The Phillies are counting on Harper to help them win only the third championship in franchise history. Philadelphia gave Harper a 13-year contract, the largest deal in baseball history at $330 million. His arrival has fans scurrying to the box office. The team said 180,000 tickets were sold in less than two days after the agreement was reported Thursday afternoon.
"He's a magnetic personality and he plays the game with his heart on his sleeve and Philadelphia loves that," Phillies owner John Middleton said. "They love people who leave a little skin on the grass."
Harper was greeted by the Phillie Phanatic as he walked onto the first base dugout at the team's spring training ballpark. He got applause from team employees gathered for his introductory news conference.
Negotiations took far longer than expected, but Harper and his agent, Scott Boras, insisted an opt-out clause was never a hold up. Boras said Harper was his first client to instruct him not to seek one.
"I wanted to be able to dig my roots somewhere through the ups and downs of the team and the organization," Harper said. "It's going to be tough for our team to win every single year, I understand that. Even through the bumps and bruises, the goods and the bads, I want to be a part of that."
Middleton put pressure on himself early in the free agency process when he told a reporter the Phillies wanted to win so badly they would be "stupid" about money. Before signing Harper, general manager Matt Klentak acquired two-time All-Star shortstop Jean Segura and All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto in trades and signed 2013 NL MVP Andrew McCutchen and 2011 All-Star reliever David Robertson.
"Does it look like stupid money to you?" Middleton said. "I think Matt has had a pretty good offseason. ... I wanted to signal that I was going to be aggressive. Matt made himself and me look really smart."
Harper chose No. 3 instead of the No. 34 he wore for the Washington Nationals because Hall of Famer Roy Halladay was the last player to wear No. 34 for the Phillies. He said he's enjoyed playing in Philadelphia and spoke to former Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth, who was his teammate in Washington for several seasons.
"You'll always be remembered for winning and what better place to do it than Philly," Harper said. Harper has a .279 career average with 184 homers and 521 RBIs, including a .268 average with 14 homers, 32 RBIs in 47 games at Citizens Bank Park.
His contract tops the $325 million, 13-year deal outfielder Giancarlo Stanton reached before the 2015 season with the Miami Marlins, who traded him to the New York Yankees in December 2017. "What he's accomplished in his career at such a young age is truly remarkable," Klentak said of Harper. "We had some ups and downs in this process, but the commitment to reaching a deal for both parties was evident throughout. In almost all of our discussions with Bryce and (Harper's wife) Kayla, the conversation has been focused on family."
Harper is already recruiting perhaps the best player in baseball, Mike Trout, who is set to become a free agent after the 2020 season. Trout, a two-time AL MVP with the Los Angeles Angels, grew up near Philadelphia, attended the Phillies victory parade in 2008 as a 17-year-old and has season tickets for the Eagles.
"I'm making $26 (million) a year. That's going to be able to bring some other guys in as well to build up this organization," Harper said. "There's another guy in about two years that comes off the books. We'll see what happens with that."
Harper gets a $20 million signing bonus in equal installments, the first within 90 days of the deal's approval by the commissioner's office and the second this Nov. 1. He receives a $10 million salary this year, $26 million in each of the following nine seasons and $22 million in each of the last three years. None of the money is deferred, and he gets a full no-trade provision.
His bonus provisions are $50,000 each for All-Star, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger or League Championship Series MVP; $100,000 for World Series MVP; $500,000 for league MVP, $50,000 for second and $25,000 for third. He gets a hotel suite on road trips and the right to purchase a suite for games at Citizens Bank Park.
Harper has been an All-Star in six of seven big league seasons and was a unanimous pick for the NL MVP award in 2015. Philadelphia forfeited its second-highest draft selection, currently No. 55, and $500,000 of its 2019-20 international signing bonus pool allotment. Washington's compensation pick will be after the fourth round, about 140th.
AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report.
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