Where do Phillies stand on possible Harper extension?

December 6th, 2023

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Bryce Harper has eight years remaining on the 13-year, $330 million contract he signed in 2019.

He will be 38 when it expires in 2031.

Harper has said several times that he plans to play well into his 40s, which is partly why his agent, Scott Boras, said on Wednesday morning at the Winter Meetings that Harper is seeking a contract extension.

“I think when Bryce Harper comes and talks about something that he wants … He has a lot of goals that he wants to achieve in Philadelphia,” Boras said. “Obviously, he’s a Hall of Fame-type talent. He wants to keep his personal pursuits in the game there and he certainly feels that … he’s been there five years and he’s kind of showed them who he is and why he is a franchise player for Philly. I think he’s changed in the player community how players view Philadelphia.

"And so consequently he came and said, ‘You know, this is something I want off my mind. I want to know that this is done, because I want to play well beyond the contract that I have. And it’s been done with other players.’ He brought up [Chiefs quarterback] Patrick Mahomes. They did something like that with him. Again, that’s his desire, and certainly we’ve expressed it.”

When Harper signed his $330 million deal, it was the most lucrative guaranteed contract in North American sports history. Six MLB players have signed larger contracts since then, while the average annual value of Harper’s deal ranks 24th in baseball at $25,384,615, according to Cot’s Contracts.

An argument can be made that Harper’s contract has become a relative bargain with everything he has done since he came to Philly.

“There’s no better metric than when [owner] John [Middleton] himself says that it’s a great bargain,” Boras said. “So that’s certainly something that we appreciate him saying and I think all of us know it’s true.”

After Harper blasted his series-clinching home run in Game 5 of the 2022 NLCS, Middleton said afterward that Harper might be underpaid. He told The Philadelphia Inquirer in February that, “I wasn’t entirely joking when I said I think I may have underpaid Bryce Harper. Because how many guys hit a home run in the bottom of the eighth inning of the clinching game? The true great ones, it’s hard to overpay them.”

Harper has slashed .284/.395/.536 with 122 home runs, 368 RBIs, a .931 OPS and a 149 OPS+ in five seasons with the Phillies. He has 46.2 WAR, according to Baseball Reference, putting him on a Hall of Fame track.

Baseball Reference’s “Similarity Score” has Harper’s career most closely resembling Barry Bonds though their age 30 seasons.

Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said he has never renegotiated a Major League contract with multiple years remaining on the deal. He declined Wednesday to discuss the possibility of an extension for Harper, or if it would be a priority.

“It’s not something that catches me off guard by any means -- the proclamation,” Dombrowski said. “But other than that, you say priority -- to me, [the] priority is like finishing the Winter Meetings, finishing our roster and all that. There’s a long time until we reach that point. I don’t want to just brush it off by any means, but he’s welcome to the thought process and the feelings that they have. But I am not … I never have been [and] never will be a public person with contract negotiations. I think there’s nothing to be gained from an organizational perspective to deal with contracts publicly.”

If anybody can get the Phillies to even consider renegotiating a contract like that, it is Harper. He has done so much for the franchise. He has done so much for the city.

“Bryce has certainly expressed to them that he wants to end his career in Philadelphia,” Boras said. “I certainly told Dave that I think Bryce is a franchise player. … He came there, and he came there with the fans, and apart from my advice he goes, ‘I just want to go and make sure that I can recruit players to Philadelphia. I want the fans of Philadelphia to know that I’m going to be there for the duration, and that I’m committed.’

"And I think that’s been an important voice for them to attract major free agents and other players. So he’s certainly … Bryce has let me know that he wants to work out an extension, so that he knows that he’s going to be there for the remainder of his career.”

1. Pitching: Craig Kimbrel has agreed to a deal with the Orioles, though he probably wasn’t returning anyway. The Phillies could use another experienced reliever, either somebody who can pitch in the late innings, like Kimbrel, or somebody who can pitch multiple innings, preferably somebody right-handed. They would also like to find more rotation depth, but that likely will not come until very late in the offseason.

2. Outfielder: The Phillies would like to find an outfielder to improve their depth behind Nick Castellanos, Brandon Marsh and Johan Rojas, who will have to earn a job this spring. Cristian Pache and Jake Cave are in the mix, but both are out of options.

The Phillies did not select or lose anybody in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft.

In the Minor League phase, the Phils selected catchers William Simoneit (A’s), Luis Caicuto (D-backs) and Carson Taylor (Dodgers); and infielders Trevor Schwecke (Blue Jays) and Bryson Ball (Guardians). Meanwhile, Philadelphia lost left-handers Rafael Marcano (Twins) and Keylan Killgore (Royals). The Phillies also lost right-handers Carlos Betancourt (Astros) and Blake Brown (Rays).

“I don’t think it’s before the first of the year,” Dombrowski said in response to when he expects the market to open more to what they want to do. “Because it’s such a slow-moving market. … We have had very few conversations of any length with clubs. Not that we haven’t reached out. We have a pulse of what’s going on, but normally, you’re having many more conversations. But then, when I’m talking to people, they’re saying the same thing.”