Giants made late push, but Harper picks Phils

Bochy: 'You've got to be thankful for what you have'

February 28th, 2019

PHOENIX -- Bryce will not be coming to the Bay after all.

Despite a late pursuit from the Giants, superstar agreed to a record 13-year, $330 million deal with the Phillies on Thursday, sources told It is the largest contract in MLB history, topping the 13-year, $325 million extension received from the Marlins in 2014.

Giants players and manager Bruce Bochy learned of the news shortly before taking the field against the Brewers at American Family Fields of Phoenix.

“It just seemed like that was the direction he was heading,” Bochy said. “I don’t allow myself to really think about it because you can’t be disappointed, and you don’t want these guys disappointed. I tell them, 'You’ve got to be thankful for what you have versus what you don’t have.' That’s what we think here.”

The Phillies had been widely viewed as the front-runners for Harper, though the Giants decided to enter the fray after seeing the 26-year-old outfielder linger on the market deep into the offseason. Giants CEO Larry Baer and president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi traveled to Las Vegas to meet with Harper twice this month, with their second meeting taking place on Tuesday as negotiations began to ramp up. The Dodgers also made a late, unsuccessful play for Harper this week.

“They’ve got such a good club anyway,” Bochy said. “The fact that he’s not in our division, sure, that’s good news.”

The Giants, who could have given Harper a chance to play on the West Coast and be closer to his Las Vegas home, made a 12-year, $310 million offer, according to NBC Sports Bay Area. But they were unwilling to match the commitment from the Phillies, who reportedly included a full no-trade clause and did not require any deferred money in Harper’s deal.

“The fact that we were in it, we’re appreciative,” Bochy said. “Ownership allowed us to get involved there, but hey, it didn’t quite happen and we move on.”

With Harper no longer available, the Giants now have clarity to move forward with other plans to improve their roster. Zaidi said earlier this month that he had remained engaged with teams on potential trade talks, so he could explore other avenues to bring in reinforcements. The Giants currently have a surplus of quality arms in their bullpen, so they could trade some of that depth as they look to fill other holes on their roster before Opening Day.

“We've had trade conversations with teams about certain players that started in 2018 that kind of are continuing now,” Zaidi said. “It’s a little bit of a function of the slow market, but I think with anything that's a hypothetical, it's a good idea to have alternatives and not put all your eggs in any one basket.”

For now, the Giants plan to move forward with their current crop of outfielders, which includes Steven Duggar, Mac Williamson, Austin Slater, Rule 5 Draft pick Drew Ferguson and non-roster invitees Gerardo Parra and Cameron Maybin. No one is that group is projected to be worth more than 1 Win Above Replacement in 2019, according to FanGraphs’ Steamer, but the Giants believe their outfielders have enough talent to outperform those modest expectations, especially now that Duggar and Williamson are healthy.

Williamson appeared poised for a breakout campaign last year, but he suffered a concussion after tripping over the bullpen mounds and crashing head-first into the left-field wall on April 24. The symptoms lingered and hampered Williamson’s performance for the rest of the season, but he is finally feeling back to normal this spring and appears to have an inside track to securing a spot in the outfield since he’s out of options.

He only helped his cause by crushing his first home run of the spring on Thursday, a two-run shot to center field in the fourth inning of the Giants’ 6-2 win over the Brewers.

“Whether [Harper] was going to come or not, I think it’s the same mentality,” Williamson said. “If I do really well, I’ve got a chance, and if I don’t do really well, it hurts my chances. I guess statistically, that’s one less option for them, so I guess that helps me in a way.”

Duggar also showed promise as a rookie last year before going down with a shoulder injury in late August. He is scheduled to make his Cactus League debut on Friday night, and the Giants believe he and Maybin have the potential to form an elite defensive tandem in center field this year.

That type of upside gives the Giants confidence that they’ll be able to surprise in 2019, even without Harper.

“I don’t know if I ever really had super high expectations that he was going to sign here,” Brandon Belt said. “You try not to get too excited, at least. But we were hoping for the best, We were hoping he would sign here. But yeah, it’s over, it’s done with. Not much you can do about it. I really feel good about the guys that we have here, and I’m not just throwing out clichés. I really do believe that. It’s time to win ball games.”