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Philadelphia Freedom: Harper signs historic 13-year megadeal to join Phillies

Keith Allison | Wikimedia Commons

On Feb. 19, Manny Machado signed a 10-year, $300 million deal to play with the San Diego Padres. At the time, the contract held the distinct honor of being the biggest free agent deal in not only MLB history, but in all of North American sports history.

That record barely lasted a week before Bryce Harper topped it. The All-Star outfielder committed to the Philadelphia Phillies on the last day of February, inking a massive 13-year deal worth $330 million. The contract not only supersedes Machado’s in terms of dollars and years, but also surpasses the mammoth 13-year, $325 million extension Giancarlo Stanton signed during his time with the Miami Marlins in 2014, thus making it the largest contract in the history of team sports.

Perhaps even more intriguing is the language of the contract, which has zero opt-out clauses throughout its entirety. These clauses ensure that, barring a blockbuster trade, Harper will be a fixture in Philadelphia until at least 2032. This type of deal is highly unusual, considering almost all long-term free agent deals involve some sort of opt-out clauses at some point over the course of the contract.

This MLB offseason has been highly unusual, continuing the trend set last year of high-profile free agents not signing until the dawn of spring training. Future Hall of Famers like Machado and Harper had to wait until February to ultimately get the deals they wanted from teams.

Even more peculiar is the fact that the biggest markets in the United States — Boston, New York and Los Angeles — didn’t seem very interested in snatching up these superstars. Instead, these young phenoms ended up signing with teams who may have bright futures but had disappointing seasons in 2018. Meanwhile, there are All-Stars and former Cy Young winners who have still not been signed.

Nolan Arenado clearly sensed the perils of the market and elected to sign an extension with the Colorado Rockies rather than risk getting underwhelmed in free agency. It remains to be seen whether two-time American League MVP Mike Trout will follow suit. The seven-time All-Star is set to become a free agent in 2020, and while he is undoubtedly much more talented than any of the aforementioned superstars, he will also be several years older when the time comes for him to seek a new deal. It was expected that his contract would ultimately break $400 million in total value, but the recent market trends might change that.

Harper is already lobbying for Trout to join him in Philadelphia’s outfield, much to the chagrin of the Los Angeles Angels. The Phillies certainly have the salary room, even with their newest slugger aboard.

It is unknown as of now, though, if the money will translate to a different outcome at the end of the season. The team hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2011 and still may not make it this season, given its extremely competitive division.

Many people think the Atlanta Braves have what it takes to win it all this year, while the New York Mets have vastly improved from 2018.

The Washington Nationals still have a talented enough rotation to remain viable, while the Marlins are the division’s sole basement dweller. It isn’t difficult to envision a season in which the Phillies once again miss out on October. On the other hand, it also isn’t a far stretch to envision them competing not only for a division title but a World Series title in the not-too-distant future.

While Harper surely wants to win now, it’s not like he’s in any rush. The Phillies have 13 years to work on building a contender around their newest outfielder, though they may start to regret the contract as he continues to age. Still, if they can use Harper to land Trout and bring a few championships back to Philadelphia, it will be worth every penny.

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