MLB: Bryce Harper Free Agency Rumors, A Timeline
Bryce Harper finally picked a team on Thursday, reaching agreement with the Philadelphia Phillies on a 13-year deal for $330 million, per ESPN. The decision followed a months-long process in which Harper’s free agent negotiations were closely followed on a daily and sometimes hourly basis.
Much was reported about Harper’s negotiations, by local baseball reporters, national baseball reporters, TV and radio hosts, Twitter gadflys, and many more sports world figures. Some of it was right, some of it was wrong, and some of it was almost certainly leaked by one party or another in order to gain various negotiation advantages.
A look at some of the many reports about Harper, between the end of last season and Harper’s signing with the Phillies on Thursday:
November 3: Baseball’s free agent signing period begins.
November 7: USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale reports that five weeks earlier, on September 26, Harper had rejected a 10-year, $300 million contract offer from his then-team, the Washington Nationals. Nightengale also says that that offer was no longer on the table.
December 4: Jeff Passan, then of Yahoo Sports, reports that several teams had met with Harper in Las Vegas, including the Yankees, Phillies, and White Sox. Magic Johnson, the co-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, denies a report that he was part of a Dodgers delegation that met with the player.
December 9: Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings begin in Harper’s hometown of Las Vegas. Nightengale reports in USA Today that Harper meets with several teams, but does not agree to a deal.
January 2: Passan, who has since joined ESPN, reports that the Nationals, Phillies, and White Sox are all willing to offer Harper a “decade-plus-long deal.”
January 4: Jim Bowden, an MLB Network personality, who is a former baseball general manager, reports that the Nationals’ final offer to Harper in September was for “much more than the $300m being reported by the media.”
January 13: MLB.com‘s Todd Zolecki reports that the Phillies had met with Harper in Las Vegas the previous day and that the meeting “went so well and they came away so impressed with Harper and his wife that they might be shifting their focus from Manny Machado to him.”
January 28: A gambling Twitter account called Vegas Gambling Steam reports that Harper “has agreed to multi year mega contract with Philadelphia Phillies,” and that Vegas had taken all Harper-related prop bets off the board; no baseball reporter backs up either report. The video game MLB The Show, on its official Twitter account, tweets that “You’ll want to keep an eye on this account tomorrow… just saying,” with a picture of Harper. This tweet is interpreted by some as a teaser of an imminent signing announcement, but it isn’t.
February 11: Chris Russell, a radio host in Washington, says on Twitter that it was “decision week” for Harper, with the player holed up in Las Vegas with “no more meetings,” and a decision expected before Valentine’s Day.
February 12: Nightengale says, in a radio interview on KNBR in San Francisco, that Harper’s choice is down to the Phillies and Giants.
February 15: Russell says in a radio interview on WIP that Harper has already made his decision, although he doesn’t say which team he’d chosen. Harper leaves a comment on an Instagam post by Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins. This is followed by hundreds of comments by fans urging Harper to join Hoskins with the Phillies.
February 16: Adding to the growing feeling that the Phillies are Harper’s choice, Bowden says on a CBS Sports show that Harper and the Phillies “could be close to a deal.”
February 17: Jon Heyman of Fancred reports on Twitter that Harper has “multiple” long-term offers from different teams, for $30 million a year. He added the Phillies remain the favorite.
February 18: Thomas Boswell of The Washington Post writes a column implying that some of Harper’s teammates disapprove of his effort and leadership skills, and that the Nationals are happy with their team without Harper on it. Heyman reports, per The Inquisitr, that Harper’s decision will likely take “several more days.” Bowden says on CBS Sports Network that he expects Harper’s ultimate deal to pass Giancarlo Stanton’s $325 million contract to become the largest in baseball history.
February 19: Manny Machado, the other major offseason free agent, signs a 10-year, $300 million deal with the San Diego Padres, per CBS Sports. Machado’s signing leads to conflicting reports over whether the Padres are still in on Harper. Heyman says yes, while Nightengale says no.
February 20: ESPN‘s Buster Olney speculates, on his podcast, that Harper could earn as much as $400 million on his eventual deal. Both Olney and his guest, reporter Scott Miller, see the Phillies as the most likely team for Harper. Heyman tweets that Harper is “believed” to have rejected more than one $300 million offer. Zolecki on MLB.com says that he believes the Phillies are the only team willing to offer Harper more than $300 million.
