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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Giants and Bryce Harper have reportedly discussed a 10-year deal

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Giants and Bryce Harper have reportedly discussed a 10-year deal

Updated: 4:15 p.m.

Is the Bryce Harper possibility slipping out of the Phillies' grasp?

The San Francisco Giants met with Harper's camp on Tuesday night in Las Vegas, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

The more interesting development is that the sides have discussed a 10-year deal, per NBC Sports Bay Area.

Since the Giants emerged in the Harper sweepstakes in early February, they were believed to only be interested in a short-term deal. That no longer appears to be the case, which would significantly boost their chances of landing the 26-year-old superstar outfielder.

The Giants' seemingly newfound desire to offer Harper a long-term deal probably has to do with the Dodgers entering the fold in a competitive way recently. There are few rivalries in pro sports as fierce as Dodgers-Giants, even when one of the teams isn't a true contender. Either way, it's not good news for the Phillies.

The Dodgers have also reportedly discussed a 10-year deal with Harper, though "discussed" is not the same as "offered."

There is reason to believe Harper would prefer one of the California teams to Philadelphia. Spring training would be four times closer. The regular season would be a lot closer. And he has a well-publicized affinity for both the Bay Area and L.A.

This thing could be over in a few days. Maybe it's with the Phillies, maybe it's not. If Harper goes elsewhere, he could face a J.D. Drew-like reception every time he comes into town the rest of his career.

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Don't dismiss Giants in Bryce Harper sweepstakes

Don't dismiss Giants in Bryce Harper sweepstakes

A team initially believed to be high on Bryce Harper’s list has re-emerged. 

According to Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area, the Giants met this week with Harper. 

Harper has an affinity for the Bay Area, and more than one baseball person responded “Giants” when I asked them last September for their Harper prediction.

That connection lost steam this offseason with San Francisco seeming to focus more on retooling for the future than spending now. Their only free-agent acquisition to this point has been Drew Pomeranz, and the Giants had even considered trading Madison Bumgarner, a folk hero who is beginning to decline and is a free agent after the season. 

A player of Harper’s caliber would change the timeline in San Francisco, if there’s enough interest from both sides. It would give Buster Posey some of the lineup protection he needs, but it wouldn’t make the Giants an instant 90-win team. There are too many mediocre parts on that roster, and even with Harper the Giants would be behind the Dodgers and Rockies in overall talent. 

It wouldn’t be surprising if other teams meet or have already met with Harper recently. He’s lingered in free agency and it’s worth it for any team that think it has a shot at him to circle back and see again what it might cost. Kind of like the Phillies have done with trade target J.T. Realmuto.

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