The Bryce Harper sweepstakes has ended, with several media outlets including MLB.com reporting that the 26-year-old superstar will sign a record-breaking 13-year contract with the Philadelphia Phillies.
The record-breaking deal is the largest total financial outlay in a contract in North American sports history, beating out the 13-year, $325 million contract extension signed by Giancarlo Stanton in 2014.
Harper Prioritized Contract Length Over Salary
It also outpaces the 10-year, $300 million deal that Manny Machado signed with the San Diego Padres earlier this month, though Harper’s annual average salary — approximately $25.4 million – will be lower than what was seen in the recent deals struck by Machado and Nolan Arenado.
According to Scott Boras, who serves as Harper’s agent, the player could have had up to $45 million per year on a shorter deal. However, the outfielder wanted long-term security rather than a bigger annual payday.
“The goal was to get the longest contract possible,” Boras told the New York Post. “Bryce wanted one city for the rest of his career. That is 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.”
No-Trade Clause, No Opt-Out
The specifics of the deal do seem geared towards ensuring Harper stays with the Phillies for the remainder of his career, or very close to it. The deal will run through his age 38 season, and has no out-out clause. It also includes a no-trade clause, suggesting that both sides were willing to see Harper in a Philadelphia uniform for the remainder of his productive years.
Harper chose the Phillies over teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants, the latter of which appeared to be gaining momentum in the race to land the generational talent in the past few days. Reports late last season also suggested that Harper had turned down a 10-year, $300 million contract to stay with the Washington Nationals, the team he had been with for the first seven years of his career.
His production during those years has made him one of the most prized commodities in baseball. So far, he has hit .279 with 184 home runs and a .900 OPS for his career, earning six All-Star nods and one MVP award.
That gave him astronomical value heading into free agency, even considering that 2018 was a relative down year for the star. Last season, Harper hit just .249, but did slug 34 homers and knock in 100 runs. He also walked 130 times, meaning he put up a very strong .393 on-base percentage despite the deceptively low batting average. Harper also had a very strong second half of the 2018 season, alleviating any concerns that there were long-term issues plaguing his game.
Sportsbooks Shorten Odds on Phillies
The move has had immediate consequences on betting markets, as the Phillies will now jump into the short list of serious World Series contenders. William Hill now has Philadelphia as a 12/1 pick to win the World Series, making them joint fifth-choice with the Cleveland Indians. That trails only the Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros, and New York Yankees – all listed as 6/1 co-favorites – as well as the Los Angeles Dodgers (7/1).
The biggest factor keeping the Phillies odds from shortening even further may be the strength of their divisional rivals. While Philadelphia (15/8) is now listed as the favorite to win the NL East, they will still have to contend with strong challenges from the Nationals (9/4), Atlanta Braves (3/1), and New York Mets (9/2).