Phillies

Inside the anxious final moments of the Phillies' deal with Bryce Harper

Inside the anxious final moments of the Phillies' deal with Bryce Harper

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The mood at Phillies camp Friday was joyous, much like a maternity ward when friends and family gather in delight for a new addition to the family.

But just two days earlier, the atmosphere around camp was starkly different.

Club officials left the ballpark early Wednesday evening with their chins scraping the ground. There was frustration, disappointment and doubt that the team would be able to strike a deal with free-agent slugger Bryce Harper.

The mood swing came Thursday morning in a series of phone calls from Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, to Phillies officials.

Boras wanted to keep talking. He agreed to move on some things if the Phillies would do the same.

Later in the day, Harper and the Phils agreed on a historic 13-year, $330 million contract. The deal includes a full no-trade clause and no opt-out clause; Harper did not want one. The richest deal in American sports history will be officially announced in a news conference at Spectrum Field on Saturday.

The Phillies are happy with the deal.

Harper, his family and Boras are happy with the deal.

So how did they close the gap? How did they go from the frustration, disappointment and doubt of Wednesday to the maternity-ward euphoria of Friday?

According to people on both sides, length of contract was a huge talking point in the negotiations.

Harper, 26, wanted a record amount of money — that was a given — but he also wanted a deal that would take him to the age of 40.

The Phillies were in favor of a lengthy deal because they wanted to spread out the average annual value of the contract. The team wanted to do that so it could maintain the financial flexibility needed to retain players such as Rhys Hoskins and J.T. Realmuto, and be active in future free-agent markets.

According to sources, the Phillies tried to address both sides’ concerns with a 15-year contract offer that carried a guarantee of more than $325 million, matching the record amount of Giancarlo Stanton’s deal.

That wasn’t getting it done for Boras. The years were good. The average annual value (AAV) was not.

The two sides kept talking.

Then anxiety grew in Phillies camp as the Dodgers and Giants got into the mix.

The Dodgers tried a different route, a short-term deal with a high AAV — as much as $43-45 million, according to some reports.

The Phillies reached out to Boras and started talking about a three-year deal with an AAV of $40 million.

The Giants started to get serious.

OK. The Phillies reached out to Boras and started talking about a six- or seven-year deal at $35 million per year.

Word that the Giants were willing to go to 10 years and more than $300 million began to circulate.

The Phillies had already been willing to go into that territory, but Boras was not happy with their offer because the AAV was too low. The two sides established $330 million as the guaranteed number but that would not work over a 15-year spread.

How about 14 years?

Nope.

Frustration mounted.

It was Wednesday afternoon and the Phillies sensed no framework for a deal. There was disappointment and pessimism. They thought they were done.

But nothing is ever done with Boras. He is like a racecar driver maneuvering through traffic at 100 mph. As long as he sees daylight in front of him, he keeps pushing the pedal. In that $330 million figure, he saw daylight in Philadelphia. Now, if he could only get the AAV up. He called the Phillies back on Thursday morning to talk about the AAV. The Phillies decided to make one final alternation and shortened the term to 13 years. That’s an AAV of $25.3 million, not a record, but more than the AAV of Stanton’s deal, and symbolically more than that nice round number of $25 million.

What would Boras say to that?

Well, by now, you know what he said.

Done deal.

The Phillies had a new addition to the family.

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At the Yard podcast: 3-batter rule, DH dynamic, NL East predictions

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At the Yard podcast: 3-batter rule, DH dynamic, NL East predictions

Ricky Bottalico and Corey Seidman discuss one big rule change, another on the horizon, and make their NL East predictions in the latest At the Yard podcast.

• How does the new 3-batter rule for relievers change their mentality?

• Which Phillies relievers does it affect the most?

• If the DH does come to the National League in the next two years, how would it help the Phillies?

• Both guys are still vehemently anti-DH.

• Fan Q&A.

• NL East win total predictions.

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Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Spotify / Stitcher / Art19

The DH sucks but would undoubtedly help the Phillies

The DH sucks but would undoubtedly help the Phillies

The designated hitter coming to the National League is an inevitability. To some, it's a welcome inevitability. Personally, I hate it, but I acknowledge I'm probably outnumbered.

It's not about watching pitchers hit. That is the over-simplified one-line response from DH proponents. It is about many additional elements of strategy not having a DH adds. If you're a pitcher, it affects how you approach the 6-7-8-9 hitters. There is more thinking ahead. 

That goes for managers, too, who face the difficult of question of, "Do I pull Jacob deGrom with two outs and two on in the bottom of the sixth inning in a scoreless game for the extra offense?"

That doesn't happen in the AL. The Justin Verlanders of the world pitch until they're no longer effective. There is no difficult decision for the manager. 

There is also less need for a bench. AL teams sometimes run three-man benches. And plenty of AL bench players exist only as defensive replacements and/or pinch-runners.

But whatever. It's probably coming. Could be coming as early as 2021, according to Jim Bowden.

It would actually benefit the Phillies, though. The Phils face a potential logjam in the corner infield with Rhys Hoskins, Alec Bohm, Scott Kingery and Jean Segura. Only one of them can play third base. And Hoskins or Bohm would be at first base. If the DH came to the NL in 2021, the Phils could just slot Bohm into that position.

They could also use Hoskins, who isn't exactly an above-average defensive first baseman, as the DH. And toward the end of Bryce Harper's 13-year contract, his days of effective right field defense could be over and that may be the ideal spot for him.

It will be an adjustment when the NL rules change, and there will be some hard feelings, but the baseball world will probaby get over it within a few years. MLB has already adopted the three-batter rule for relievers, altered active rosters to 26 and prevented teams from utilizing their entire 40-man roster in September. These changes, in conjunction, are pretty significant too.

Subscribe and rate At The Yard:
Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Spotify / Stitcher / Art19

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies