Editor's note: This week across the NBC Sports Regional Networks, we'll be taking an in-depth look at some of the top free agents in MLB. Monday is dedicated to Nationals slugger Bryce Harper.
This is the winter the Phillies have been waiting for.
This is the type of guy they have been waiting for.
Much of the baseball world believes the Phillies are the favorites to sign Harper. He’s already turned down $300 million from the incumbent Washington Nationals, according to a report in the Washington Post. Some of the other big-market clubs — the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs — that have long been mentioned as potential suitors might not make strong plays for the slugging outfielder because of payroll concerns. The San Francisco Giants are going through some front-office turnover and have not decided whether they will be in it for Harper. The Chicago White Sox are a big-market club, but will a bright-lights guy like Harper be in a hurry to join a 100-loss team that is often an afterthought in its own city? Everything lines up for the Phillies and Harper is excellent fit.
The Phillies, who improved by 14 wins in 2018, are a team on the rise.
They have the money to give Harper the deal he is looking for, a contract that will eclipse Giancarlo Stanton’s record $325 million package.
They have the need for a superstar talent.
And Harper, who turned 26 last month, is going to be a superstar for a long time. Whoever signs him is going to get many, many of his prime years as his career arcs toward Cooperstown.
There is so much to like about Harper as a potential Phillie.
Age-wise, he fits in nicely with the existing core of Rhys Hoskins, who turns 26 in March, and Aaron Nola, who will turn 26 in June.
He has star power, personality and panache, something this team could use as it searches for a face, an identity that will help sell tickets.
But nothing sells tickets and fires up TV ratings more than winning and Harper will help this team win.
He has the plate discipline (a majors high 130 walks in 2018) and power (34 homers) that the Phillies are trying to construct a lineup around.
He’s produced an OPS of over 1.000 two of the last four seasons.
He loves hitting in Citizens Bank Park. In 50 career games there, he has a .930 OPS and 14 homers and 32 RBIs.
There is something else to like about Harper. He has a healthy competitive sneer that will rub off on teammates. Watching Harper from afar, you get the sense that he will be angry if he hasn’t won a couple of World Series rings by the time his career is over. That’s a good intangible. That’s good fuel. It’s difficult to see money corrupting this guy’s drive.
There are other players in this free-agent market that, like Harper, would make the Phillies better. In the coming days, we will look at those players.
But if the Phillies can come away from this winter with Bryce Harper, they will have taken a huge step forward in their quest to get John Middleton’s (bleeping) trophy back.
It could take a deal of 10 years or more to get Harper. Contracts of that length seldom end well. But Harper is the kind of player, still young and full of talent, that can help the Phillies win a couple of World Series and if that happens no one will complain about a couple of uncomfortable years at the end.
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