Phillies

The complete timeline of Phillies' path to Signing Harper

The complete timeline of Phillies' path to Signing Harper

Phillies fans will never forget this offseason. Two surprising and impressive trades, a couple big signings of veterans, and the long, winding, ultimately successful path to bringing Bryce Harper aboard.

On Tuesday at 8 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia premieres "Signing Harper," a one-hour documentary focusing on the behind-the-scenes process for the Phillies to land their man. There will be exclusive interviews with Harper, his agent Scott Boras, Phillies managing partner John Middleton and his wife Leigh, and more.

The path to Harper wasn't easy. Free agency opened on Oct. 29 and Harper agreed to his deal with the Phillies on Feb. 28. Four whole months of false starts and social media sleuthing from information-starved fans. Harper knew all along the process would likely linger into February or March.

Let's take a look back:

September 2018 — Nats make an offer

The Nationals reportedly offer Harper a 10-year, $300 million contract, which he rejects. The deal, Harper would later say, included $100 million in deferred money that he'd receive at age 65. 

Deferalls are nothing new to the Nationals, who have used them in the contracts for Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin and even on a one-year deal for Brian Dozier this winter.

It never made sense for Harper to forgo free agency and the bidding war that would ensue.

Oct. 29 — The market opens

Free agency begins — three words that mean a lot less in baseball than in basketball and football. The absence of a salary cap or salary floor in MLB causes players to linger on the open market. At least a dozen teams had no interest in spending this winter, and some of the most aggressive pursuers of Harper and Manny Machado did not emerge until the end.

Nov. 16 — "Stupid money"

Middleton tells USA Today that the Phillies are "expecting to spend money and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it."

The quote goes viral and is repeated on Philadelphia airwaves every day for nearly four months.

In the end, the exorbitant sum of money was spent in a shrewd way.

Dec. 11 — McCutchen gets paid

The Phillies sign Andrew McCutchen to a three-year, $50 million contract, beginning the process of reworking their outfield. Was it more than most anticipated McCutchen would receive? Yes. Looking at this offseason retrospectively, it was a necessary move. The Phils could have gone with Michael Brantley on a two-year deal closer to $30 million, but there is a case to be made that McCutchen fits this team better because he's substantially more durable.

Dec. 3 — Phillies acquire Segura

Out of nowhere, the Phillies ship Carlos Santana and J.P. Crawford off to Seattle in exchange for Jean Segura and relievers Juan Nicasio and James Pazos.

In one fell swoop, Phils GM Matt Klentak turned two weaknesses — shortstop and the non-fit of Rhys Hoskins in left field — into a strength. Maybe someday Crawford will pan out in the big leagues. He will open 2019 in the Mariners' minor-league system. There is no question Segura is the better hitter and defender at this point, and at 29, Segura fits well into the Phillies' timeline to contend.

Dec. 11 — Phils meet with Boras

The Phillies meet with Boras to discuss Harper and Zach Britton. The Phillies had interest in Britton in the summer of 2018 as well but he went to the Yankees both times.

Dec. 20 — Machado makes his visit

The Phillies host Manny Machado, initially believed to be their on-field preference over Harper, for a visit. A construction worker yells at Machado to "Do the right thing and sign!"

Machado leaves Philly without a contract and takes two more months to make his decision.

Jan. 7 — Phillies set meeting with Harper

The Phillies firm up their meeting with Harper, which takes place five days later in Las Vegas. No offer is made ... yet.

Jan. 29 — Does Vegas know something?

The Phillies' World Series odds are changed to 12/1, fifth-shortest in MLB and a surprising figure for a team coming off an 80-win season. Fans speculate that Vegas has to know something.

In reality, betting sites were protecting themselves by making the Phils' odds so short, in case they did land Harper or Machado. 

Feb. 7 — Phillies make a huge trade

Acquiring J.T. Realmuto would be the top move for almost every other team in baseball this offseason. It turned out not to be for the Phillies, who acquired the best catcher in baseball exactly three weeks before agreeing to their deal with Harper.

