For the Phillies, this entire offseason has centered around two words: stupid money. John Middleton, the Phillies’ principal owner and managing partner, used that wording to discuss the upcoming offseason back at its inception this past November.
Middleton’s direct quote was certainly a tad more elegant than just that. As he told USA Today, “We’re going into this expecting to spend money. And maybe even be a little bit stupid about it.’’
With those two sentences, the Phillies earned the label “team stupid money” and have worked diligently this offseason to make that come true, bringing in plenty of talent around the roster through both free agent signings and trades, all with the idea that one of the marquee free agents — Bryce Harper or Manny Machado — could be convinced to sign in Philadelphia with those piles of dough.
Today, the dreams of the Phillies actually spending “stupid money” came to realization; but, in actuality, the signing is not stupid at all.
The Phillies and Harper came to terms on a record 13-year, $330 million contract this afternoon, as first reported by Jon Heyman of MLB Network. As part of the deal, Harper will receive a full no-trade clause, and he will not have an opportunity to opt out. In all likelihood, Harper will be spending the next decade-plus in Philadelphia as the team looks to build a perennial contender.
With all of the fanfare that will accompany this signing, it’s important to remember that Harper, since his famed debut at age-19, has been one of the best players in baseball over the last seven seasons. He has been named to six All-Star teams and won the National League MVP in 2015 after he posted a .330/.460/.649 line with 42 home runs, 99 RBIs and a 9.3 fWAR, one that even topped Mike Trout’s value for the year.
Unlike Trout, however, Harper’s consistency (or lack thereof) has been something of a frustration during his time in Washington. At his peak, Harper plays like the best player in baseball, but he’s not always there. Last season, Harper’s slash line of .249/.343/.496 put him in the top 12 percent of the league in terms of wRC+— elite, but not the best. On top of that, defensive metrics also played down on Harper, resulting in just 3.5 fWAR in 2018.
Luckily for the Phillies, they will be paying for Harper’s future performance, not his past. The talent is clearly there, and so is the age. Harper is entering just his age-26 season in 2019, which isn’t even the peak prime age for the average Major League Baseball player.
The Phillies should expect to receive Harper over his best five years, plus about another solid three. On top of that, the designated hitter could come to the National League at some point during Harper’s deal, giving Philadelphia an opportunity to take some pressure off of Harper’s legs in the field; a lot of factors do work in the Phillies’ favor here.
In terms of immediate impacts, Harper represents the cherry on top of a solid offseason for Philadelphia. Through both trades and free agent signings, the Phillies already brought in Andrew McCutchen, J.T. Realmuto, David Robertson, and Jean Segura to bolster their 25-man roster. Prior to today’s signing, the Phillies were projected by FanGraphs to go 83-79, finishing fourth in the NL East. Harper likely adds three to five wins to that projection, putting the Phillies solidly in the mix for both the Wild Card and the division title. The playoffs are a real possibility, and that’s even more true now with Harper in the fold.
For Harper, waiting until the final day of February to sign worked out nicely, to say the least. He reportedly turned down a $300 million deal from the Nationals prior to the start of free agency. Instead, he will earn 10 percent more money on the largest contract in MLB history with the Phillies, a division rival. It also does not include deferrals which Scott Boras hoped to avoid, as the initial Nationals offer would have paid him until he turned 60. Regardless, it’s a life-changing and sport-changing type of contract that will impact the league for years to come. For now, though, Harper’s deal all but concludes what has been an eventful past four months.
The Phillies and Harper agreed to a contract full of “stupid money,” and if he’s anything close to the type of player that he can be at his peak, this record-breaking contract won’t be stupid at all.
Devan Fink is a Featured Writer for Beyond The Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter @DevanFink.