Bryce Harper just scored an MLB-record $330 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies, but he apparently had the chance to sign for another team and keep making millions until he was almost a senior citizen.
Not long after confirmation that Harper had finally ended his free agency and chosen the Phillies, some reports emerged about the offers he didn’t accept, including the $300 million deal that the Washington Nationals reportedly dangled. While the Nationals were never seen as being too heavy in the running for Harper, the team did offer a deal that had some very unique characteristics.
Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post reported that the Nationals had a plan to defer a huge portion of Harper’s salary — all the way until he hit the age of 60. It was not clear if MLB would have accepted the deal, as the terms would likely have been quite controversial, but in the end Harper accepted a deal that was more than 10 percent larger, so it didn’t really matter anyway.
It’s not all that uncommon for MLB teams to defer some salary to save more in the short-term, the most famous of these being the deal the New York Mets struck with former slugger Bobby Bonilla that has him receiving $1.19 million every summer through 2035. These deals can be attractive to players because they offer the possibility of making interest on top of the spread out payments, giving a much bigger overall payoff by the end of the contract. It also provides some long-term stability, allowing them to keep receiving steady money well into retirement (a big plus given the financial problems that many former athletes find once their playing days end).
The Phillies just made themselves the favorites to win the NL East. https://t.co/6cxXUFjMFP
— Philly.com Sports (@phillysport) February 28, 2019
As ESPN noted, the Mets also offered a similar deal to Daryl Strawberry.
“Deferred-money deals have been going on for a long time, but the Mets did more of them than most. The first deferred-money deal we know about is Darryl Strawberry’s 1985 contract, in which the Mets deferred 40 percent of his 1990 $1.8 million team option ($700,000) at a 5.1 percent interest rate,” the report noted. “The deal, which pays out $1.64 million from 2004 to 2033, was obtained through a life insurance company.”
Some context on the Nats' 10-year, $300-million offer:
I'm told from two sources that a significant — like, made MLB queasy — amount of money was deferred. One source said it included $100-million in deferrals and paid Harper until he was 60.
The PHI deal has no deferrals.
— Barry Svrluga (@barrysvrluga) February 28, 2019
The contract Bryce Harper signed with the Philadelphia Phillies may have set the MLB record, but NBC News reported that bidding wasn’t too fast and furious as most teams were wary about offering long-term deals. The Phillies were seen as the frontrunner nearly from the beginning, with the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers coming in late with offers but neither reportedly offering the long-term deal that Harper really wanted.