Jorge Alfaro and top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez were shipped to the Marlins for the All-Star catcher. Realmuto will bat fifth for the Phillies and has a chance to do things at the plate he couldn't in Miami, where the ballpark is cavernous and the lineup protection was nonexistent.

Feb. 19 — Machado mania ends

Machado signs a 10-year, $300 million contract with the San Diego Padres, who did not emerge as a serious player for him until mid-January.

There is reason to believe that members of the Phillies' front office preferred Machado over Harper at one point, but that shifted as the offseason wore on and Phillies people saw how much the fanbase preferred Harper and how much of an economic boost Harper would provide over Machado.

Feb. 22 — Nats close the door on Harper

Nats owner Mark Lerner says on NBC Sports Washington that the Nationals have "moved on" from Harper, removing one major threat for the Phillies.

"We've moved on. We had to," Lerner said. "There was no way we could wait around. ... We've filled out our roster."

Feb. 22 — Air Middleton lands in Vegas again

Middleton meets with Harper and Boras a second time. Middleton's wife, Leigh, and Harper's wife, Kayla, are present. No deal is struck, but the right impression is made on both sides.

Feb. 25 — Have Phillies lost Harper sweepstakes?

Tension grips Phillies camp as their lead in the race for Harper appears to shrink with the Dodgers and Giants negotiating with Harper in a meaningful way.

All along, it was assumed that Harper would prefer one of the California teams because of the short trips between his Vegas home, spring training in Arizona and the regular season in Cali. 

All along, most misread Harper's priorities. Geography and opt-outs didn't matter nearly as much as the baseball world believed.

Feb. 28 — It finally happens

A historic end to the month of February for the Phillies, who reach a 13-year, $330 million contract with Harper.

The total money was on par with expectations but the years were not. The shocking 13-year deal pays Harper an average of $25.38 million per year, more money than he'll ever be able to spend but not enough annually to prohibit the Phils from making necessary signings and extensions in the years to come.

March 1 — Inside the negotiations

Jim Salisbury takes us inside the Phillies' negotiation process with Harper, which included a 15-year offer, a short contract at an astronomical price and more. Some incredible details here.

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Larry Bowa recalls two special seasons with (almost unanimous) Hall of Famer Derek Jeter

Larry Bowa recalls two special seasons with (almost unanimous) Hall of Famer Derek Jeter

Larry Bowa asked a question Tuesday afternoon.

“You think he’ll be unanimous?”

Derek Jeter was a 14-time All-Star and a five-time World Series champion with the New York Yankees. He won a Rookie of the Year award, was a World Series MVP and finished in the top 10 in American League MVP voting eight times. He won five Gold Gloves at shortstop and finished his career with 3,465 hits. Only Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial and Tris Speaker had more.

We’re talking rare air here, folks.

We’re talking icon.

So, six hours before the official Hall of Fame announcement was to come down early Tuesday night, the question that Bowa posed wasn’t whether Jeter would make it through the doors of Cooperstown in his first year of eligibility – that was a slam-dunk, take-it-to-the-bank, lead-pipe cinch – it was would he be just the second player ever to be elected unanimously.

“He should be,” Bowa said.

The answer to Bowa’s question came soon enough.

No, Jeter did not make it into the Hall unanimously, as his great Yankee teammate Mariano Rivera did the year before. But he still received historic support as he sailed into Hardball Heaven on his first try.

Jeter appeared on 396 of the 397 ballots cast by voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Voters are encouraged but not required to make their ballots public. The identity of the one writer who did not vote for Jeter was not immediately known. That person will likely come forward at some point, not that it will matter a whole lot in the final analysis. The 99.7 percent of the vote that Jeter did receive is the highest ever for a position player.

Hard-hitting outfielder Larry Walker, an MVP and three-time National League batting champ, was also elected. He made it by six votes in his 10th and final year on the writers’ ballot.

