Bryce Harper explains why he signed with the Phillies over the Giants

Having an opt-out has almost become standard procedure for recent mega free-agent contracts. Just ask Clayton Kershaw, Jason Heyward, Manny Machado, J.D. Martinez and David Price.

That’s even before considering the bizarre “swellopt” that Scott Boras has used for Jake Arrieta, Zack Britton and Yusei Kikuchi.

But for new Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper, an opt-out was never under consideration. As he outlined in an interview with The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, Harper wanted to stay with one franchise for the rest of his career, and he got that with a historic 13-year, $330 million contract with a full no-trade clause and no opt-outs.

“[Boras] knew from the beginning I didn’t want to be traded, and I didn’t want the opt-out at all,” Harper said. “I wanted to be able to go through the ups and downs with a city. I wanted to build my family in a city. I wanted to be instilled into a city, the community, and really let that city know that I’m part of them.”

Of course, Harper likely could have gotten the long-term security he craved while also keeping his options open. Machado, who held the record for the largest free agent contract for a little over a week, has an out after five years so that he can still hit the market again at age 31.

An opt-out can be a valuable tool to procure more value out of a deal, often valued at $20 million or more. But Harper figured that it would be easier for his new team to improve with a full commitment to him, similarly to how LeBron James signed a four-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers instead of the series of one-year deals he asked for with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“After three years, why would I do that with a team?” Harper said. “I can go for three years, but how much trust can they have in me for that, as much as I put my trust in them? I’m asking them to trust me, and they’re asking me to trust them. I didn’t want the opt-out. There’s no reason to. I have all the money in the world, to do whatever I want with it. I have more money than I’ll ever know what to do with. It wasn’t about that.”

Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper runs to the dugout during the second inning of a spring training baseball game against the Detroit Tigers Wednesday, March 20, 2019, in Clearwater, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Right fielder Bryce Harper signed a historic $330 million, 13-year contract with the Phillies. (AP Photo)

How much did Bryce Harper’s decision come down to money?

In the end, Harper’s choices seemingly came down to the Phillies, San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers. Harper’s request to avoid an opt-out is further illustrated by the report that he turned down a four-year deal with the Dodgers worth $45 million per year.

If Harper had taken that deal, he would have hit the market again at age 30 — the tail end of his prime — and would only need to make $150 over the next nine years to match his current deal.

Of course, California’s high taxes also would have played into his decision, as Boras pointed out. California’s 12.3 percent marginal tax rate for the highest income bracket is nearly 10 points higher than it is in Philadelphia.

And then finally it’s also about fit. Harper and his wife, Kayla, wanted to find a home to raise a family and a community to feel connected with.

“We sat there and talked for a little bit,” Harper said. “And I remember standing there, me hugging her and saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to Philly.’ That was before we even heard from San Fran. San Fran called back, offered whatever it was. By that point, it was kind of like, ‘I’m already a Philadelphia Phillie.’ In my heart, I was already a Philadelphia Phillie. It was nothing against San Francisco. They’re a great organization. It’s a great city. It just came down to what I felt. And by that point, it was Philly.”

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