Phillies

Phillies rumors: 10-plus years? A more flexible deal could benefit Bryce Harper more

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Phillies rumors: 10-plus years? A more flexible deal could benefit Bryce Harper more

Here's what we know: The Phillies are planning to meet with Bryce Harper, in person, in the coming days.

Here's what we don't know: How many years the Phillies, White Sox or Nationals are truly willing to offer at this point.

There was an ESPN report Wednesday stating the Phillies and White Sox are willing to go 10 years for Harper. Hours after that surfaced, a high-ranking industry source told plugged-in Chicago reporter Bruce Levine that it is "without any substance and flat-out wrong." Levine reports the White Sox will not be offering a contract of more than seven years to either Harper or Manny Machado.

Along those lines, it should not be taken as gospel that the Phillies have offered or will offer Harper 10-plus years. And quite honestly, the focus on the number of the years for either player, but particularly Harper, has been overblown to this point. The annual average salary is what matters most.

Why? Because the way Scott Boras and other agents have designed contracts for their top clients in recent years favors flexibility and leverage for the player in the form of opt-out clauses. If a team offers Harper $400 million over 12 years, then a straightforward contract would likely be considered. But if the dollar figure doesn't reach that stratosphere, then Boras could be looking for out-clauses early in Harper's contract to let him return to free agency while he's still a superstar in his prime. 

We've seen this play out with Clayton Kershaw, who signed a seven-year, $215 million deal with the Dodgers in 2013. The contract included an opt-out after 2018, the fifth year of the deal. Kershaw exercised that opt-out at the start of this offseason and instead of earning $65 million over the next two years, he'll earn $93 million over the next three. If he stays healthy, incentives would push the deal to $106 million.

Last offseason, Boras' top offensive client, J.D. Martinez, received multiple opt-out clauses in his five-year, $110 million deal with the Red Sox. And after one MVP-caliber season and World Series ring, it is already looking like a safe bet that Martinez will opt out after the 2019 season. He can opt out after both 2019 and 2020. Doing so will almost certainly guarantee him more money than the $21 million per year his original contract pays him between 2020 and 2022.

Harper, too, would benefit from an opt-out relatively early in his next contract. He is 26 years old. If his next contract permits him to opt out after four years, then you have a superstar revisiting free agency at age 30, the age when most players get their first big free-agent payday. Structuring a contract this way could allow Harper to earn, say, $160 million over the first four years of his deal, before allowing him to opt out and extend his contract even further.

The reason players and agents like opt-out clauses are because the player controls everything. If he gets hurt or underperforms, he just chooses to not exercise it and plays out his contract. If he stays healthy or overperforms, he can go earn more.

From a team standpoint, an opt-out is usually a negative. For the Phillies, with someone like Harper, it could mean having him for a few years only to lose him when the team is on the brink of World Series contention. It's a headache, one that a team guaranteeing hundreds of millions of dollars probably won't want to deal with.

But Boras, of course, is a tough negotiator.

Just know that when you hear contract lengths like 10 years, 12 years, seven years, the length of time won't be as much a consideration as the per-year earning power of Harper's deal. Beating Giancarlo Stanton's $325 million will sound great for Harper and Boras, but $40 million a year would sound better. (Stanton is making $25M per year.)

It would seem the Phillies do have an easier path to landing Harper than landing Machado because of Machado's desire to play for the Yankees. There just isn't that same connection between Harper and a team pursuing him. The Phils' biggest competition will be the allure of the Dodgers. And if Machado does end up in the Bronx, it's hard to envision the White Sox sufficiently outbidding the Phillies, who are a couple years closer to contention.

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It turns out Jeopardy host Alex Trebek isn't the biggest fan of the Phanatic

It turns out Jeopardy host Alex Trebek isn't the biggest fan of the Phanatic

Jeopardy has been home to some great moments regarding Philadelphia sports in the past.

 I wish this was another one of these moments ... but it's not.

 It turns out, the show's host host Alex Trebek isn't a big fan of the Phillie Phanatic ... I know, I'm hurt too.


 The Phillies are in disbelief, we all are.
 
 Of course, fans had quite the reaction to the video that surfaced on social media. After all, the Phanatic is the best mascot in all of sports (totally unbiased, of course).




 

I don't even want to know what he thinks about Gritty.

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Bryce Harper shares thoughts on Nationals playing in World Series without him

Bryce Harper shares thoughts on Nationals playing in World Series without him

Right around the time the Washington Nationals were clinching their World Series berth this week, a guy who left that team to come play in Philadelphia posted a cute photo to his Instagram story with his baby son. It included the caption, "cuddle time is the best time."

I made light of the juxtaposition of that photo with what Nationals players were currently doing in a tongue-in-cheek tweet, but it's hard not to think about Bryce Harper during this Nationals run.

We know exactly how Nationals fans down in DC feel about their former favorite slugger who departed DC for big time bucks. They won't stop telling us.

But what was Harper feeling? Thanks to a one-on-one interview Harper did with Jayson Stark of the Athletic, we now have a glimpse into Harper's mind during this unique time.

Stark says Harper was effusive in his praise of the city of Philadelphia during their chat. And the majority of Harper's answers are very savvy in a public relations sense. Harper is good at saying what you think he's supposed to say. But it doesn't come off as disingenuous.

Stark asked Harper if he was feeling any jealousy watching his old pals spray champagne in the locker room and his answer comes off as pretty honest. From the Athletic ($):

“No,” he said again, without a millisecond’s hesitation, “because like I said, I made my decision, and that was my decision. And it was the final decision that I made. You know, jealousy isn’t good. For me, it’s about having the gratitude to go out and do what I do each day and not having an attitude towards anybody else.

“I think it’s about being able to be the person that I am,” he went on, “and not saying to myself, `Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I’m not a National.’ Or, `Oh my gosh, those guys are doing what they’re doing. I can’t believe it. I’m so jealous.’ No. I’m so happy for them. You know how hard it is to get into the postseason and win games. For them to be able to put it together this year the way they have, it’s an amazing thing.”

There's plenty more to the piece worth diving into. Stark also spoke with former National/Phillie Jayson Werth, who knows a thing or two about both cities/clubs and also what it's like to play alongside Harper.

The Nationals' opponent in the World Series is yet to be set, but whether it's the Nationals, New York Yankees or Houston Astros who are spraying champagne at the end of it, you won't see Harper doing that. Unless he and his little baby pop up in his Instagram stories getting wacky.

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