Philadelphia Phillies slugger Bryce Harper says he was “hurt” by the deal the Washington Nationals offered him when he was a free agent. Harper spoke in detail about his free agency on the “Starting 9” podcast, giving an in-depth glimpse into exactly what went down and what he desired on the market.
Harper, 27, said he met with the team’s owners — the Lerner family — around Christmas in 2018. After that meeting, Harper told Boras to get a deal done with the Nationals. When the deal came in, however, Harper wasn’t pleased.
“I got back an offer, man, and it hurt, Harper said. “So we kinda just turned the page.” That conversation takes place around the 1-hour, 41-minute mark. Earlier in the conversation, Harper reveals the Nationals’ offer deferred money until Harper was 80. He didn’t view that as fair, both to him and to his family.
Harper, who is usually reserved when it comes to interviews, really goes into detail about his free-agent process. He says the Chicago White Sox made a big push to sign him, and that he was encouraged about the team that’s being built on the South Side of Chicago. Harper also says the Houston Astros offered a one-year deal worth a ton of money that he briefly considered.
Eventually, the Los Angeles Dodgers made Harper a four-year deal with a high average annual salary. That deal, however, contained opt-outs. That wound up being a major turnoff for Harper, who said he grew tired of hearing speculation about his free agency his entire career. All that talk is what drove Harper to tell teams he didn’t want opt-outs in his free-agent deal. He didn’t want to hear that speculation during year two of a five-year contract. Harper believes some teams thought he was lying when he made the no opt-out rule a condition for his next contract.
In the end, the Phillies stepped up, handing out a 13-year, $330 million deal for Harper. Harper admits he went into the first meeting with the Phillies skeptical about signing with the team, but eventually came around on the idea. The opt-outs played a big factor in Harper inking that deal, as did his belief that the Phillies would build a winner that would experience sustained success.
That hasn’t come to fruition just yet. The Phillies went 81-81 in Harper’s first season. He expects more going into year two and expressed as much on the podcast. He wouldn’t have signed with the Phillies in the first place if he felt the team wasn’t on the precipice of something special.
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