Phillies

How the Phillies closed the deal and made themselves the perfect fit for Bryce Harper

How the Phillies closed the deal and made themselves the perfect fit for Bryce Harper

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Despite how commonplace opt-out clauses have become in superstar contracts in recent years, Bryce Harper did not want one, agent Scott Boras told NBC Sports Philadelphia moments after Harper's agreement with the Phillies.

Harper wanted to be in one city the rest of his career and prioritized a long-term deal that would keep him in one place, similar to Tom Brady.

His 13-year, $330M contract contains a full no-trade clause.

Harper also prioritized a hitter-friendly ballpark and Citizens Bank Park certainly fits that description.

Phillies managing partner John Middleton traveled to Las Vegas last weekend to express his long-term vision to Harper. Franchise direction and commitment to winning was important to Harper, according to Boras. Middleton's wife, Leigh, joined Harper and his wife Kayla at dinner and stressed things like community, family and the Phillies' long history of charitable work.

While Los Angeles might have been the storybook destination for Harper because of its proximity to his hometown and his Hollywood persona, Harper never had an aversion to playing in Philadelphia if the money and length of contract was right. And it was.

Harper will earn just over $25 million annually, similar to Cliff Lee's free-agent deal with the Phillies in the winter of 2010. Lee battled injuries in his last few years and didn't even pitch in 2015, the last season of his contract.

Harper is still 26 and has a lot of prime years left. With the length of this contract and the possibility of the designated hitter coming to the National League in future seasons, he'd have a good landing spot if defense becomes a challenge. He wants to play into his 40s.

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Timing getting better for Bryce Harper, who strokes two singles

Timing getting better for Bryce Harper, who strokes two singles

CLEARWATER, Fla. — While most of his teammates traveled to Florida's east coast for a game against the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday, Bryce Harper stayed back in Pinellas County and got some extra at-bats in a minor-league game at Carpenter Complex.

Harper, who had gone hitless in his first eight official at-bats of the spring, batted four times and stroked his first two singles of the spring in a game against a Pittsburgh Pirates farm team. Both were hard-hit balls to the right side of the diamond.

One day earlier, Harper joked about going hitless in his first five games with the Phils. After his first hit Monday, he playfully called back to the dugout to see if someone could retrieve the ball as a souvenir.

Harper also grounded out and struck out in the minor-league game. He played four innings in right field.

Catcher J.T. Realmuto and reliever David Robertson also appeared in the minor-league game.

Hitting coach John Mallee liked the way Harper swung the bat.

"His timing is getting better and he's starting to put the ball on the barrel more," Mallee said.

Harper will continue his defensive work on Tuesday. He will also track pitches in the bullpen. That can be valuable for a hitter trying to get his eyes ready for the season.

Harper is expected to start in right field when the Phillies host the Detroit Tigers in Clearwater on Wednesday.

On the road, the Phillies lost, 4-1, to the Cardinals in Jupiter, Fla. 

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Gabe Kapler says players could have been more engaged during Phillies' 2018 collapse

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USA Today Images

Gabe Kapler says players could have been more engaged during Phillies' 2018 collapse

CLEARWATER, Fla. — As the Phillies limped to the finish line with 20 losses in the final 28 games last season, some players basically checked out.

"I think in September our players could have been more engaged," manager Gabe Kapler confirmed to reporters in Jupiter, Fla., on Monday. "With the players I thought could have been more engaged, those conversations were had. I addressed every situation that clearly needed to be addressed last year in appropriate settings."

Kapler spoke in response to an ESPN story that told of how Carlos Santana smashed a television at Citizens Bank Park after seeing a couple of teammates playing a video game during a ballgame against the Atlanta Braves on the final weekend of the season.

Phillies pitcher Jake Arrieta did not deny that some team members played video games in the clubhouse last season. He added that he did not believe video games were played during games.

Kapler said he was unaware of any of his players playing video games while the baseball game was in progress — "That's unacceptable, 100 percent," he said — but he did not deny that Santana trashed some equipment in the video room.

"In the middle of the summer, the chemistry of the clubhouse was very good," said Kapler, whose club was in first place in the NL East in early August. "As we struggled at the end, understandably, tensions ran high. When that happens, players tend to react. 

"Carlos became frustrated as happens in high-tension situations. He responded by smashing up some TVs. I don't think that's uncommon. I don't think it's uncommon to see players get frustrated in high-tension situations. That happens in every clubhouse environment. "

Kapler said he spoke personally with Santana after the incident and addressed the team in a meeting. The manager opened spring training last month by saying he planned on having more clubhouse boundaries in his second season.

"We are putting steps in place to ensure that when tensions run high again, players communicate and look out for each other," Kapler said. "I care deeply about our clubhouse culture and we are collectively doing everything we can to continue to monitor these situations, and to improve that."

On Monday, Rhys Hoskins defended his manager and said the incident involving the video games and Santana's reaction was not a poor reflection on Kapler's leadership.

What does Kapler think?

"When things aren't going the way that they should, it is always my responsibility to step up and be accountable for those things," Kapler said. "And I will do that in this situation as well."

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