Our long national vigil is at an end, folks. Bryce Harper and the Philadelphia Phillies have reached terms on a long-term deal that amounts to the most lucrative contract in North American sports history. Super-agent Scott Boras held out all offseason, knowing that his client would eventually get what he wanted. Interestingly, what the pair seemed to want most was that status, agreeing to a straightforward, $330 million deal over 13 seasons. That’s five million more than Giancarlo Stanton’s 13-year extension with the Miami Marlins, the previous record holder. On the other hand, Harper’s annual salary will be considerably lower than Manny Machado, Nolan Arenado, and even Miguel Cabrera will earn in 2019.
Harper’s deal represents a marriage between the two parties, as he and the Phillies are very likely going to be together through 2032. Harper apparently asked for and received no opt-out clauses in the deal, so this is a commitment without built in escape hatches. We will have to wait for particulars to see if there is a full no-trade clause, but that also seems certain. As the New York Times reports, Boras made perfectly clear that Harper was looking to set up shop long-term.
“He wanted to go to one city, stay there, build a brand and identity and recruit players,” Boras said. “He wants to tell players: ‘Come play with me.’ He knows it will help winning more if he’s with one team the whole time.”
As Michael Baumann wrote for The Ringer, this was a deal the Phillies had to get done. Their ownership had promised the fanbase a huge offseason. Even though they had traded for J.T. Realmuto, the game’s best two-way catcher, it would have been a major disappointment had the Phillies not come away with at least one of Harper or Machado. Their fanbase had already grown irate with Harper before the announced deal sent them pinballing back into epic heights of hubris. We Tigers fans remember days like this.
The reasonable average annual value (AAV) of the contract actually makes it rather palatable. Harper will average close to $25.4 million in salary per year, and the contract appears to be somewhat front-loaded. It’s difficult to gauge how the terms will look in retrospect, but that yearly salary will probably look less onerous a decade from now.
Harper also returns value with his marketability, which brings a bit of extra value to the Phillies’ side. The front part of this deal isn’t an issue, even if you’re less than impressed with Harper as a star-caliber player; jersey sales alone will probably pay for the first year of his contract. Still, any commitment of this magnitude carries substantial risk. But the point of the game is to win, and the Phillies want to win big sometime in the next six or seven years before things come unglued. Another factor impacting Harper’s contract may have been the expectation that the designated hitter will come to the National League sometime in the new few years, helping the Phillies keep an aging slugger in the lineup into his late-30s.
Other Harper stuff
Dan Szymborski digs into ZIPS projections to argue that, even on pure baseball value, this isn’t a bad move by the Phillies. Sports Illustrated examines the other offers Harper turned down. Zach Kram looks at the implications of the contract for other players and the game in general. Phillies manager Gabe Kapler and his players got the Bryce Harper news the old fashioned way.
Dustin Peterson, a fourth outfield candidate the Tigers picked up on waivers from the Atlanta Braves late last season, sought and produced a little vengeance on Thursday. Peterson mashed a three-run homer against his former club, and then robbed the Braves of one in left field. Anthony Fenech has the story for the Detroit Free Press.
Yahoo Sports has their preview of the 2019 Tigers up. They ask the question on everyone’s mind: can Miguel Cabrera return to form after two injury-plagued seasons? Tigers fans fear they know the answer to this question already.
Reliever Victor Alcantara burst on the scene last season in a relief role. He racked up a tidy 2.40 ERA in 30 innings of work last summer, but a very low strikeout rate. Coupled with a very low BABIP, this doesn’t exactly argue for future success. For the most part, the young reliever relies on an absolute bowling ball of a sinker, and doesn’t really have much to back it up. Alcantara has apparently been tinkering with a splitter in an effort to get more whiffs. Tigers pitching coach Rick Anderson wants him to leave well enough alone.
Edgertronic cameras are cool
High-speed cameras became the new hotness after comments by Justin Verlander on how they had helped him improve upon his move to Houston. While the Astros were the early adopter, they have quickly become ubiquitous behind practice mounds throughout the major leagues. MLB has a nice little feature on the cameras and their use up for your viewing pleasure.
Around the horn
Ben Reiter has an in-depth piece on the ever-fascinating Trevor Bauer. Forbes looks at 2019 rookies primed to make an impact. Eli Ben-Porat has a fresh examination of that most mysterious of territories, the strike zone, for The Hardball Times. Dan Hayes and Eno Sarris have a stellar piece for The Athletic on the Minnesota Twins’ efforts to understand and teach good receiving to catchers, but it is behind the paywall.