February 21: Heyman tweets that the Phillies “seem like the favorite” for Harper, but that the Nationals “shouldn’t be discounted.”
February 22: Ted Lerner, the Nationals’ owner, says in an interview with NBC Sports Washington that the Nationals have “moved on” from Harper. That night, per The Inquisitr, multiple reporters in Philadelphia report that Phillies owner John Middleton’s private plane is in Las Vegas for a meeting with Harper. Heyman reports that the meeting is more of a “meet and greet” than an effort to close a final deal.
February 23: Nightengale reports on Twitter that Middleton is still in Las Vegas and the Phillies and Harper are in “deep and serious negotiations.” Philadelphia reporter John Clark tweets later that night that Middleton’s plane is headed back to the Phillies’ spring training complex in Florida.
BREAKING: AP source says Bryce Harper and the Philadelphia Phillies have agreed to a 13-year, $330 million contract – the largest deal in baseball history. https://t.co/7lNejHTjox
— The Associated Press (@AP) February 28, 2019
February 24: After a weekend of what looked like momentum toward a deal between the Phillies and Harper, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports late Sunday night that the Los Angeles Dodgers met with Harper in Las Vegas. The Dodgers, due to their current luxury tax obligations, are expected to offer Harper a shorter-term deal.
February 25: Nightengale says in a Twitter video that the final three teams for Harper are the Phillies, Dodgers, and Giants. ESPN reporter Pedro Gomez spots a literal Brinks truck outside the Dodgers’ spring training facility in Arizona. Heyman says in a Philadelphia radio hit that despite the Dodgers news, the Phillies remain the favorite.
February 25: Angelo Cataldi, the host of a Philadelphia morning sports radio show, reports on his show and Twitter account that the Phillies have offered $330 million, but that the sticking point in negotiations is that Harper had sought a chance to opt out of his contract after three years.
February 26: The Colorado Rockies, per Passan, agree to a contract extension with third baseman Nolan Arenado for $255 million. It’s a deal that breaks the record for highest average annual value in a baseball contract, while also taking Arenado off the market in next winter’s free agent market; Arenado’s deal also includes an opt-out after three years. The band Smash Mouth implies, on their official Twitter account, that they have inside information about internal disagreements within the Giants’ front office over how much to offer Harper.
The Phillies just made themselves the favorites to win the NL East. https://t.co/6cxXUFjMFP
— Philadelphia Inquirer Sports (@phillysport) February 28, 2019
In a series of tweets, Clint Evans of the website Dodgers Nation states that Harper and his agent, Scott Boras, were “at odds” and had had heated disagreements over where to sign, with Harper’s family supposedly favoring Los Angeles. Randy Miller, a reporter who formerly covered the Phillies, but now writes about the Yankees, tweets that “I’ve been hearing all winter that Harper does not want to play for Gabe Kapler due to analytics and quirky personality.”
February 27: MLB radio host and former New York Mets general manager Steve Phillips tweets that “a source indicates that the #Phillies believe their chances of landing Bryce Harper are remote.” NBC Sports Bay Area reveals that the Giants had held a second meeting with Harper in Las Vegas that week.
February 28: In the morning, former MLB general manager Jim Duquette says on MLB Network Radio that the Phillies’ offers have been in the $270-$300 million range, and that “that’s not going to get it done.” A Washington Post article quotes several Phillies fans, resigned to Harper not signing with the team, vowing to boo him whenever he comes to Philadelphia with his new team.
Breaking: Bryce to the Phillies
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) February 28, 2019
February 28: At 2:50 p.m., Heyman tweets: “Breaking: Bryce to the Phillies.” The deal, the largest in baseball history, is for 13 years and $330 million, with a no-trade clause and no opt-outs for Harper. Nightengale reports that the final offer from the Giants was for 12 years and $310 million, while the Dodgers offered both three years, $135 million, or four years, $168 million.
“The goal was to get the longest contract possible,” Harper’s agent Scott Boras tells the New York Post‘s Joel Sherman. “Bryce wanted 1 city for the rest of his career. That is what I was instructed to do.”