By Peter Marks
Four years ago on this date, Bryce Harper had not yet decided to join the Phillies.
But by the end of March he signed a then-historic contract: 13 years, $330 million. It was the longest free-agent deal in baseball history. It would pay him the most total dollars of any free agent in history.
That deal seems less historic now — it’s the seventh-largest total dollar payout in baseball, surpassed lately by Aaron Judge ($360 million) and Manny Machado ($350 million).
Harper’s $25.4-million average annual value? That now ranks 41st in baseball history. He was passed by 10 different players in A.A.V. just in this offseason.
“It’s just the way it is,” Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski told The Athletic’s Jayson Stark.
“We’ve all seen the ups and downs of the market, and you never know what happens. Last year we were coming off a new Basic Agreement getting settled. It meant more revenue getting into the game, and that usually drives salaries. Now, how long will it drive salaries? I don’t know. That’s another story. But just, the game changes.”
This spring, Machado leveraged the looming opt-out in his contract to cash in one more time. The six years and $180 million he had left on his original deal? Ripped up. In its place? A new 11-year, $350-million extension that will raise the total value of his time in San Diego to $470 million.
But there won’t be any opting out in Bryce Harper’s future. Back in 2019, he told his agent Scott Boras he wasn’t interested in that. And now, even in the wake of Machado’s second payday, Harper says he’s cool with the decision he made back then.
“I made the decision to stay with this team for a long time,” he said.
“So I think being able to stay with the organization for a long time, let the fans know that I was going to be here for a long time. That was my main thing. I didn’t want to have to go through all the craziness of ‘Where’s he going … what’s he going to do?’ … I wanted this organization, this team, to know, and I wanted the fans to know, that I was going to be here for the long haul no matter what.”
But he admitted he made that decision much to the chagrin of Boras, if only because “Scott came up with the opt-out, right?”
“So that was a hard thing,” he said, “for both of us to kind of sit there and say, ‘Hey, you know, we’re not going to have one. But at the same time, you’re going to give this organization all you want and all you need.’ I want to play well into my 40s. That’s always been the dream and the goal. Well, I’m here until I’m 38, so we’ll see what happens.”