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Harper, Phils agree to 13-year deal

@ToddZolecki
March 2, 2019

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Bryce Harper is bringing his superstar firepower to the Phillies. Multiple sources told MLB.com on Thursday afternoon that the Phillies and Harper agreed to a 13-year, $330 million contract. The Phils announced the deal early Saturday morning. It's the most lucrative guaranteed contract signed in North American

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Bryce Harper is bringing his superstar firepower to the Phillies.

Multiple sources told MLB.com on Thursday afternoon that the Phillies and Harper agreed to a 13-year, $330 million contract. The Phils announced the deal early Saturday morning. It's the most lucrative guaranteed contract signed in North American sports history, eclipsing the 10-year, $300 million contract that Manny Machado signed with the Padres just last week and the 13-year, $325 million contract extension that Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton signed with the Marlins in 2014. Mexican boxer Canelo Alvarez signed an 11-fight contract worth $365 million, but the contract is not guaranteed.

“Certainly franchise-altering, certainly season-altering for the Philadelphia Phillies,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said at Spectrum Field. “We were a great ballclub coming into Spring Training without Bryce Harper. ... We’re going to be an even better ballclub.”

Kapler learned about the deal from a few Phillies fans sitting behind the team’s dugout during a Grapefruit League game against the Orioles. The fans read Kapler and his coaches tweets about the deal as the news appeared on their phones. Phillies ace Aaron Nola and others learned about the deal from teammate Trevor Plouffe.

“It’s pretty cool, finally,” Nola said.

The contract includes a complete no-trade clause and no opt-out clause, meaning Harper could be in a Phillies uniform through 2031, putting to rest the speculation that Harper did not want to play in Philadelphia. A source said the Phillies extended the length of the contract -- many seemed to believe it would be a 10-year deal -- to spread out their cash outlay and lower the average annual value of Harper’s deal to $25.4 million per season. The number should help the Phillies as they pursue future talent (Mike Trout in 2020, anybody?) and try to avoid eclipsing the luxury tax threshold. According to ESPN's Jeff Passan, Harper will make $10 million in 2019 (plus a $20 million signing bonus). He'll make $26 million a season from 2020-28, then $22 million a season from 2029-31.

The Phillies had been interested in Harper for years, constructing rosters and planning for this offseason, but their pursuit intensified last month, when they visited Harper, his wife, Kayla; his agent, Scott Boras; and his associates in Harper’s hometown of Las Vegas. They met Boras again in Florida two weeks ago. Phillies managing partner John Middleton and his wife then flew on his private jet to Las Vegas on Friday to meet with Harper and his wife. Middleton met with Boras again on Saturday morning before returning to Florida that night.

The Dodgers and Giants entered the picture late. The Dodgers only seemed interested in a short-term deal -- never offering Harper 10 years, a source told MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi -- but the Giants did make a 12-year offer for a reported $310 million. Two sources said the Phillies, protecting themselves from a short-term offer with a high average annual value, made three separate offers to Harper at one point: a short-term deal, a mid-term deal and the finalized long-term deal. Boras told the New York Post on Thursday that Harper had "average values of $45M offered on shorter-term deals.”

The Phillies had been confident about their chances to sign Harper earlier this week because they believed he would accept the biggest deal on the table, and they believed they had it. But their optimism faded and frustration intensified Wednesday as negotiations dragged and word spread that the Giants had stepped up their offer.

But there seemed to be renewed optimism Thursday morning at the ballpark. Talks escalated so quickly and become so feverish in the morning that Phillies general manager Matt Klentak never got to the ballpark. A source said Klentak finalized the record-shattering deal alone at his condo near Clearwater Beach.

The Harper saga lasted 118 days, with countless twists and turns. But Harper’s arrival brings excitement and expectations to a city that has not seen its baseball team make the postseason since 2011 and win a World Series since 2008.

Remember those days? Remember a packed Citizens Bank Park? Remember October baseball? Remember feeling that the Phillies could win the World Series every year?

Harper will be expected to take them there, if not this season, then sometime in the near future. The Phillies had been trending the right way, even before Harper agreed to the deal. They made a 14-game improvement to win 80 games in 2018. They acquired catcher J.T. Realmuto, outfielder Andrew McCutchen, shortstop Jean Segura and right-hander David Robertson over the past few months, pushing them into contention in a competitive National League East. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 2019 Phillies will be the first team in big league history to start the season with three new position players (Harper, Realmuto, Segura) who were all All-Stars the previous season.

Harper’s addition to the Phillies’ roster probably makes them and the Nationals co-favorites to win the division, with the Mets and Braves right behind them. Harper is that good. He has hit .279 with 184 home runs, 521 RBIs and a .900 OPS over his seven-year career with the Nationals. He won the 2012 NL Rookie of the Year Award, then the NL Most Valuable Player Award unanimously in 2015, when he hit .330 with an NL-high 42 home runs, also pacing the Majors with a .460 on-base percentage, .649 slugging percentage, 1.109 OPS and 198 OPS+. He has made six NL All-Star teams.

Harper’s 27.4 WAR through his age-25 season ranks 25th in baseball since World War II, putting him on a trajectory to make the Hall of Fame.

The scary thing is Harper might not have reached his prime yet. He is only 26.

Harper’s talent, age and star power are some of the reasons the Phillies earmarked this offseason as one to make a splash. They had been interested in Machado, too, but offered him below the $300 million he received from the Padres.

Players like Harper and Machado do not become free agents very often. The Phillies didn’t miss their shot to get one.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook .