HomeOther Philly SportsBryce Harper's Desire for an Extension with the Phillies Still Uncertain

Bryce Harper’s Desire for an Extension with the Phillies Still Uncertain

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CLEARWATER, Fla. — One of the odder storylines of a relatively quiet Phillies offseason involved Bryce Harper and his interest in an extension.
Harper hinted at wanting one as early as last spring and continued to bring it up at points during the regular season.

“[I’m] just super grateful to play this game, and very fortunate to sign a long-term deal here … hopefully sign a couple more years as well, just to be able to play this great game in this great city,” Harper said after hitting his 300th career home run last August.

The comment at the time seemed like a throwaway line. Harper wants to spend the rest of his career with the Phillies. He also believes his career will last longer than eight more years, the amount of time he has left on his original 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies.

It seemed like a problem to worry about years into the future — until now.

Scott Boras, Harper’s agent, spoke publicly multiple times over the offseason about his prized client’s unique situation. At the winter meetings in Nashville, Boras used Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and his restructured deal that adjusts his salary every few years based on the current salaries that the top QBs are signing for as a precedent for what Harper wants.

It’s all posturing. Harper and Boras can’t realistically expect the Phillies to tack on more money and years out of the goodness of their hearts. Any deal has to be beneficial to both sides. Phillies Nation attempted to construct a new deal that’s beneficial to Boras, Harper and the Phillies, but that involves the team having interest in renegotiating.

Harper, judging by his comments during his first day at Phillies camp on Sunday, still has the contract stuff on his mind.

“I think there’s been communication there between Dave [Dombrowski] and myself,” Harper said. “And also Dave and Scott [Boras] as well. Obviously, I want to be here for a long time. We’ll see what happens.”

The issue is that Harper has little leverage. Boras, the originator of the opt out clause, urged Harper to let him negotiate one back in 2019 so that he could extract more years and more dollars out of the Phillies at a later date. Former Boras client Manny Machado did just that when he signed his original 10-year, $300 million deal with the San Diego Padres.

Machado made it clear he was opting out after 2023 and the Padres quickly hashed out a new 11-year, $350 million deal last spring. The new deal means Machado beats Harper’s total guarantee by $140 million.

The $330 million guarantee Harper signed for was the largest contract in North American sports history at the time, but the price of free agent superstars in baseball has skyrocketed since that offseason. Juan Soto, a fellow Boras client who will enter the market next year at Harper’s age when he was a free agent, is expected to sign a contract north of $400 million if he stays healthy and effective.

Dombrowski, when asked about Harper’s interest in an extension on 94 WIP last week, said he’s “thrilled to have him on board.” That basically means the Phillies have little interest in seriously engaging with Harper’s camp in the near future. The team has more pressing needs. Harper knows that.

“I mean, I understand there’s other guys to take care of, right?” Harper said. “[Zack Wheeler] is a big one for us right now. Contract negotiations can happen throughout the season and things like that. Let’s see what Scott and Dave come up with.”

Harper originally said no to an opt out because he didn’t want to answer questions about his future, something that bothered him as a young player with the Washington Nationals. He also didn’t want Phillie fans to think he wasn’t 100% committed to the city. Boras said as much to Ron Blum of the Associated Press on Sunday.

“He feels as though the fact that he did not include an opt-out in his contract would not be something that would be used against him,” Boras said.

And that’s where the real risk is with Boras and Harper. Some fans are already annoyed at the idea that Harper is already thinking about his contract. If it becomes a distraction, Harper will have to deal with the backlash he desperately tried to avoid years ago.

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