The Philadelphia Phillies embarked on a full on rebuild around 2013 when they traded away all of the old core. Owner John Middleton and the organization had made one thing clear: their biggest advantage over other clubs was their financial might. All along, fingers were pointed to the 2019 free agent class that originally included Manny Machado, Jose Fernandez, Josh Donaldson, and of course Bryce Harper as the turning point from a rebuilding team to a championship contender.
With a less than stellar draft record consisting of former number one pick, Mickey Moniak, there was only more pressure to sign Bryce on the front office. The “stupid money” phrase used by Middleton early in the offseason placed extremely high expectations from a fanbase that has been starving for competitive baseball.
As of today, Harper has agreed to a 13 year deal worth $330 million, with no deferrals or opt outs. As super agent Scott Boras said, this gives Harper and his family long term stability at a ballpark perfectly suited for his game. All along, Boras and Harper’s goal was to break the record of the biggest contract in history, previously held by Giancarlo Stanton’s $325 million guaranteed.
Matt Klentak, in an off-season defined by stars and his ability to acquire Machado or Harper, added to the Phillies core with Harper and other all-stars J.T. Realmuto and Jean Segura. All 3 of these new additions are under 30, opening up a championship window for a long time, as they pair with other young studs Rhys Hoskins and Aaron Nola. The Phillies turned a bad offense into a great one and a historically bad defense into an average one. In the span of 6 long and testing months, the Phillies went from a core of Maikel Franco and Odubel Herrera to a team where those two players can hit 7 and 8 in the lineup and stay out of the spotlight.
This is a Phillies team that was the second best team in the National League through early August, and now has added 2 former NL MVPs, traded for the best catcher in baseball, extended its star starting pitcher who finished top 3 in Cy Young voting in 2018, and signed the single most consistent bullpen arm over the past 10 years. Go read that sentence again. Seriously, it’s that beautiful.
From 2007-2011, Phillies fans showed up in herds to the ballpark, keeping a sellout streak alive for over 5 years. As the team declined, so did the fan turnout, but now there is a big buzz in the city of brotherly love. It is always great for baseball when the fans in one of the 5 biggest markets in the US are actively engaged and passionate about the game, and signing the sport’s most recognizable face does exactly that.
One last thing of note, the 13 year contract has a lower AAV of $25.38 million per year, which allows the club to stay under the luxury tax for the whole length of the deal. I also believe there is another superstar free agent in two years, who grew up in the area, and is a huge Eagles and 76ers fan. With Jake Arrieta, Pat Neshek, and Tommy Hunter all off the books by then, another $45-50 million in space will be opened up as they will look to sign Mike Trout, the best player in baseball. The Phils have a chance to have a lineup with Trout-Harper-Hoskins-Realmuto, the best 2 through 5 in baseball history. Bottom line: the Philadelphia Phillies have asserted themselves as a superteam for the next 7-10 years, and one who still has room to go out an improve.
Rest happy Phillies fans; your team is competitive once again, your front office delivered the goods, and Bryce Harper is a Phillie for life.