Andy Martino, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Late on Wednesday night, as the Phillies negotiated with Bryce Harper, the sides remained far apart on money, according to major league sources. Harper wanted to top Giancarlo Stanton's record $325 million contract, and the Phils were unsure if they even wanted to exceed $300 million.
On Thursday, the team stepped up and agreed with Harper on a 13-year, $330 million deal. A person with direct knowledge of negotiations said that the Phils were nowhere near that number early in the day.
The record-setting deal has implications for both New York teams. The Yankees, true to what SNY first reported way back in October, never engaged with Harper. Despite years of innuendo connecting Harper to the Bombers, the baseball operations department remained totally uninterested this winter.
Even amid rumors in December that team brass met with Harper in Las Vegas, sources said that it never happened. That remained true until the moment Harper agreed to terms with the Phillies -- the Yanks never once engaged, let alone took a meeting.
The team had concerns about Harper's defense and his offensive inconsistency, and didn't love the sense of inevitability that had developed linking player to team. That, combined with GM Brian Cashman's desire to spread money around rather than committing it to one player, doomed their pursuit of Harper before it ever began.
The Mets never pursued Harper, either, although they flirted with the idea more than we knew. Recently, a high-ranking Mets official said that the team was kicking around the notion of jumping in on Harper as recently as December.
That's ultimately meaningless, of course -- no amount of internal discussions were going to prevent Harper from joining a division rival. The Mets never joined the sweepstakes.
Like many in baseball, Mets officials were highly skeptical that Harper would become a Phillie, then watched it come true.
That view was rooted in Harper's desire, well known in the industry, to play on the West Coast, and the Phillies' reluctance to offer a Stanton-topping deal.
But as usually happens in free agency, money overrode Harper's doubts about playing in Philadelphia. He and his agent, Scott Boras, set out to find a record-setting deal, and the Phils on Thursday decided to step up and become the team that offered it.
The Mets, suddenly in win-now mode after Brodie Van Wagenen's frenetic offseason, will feel some measure of relief that Harper did not return to Washington.
They view the Nationals as a far superior team to the Phillies, and were hoping that Harper would not sign there. The Phils, who still lack pitching and employ an unpopular manager, are not the threat with Harper that the Nats would have been.
However that actually plays out, the National League East remains the most interesting division in baseball at the outset of the 2019 season, with four teams trying to win it. Harper's arrival in Philadelphia adds another element to that intrigue.