Not initially what was planned for this piece. But this news circumvents the malaise of the offseason. Bryce Harper was the long-awaited prized at the end of the game of musical chairs this offseason. The team’s from East to West made their bids to try and procure the services of the former number one overall pick in the 2010 draft. So we take a look at what makes this deal work for Bryce and the Phillies.
This deal is the richest prize of every lucrative contract in baseball history. To hear the number uttered aloud is chilling. Three hundred thirty MILLION dollars. It is inconceivable what that level of financial wealth will mean to generations of Harper’s going forward. But what it means for Major League Baseball is that the (currently) ten billion dollar industry is not at a loss financially. The game may struggle for the attention spans of today’s culture. And it may struggle with its popularity amongst the other major sports across North America. But what baseball can offer is something no other sport can boast. A player who will earn three hundred thirty million dollars across thirteen seasons in Philadelphia.
A Market Maker
Why does that matter? How does that benefit the game? The Phillies won’t be able to build a team around him, can they? While all of these questions are valid in their premise, the answer boils down to a couple of simple facts. Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred is looking to appeal to younger audiences. Bryce Harper is now your most marketable star. Don’t believe me just head over to Twitter and you’ll see some gems over there. Or think back to last seasons Home Run Derby, the spectacle that Bryce put on is incredible. The game benefits when its stars are front and center. And in Philadelphia (a big market) in front of (arguably) the best/worst fans in the game, Harper is in that spotlight. And Philadelphia has done a great job in preparing for this moment. The term of 13 seasons lowers the AAV and allows them to keep adding.
When it comes to the sabermetric filled world that baseball has become lineup construction can sometimes be overlooked. As you take player x and lead hit off because of this skill or that set of attributes. You place your best hitter in the number two spot because it gets him x amount more at-bats over the course of a long and grueling season. When you add Bryce Harper’s name to any lineup it gets significantly better. When you add his name to the Phillies lineup it completes it. The Phils have had a wonderful offseason before you even factor in Harper. The additions of Jean Segura, Andrew McCutchen, JT Realmuto, and David Robertson are all underlying moves now because of Bryce. But each move in conjunction with Harper stands out even more. Bryce Harper as a power left-handed bat in an otherwise righty latent lineup brings a unique balance. Normally, one lefty in a sea full of righty bats does nothing in terms of balance. But for Philadelphia, penciling in Bryce Harper’s name in the number three slot lengthens the lineup tremendously. And it gives the Phillies bats even more formidable in a very tough National League East.
Here is Where the Story Begins
The Philadelphia Phillies of the late 2000s were arguably the best collective the franchise had to offer in the team’s 136-year existence. But adding debatably the most recognizable and polarizing character in the game. And signing him to the biggest contract in North American sports history brings eyes to the product that once weren’t there. A thirteen-year commitment is a true long term investment into the club’s future. The most curious and intriguing aspect is the fact that there are no opt-outs in the deal. And since it is a 13-year deal, Bryce Harper is essentially a Philadelphia Phillie for the rest of his Major League Baseball playing career.
It will be with this deal that the Phillies “Dynasty” that never was once again has a chance to return. A dynastic type team that had a chance to be the first repeat champions since the ’99/2000 Yankees failed its mark. The dynastic type team that once boasted four aces (Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt) that fell short. This team now with adding Bryce Harper, signing ace Aaron Nola to an extension and the looming idea of a South Jersey boy becoming a free agent in just a few years. This team in an extremely tough NL East has all the makings of a new dynasty.
There is a lot of hype and understandably so for Bryce and the Phillies. But as has already been mentioned the Phils are going to be competing in a very difficult National League. The NL East itself will have a difficult path towards the playoffs. As four of the five teams have a chance to grab hold of the division. As currently built the Phillies lineup is just ahead of the rest of the division.
However, the Washington Nationals starting rotation is the best in the division. And while Aaron Nola can compete with any team’s ace. The rest of the Phillies rotation is still a question mark. The Philadelphia bullpen is also quite good. So overall the excitement that Phillies fans are feeling is a real and tenable sentiment. But it will not be an easy division to win even with an expectedly monster season from Bryce Harper in Citizen’s Bank Park. It will take the full 25 plus man roster to succeed. But with Rhys Hoskins, JT Realmuto, and a reinvigorated Maikel Franco hitting behind Bryce. To go along with the on-base machine that is Andrew McCutchen and the hit machine known as Jean Segura ahead of Bryce. It is a real time to now “Fear the Fightin’ Phils.”