Baseball’s five-month wait is over. Free agent Bryce Harper signed a record-breaking $330 million, 13-year deal with the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday to not only make him the wealthiest man in baseball, but also the richest man in North American sports.
Harper, who spent six seasons with the division rival Washington Nationals, was the most sought after free agent this winter alongside Manny Machado. After engaging in talks with the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants, Harper’s historic deal now leaves the Phillies as one of the top contenders for this year’s World Series title.
With pen to paper, the Phillies can finally get to work knowing they’ve bolstered their outfield with a six-time All-Star. But as the dust settles, are the Phillies really bound for October baseball?
Don’t look now, but Opening Day is just 27 days away, so here’s everything you need to know:
A Stern World Series Firm
Harper is coming off one of his best seasons statistically, so it’s no surprise to see the Phillies firm behind the Dodgers, Yankees, Astros and Red Sox in the World Series market. The 26-year-old smacked 34 home runs last season in Washington and also won the Home Run Derby, but when you dig a little deeper, it’s fair to say Harper has well and truly entered his prime.
If the Phillies wish to justify their gargantuan cash drop, they only need to look at Harper’s statistical profile. He led the league in walks last season, also finishing inside the Top 20 in home runs, RBIs and OBP. There’s some work to be done when it comes to decreasing the strikeout numbers, but in a new ballpark like Citizens Bank Park, one that averaged the fourth-most home runs in the Majors last year, Harper’s power numbers should skyrocket.
There’s an argument to be made as to whether or not this current Phillies lineup is superior to what the Nationals offered, but there’s no denying the quality of young talent in Philadelphia. Harper will likely bat third in the Phillies’ lineup behind Cesar Hernandez and Jean Segura, offering up plenty of RBI chances. But on the opposite side of the ball, the Phillies hold a strong rotation comprising of Aaron Nola, who finished third in Cy Young voting last year, as well as veteran Jake Arrieta and Nick Pivetta.
Past, Present & Future
In six seasons with Washington Harper reached the postseason on four separate occasions. In 2012, his Rookie of the Year season, the Nationals fell short in the National League Divisional Series against the Cardinals, a feat that would repeat itself four more times as the Nationals never made it to the Championship Series with Harper on board.
As a player, Harper was voted the 2015 NL MVP, a year that saw him finish third in home runs, second in walks and first in OBP. Career-wise, Harper ranks inside the Top 100 active players in RBIs and home runs, but he’ll have his work cut out for him in Philadelphia. Expectations in Washington were high – the Nationals have never won a World Series ring. But in Philly, a city that last tasted championship success in 2008, failure isn’t an option, and the fans let you know it.
Dollars & Sense
Harper’s agent Scott Boras was determined to draw out the never-ending negotiations for as long as possible. The Giants reportedly offered Harper a 10-year contract north of the $300 million mark, but with Harper wanting “the longest contract possible”, as well as the Phillies growing desperate, Boras knew it was only a matter of time before Philadelphia made his client the richest man in baseball.
Large contracts of the seven-figure variety aren’t uncommon. Nine of the world’s Top 10 largest sports contracts belong to baseball players, while Harper’s deal comes only a year after Giancarlo Stanton opted to sign a 13-year, $325 million contract with the Yankees.
Per-year Harper will make close to $26-million with the Phillies, which pales in comparison to Nolan Arenado’s eight-year extension signed with the Rockies earlier this week.
And What About Manny Machado?
So long as we’re discussing contracts, the San Diego Padres also made a surprise splurge last week signing 26-year-old third baseman Manny Machado to a lengthy 10-year, $300 million deal.
The move sends Machado, who was a controversial figure during his brief World Series stint with the Los Angeles Dodgers last year, to a team that continues to rebuild for the years to come. Realistically the Padres won’t be competitive until the 2021 season, but as this team continues to lure in some of the games top free agents, don’t be surprised if they flirt with .500 during various stages of the coming season.
For fun, the Padres remain a $51.00 chance to win the World Series. Machado is considered a Top 5 third baseman, but even his presence hasn’t been enough to sway San Diego in the market – check back this time next year if San Diego find some pitching help.