us win, and that’s all I care about,’” Middleton told a small group of reporters after Harper’s introductory news conference on Saturday.

With many other offers, many want to know what sealed this deal for Phillies contract. The San Francisco Giants were willing to give him a double-digit-year deal convincing the Phillies they weren’t bidding against themselves. Los Angeles Dodgers were prepared to offer him a record average annual value and the power to opt out after about two years.

“For me, it was all about the long haul,” Harper said. “It was about being able to dig my roots. Being able to be somewhere I could be for a long time.” He added, “I think you’re always remembered for winning. And what better place to do it than in Philly?”

The deal is beneficial on both ends. Philadelphia improves as they add a middle-of-the-order bat to the lineup that includes Rhys Hoskins and a pair of treacherous trade acquisitions, J.T. Realmuto and Jean Segura. The roster of new Phillies also includes outfielder Andrew McCutchen, and reliever David Robertson. Since the deal’s average annual value is $25.4 million, it gets elasticity to spend more in coming off seasons and not risk surpassing the luxury-tax threshold.

The Phillies welcomed Harper to the organization on Saturday with open arms. Philadelphia staged a news conference atop the first-base dugout of their spring-training stadium. Attached to the netting behind Harper were blown-up magazine covers from ESPN the magazine and Sports Illustrated. The Phillie Phanatic greeted Harper, Boras, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak and Middleton as they walked across the stage.

After his introduction, Harper wore his No.3 Phillies jersey for the first time as an official member of the organization. Although he wore No. 34 for the Nationals, he explained at the conference that he’d wear No. 3 in Philadelphia out of respect for Hall of Famer Roy Halladay. “I wore No. 34, but I thought Halladay should be the last to wear it.”

“We got a whole lot better on the field,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “Harper is a sensational teammate.” Harper’s talent, age and star power are some of the main reasons why the Phillies reserved this offseason as one to be the best.

Harper and the Phillies are set to play their home opener on Mar. 28 against the Braves.

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