Former Phillies pitcher Curt Schilling missed by 20 votes, but his 70 percent bodes well for future election. He needs to get to 75 percent of the vote in his final two years on the ballot.

Another former Phillie, third baseman Scott Rolen, received 35.3 percent of the vote in his third year on the ballot.

Bowa, the great former Phillies shortstop and manager, played 2,222 games at shortstop, seventh-most all time. Jimmy Rollins played 2,227 games at short, sixth-most all-time. Omar Vizquel ranks first on the list at 2,709 and Jeter is second at 2,674.

Bowa enjoyed an up-close look at Jeter’s greatness during the 2006 and 2007 seasons when he was third-base coach for the Yankees. Jeter still had another seven seasons to go in his career, but even at that point, Bowa knew he was looking at a Hall of Famer.

“He just had an aura about him that said, ‘If you want to be a big-leaguer, watch me,’ “ Bowa recalled. “It was that way in everything he did. He never sulked if he didn’t get any hits.

“In my two years there, I don’t think I ever saw him make a mental mistake. He was always well prepared. He was very coachable and open to advice. He never jogged. He always played the right way. In big situations with the game on the line, he wanted to be at the plate. And he produced.”

Bowa compared Jeter to a couple of players he managed with the Phillies, one a Hall of Famer, one a potential Hall of Famer.

“He reminded me of Jim Thome, the way he handled himself,” Bowa said. “Very humble guys. Both team-first. If it was the eighth inning and a guy led off with a double, you didn’t have to tell Jeter to get the ball to the right side and get him over to third.

“He was a little bit like Chase Utley. You wind him up in April, say good luck and have a good year, and at the end of year he’d have a great season. He could have played without any leader or manager. Incredible work ethic.”

Like any other player, Jeter could have an off day, though not often. Bowa recalled a time in 2007 when the Yankees played an awful game. 

“I think it was a Sunday game,” Bowa said. “It might have been the worst game I’d ever seen the Yankees play.”

The performance left manager Joe Torre quietly seething. He called the team together after the game.

“I’d never seen Joe angry before,” Bowa said. “He usually got with guys one-on-one in his office if he wasn’t happy and no one knew about it. But this time, we played so bad that he felt like he had to get everyone together.”

Torre didn’t go after the 25th man.

He went right for the heart – Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.

“He was all over them,” Bowa said. “It was the only time I ever saw Joe get on a guy like that. There was no swearing or anything like that, but he literally pointed them out and told them they were better than that and he expected more.”

The next day, Jeter was getting ready to do some early work with Bowa in the infield. Bowa asked him about what had gone down the day before.

“Jeter was completely accountable,” Bowa said. “He said he deserved it. That really showed me something. Here was a guy putting together a Hall of Fame career and he just got it. He didn’t take it personally.”

And he won’t take not being a unanimous selection to the Hall of Fame personally, either.

Ninety-nine-point-seven percent.

We’re still talking rare air here, folks.

“The guy was just solid, man,” Larry Bowa said. “So professional. Just a pleasure to watch. I’m really happy for him.” 

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Make that 2 buy-low bullpen moves for the Phillies

Make that 2 buy-low bullpen moves for the Phillies


Drew Storen wasn't the only reliever the Phillies added early this week.

The Phils also agreed to a minor-league deal with veteran right-hander Bud Norris, according to Robert Murray.

The Phillies worked out Norris late last season but did not sign him.

Norris last pitched in 2018 with the Cardinals. He was pretty effective, posting a 3.59 ERA in 57⅔ innings with 67 strikeouts. He saved 28 games.

Relievers are so volatile from year to year that it stands to reason one of Storen or Norris will recapture some success in 2020. The Phillies have seen quite clearly over the last two seasons that big relief contracts are a gamble. They paid David Robertson, Tommy Hunter and Pat Neshek a combined $57 million and all three dealt with long-term injuries.

The big wild-card in the Phils' bullpen is Seranthony Dominguez, who missed most of last season with arm injuries but could be a much-needed and useful weapon if he can revert to his 2018 form.

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