Bryce Harper is coming to Chicago…in a Phillies uniform a couple times a year.
It was excruciatingly fun while it lasted, but it’s time to take off the hair shirt and put down the cat o’ nine tales because it appears our masochistic coverage of Harper’s free agency has ended. After a laborious courtship, the slugging outfielder ended up staying in the NL East by agreeing to a 13-year, $330 million deal ($25.4M AAV) with the Phillies that reportedly includes no opt-outs.
Jon Heyman was first with the news and the total value, with Jeff Passan out front on the years and lack of options.
Bryce Harper’s deal with the Phillies will be for 13 years and $330M, league sources tell ESPN. It will not include any opt-outs.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 28, 2019
So I guess all those hints about hitting back-to-back one day with Kris Bryant and loving deep dish pizza were just part of the long con. Harper and Scott Boras may have circled back to the Cubs, maybe even more than once, but it’s been evident since late October that Theo Epstein would have to move a mountain to make it work. Or, you know, a right fielder and a guy who used to pitch for the Rockies.
Although, man, it was just $25 million AAV that got it done? That’s $5-10 million less than expected, even if it does run until he’s 39 years old. And no opt-outs. That the Cubs couldn’t or wouldn’t be able to get to that level for a guy who reportedly preferred to play for them is going to stick in my craw for a while.
I assume we’ll learn more about additional details in the future, but that’s just not what I had expected.
The Phillies had long been viewed as the final destination for either Harper or Manny Machado, what with their “stupid” money and a desire to cement themselves as favorites in a division dominated of late by Harper’s old team. But after Machado landed in San Diego with a 10-year, $300 million deal, the onus was on John Middleton to make good on his boasts. And make good he did.
Harper remaining in the NL is far from the best thing in the world for the Cubs, but it’s not the death knell of seeing him 19 times a year in St. Louis or Milwaukee (not that either was viewed as a serious contender for his services). Having Harper in the AL would have been even better, but the NL East is no joke and should wear all the teams out over 162 games. The Nationals still have a lot of young talent and an excellent rotation, the Braves are building a contender, the Mets are a training staff away from being good again, and now the Phillies are more than legit.
The Marlins, on the other hand, continue to operate the world’s largest Air BnB as Derek Jeter allows divisional opponents to kick their feet up and relax 19 times a year. Heck, they’ll even trade away their best players to add an extra level of comfort.
As for the rest of us, well, I guess we’ll have to learn how to put the “Cubs” back in Cubs Insider. We’ve been devoting so much time to Harper for what feels like the last year, figuring out what to write about is going to be difficult. How about this for a start: Why the Cubs Need to Extend Kris Bryant Yesterday.