Says Tom Boswell of the Washington Post:
Harper now appears on the verge of signing the least-satisfying $300 million deal in the history of money.
He has himself and agent Scott Boras to thank.
When Harper appears soon for his news conference with, probably, the Phillies, he will say all the enthusiastic, perhaps even jubilant, things that are required of a free agent who has just signed a 10-year contract. Maybe he will get a few percent more than the Nats’ $300 million offer or maybe not quite as much.
But no one ever will convince me that Harper, if he had known everything five months ago that he knows now, would not have worked out a deal in D.C.
And no one ever will convince me that Boras hasn’t done one of the worst jobs of any agent in misjudging the free agent market, leading his client into a box canyon — and finding no way out.
Harper and Boras followed a playbook that has worked for 40 years. No one told them there is a new final chapter with a heck of a surprise twist.
Some in Major League Baseball have believed the rumors — who possibly could have encouraged them? — that the Nats would circle back to Harper and give him the option to return to the team for which he had played his whole career. That is a very bad bet.
Nats principal owner Mark Lerner yesterday reiterated almost verbatim what he told a local radio station 10 weeks ago. “Nothing’s certainly changed on our end,” Lerner said to NBC Sports Washington. “We’ve moved on. . . . There was no way we could wait around. . . . We wish [Harper] nothing but the best.”
Then, as a decent gesture toward Boras — who also represents Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto, among others — Lerner added the perfunctory sop: “There’s always that ‘the door’s cracked a little bit.’ I have no clue at this point what they’re up to. We really haven’t heard from them in a couple months.”
Haven’t heard from them in a couple of months?! There’s your “tell.”
At least for now, the only other teams outside Philly showing interest in Harper are the 100-loss Chicago White Sox, whose top bid to Machado was “only” $250 million in guaranteed money, and the 89-loss San Francisco Giants, who face a long rebuilding process because cornerstones Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner seem past their primes.
Harper and Boras have one very large consolation in their stare-down with the Phillies.
The Phillies have had a wonderful winter, adding catcher J.T. Realmuto, shortstop Jean Segura, reliever David Robertson and outfielder Andrew McCutchen while essentially only subtracting first baseman Carlos Santana.
With Harper, the Phillies might win the National League East. If they find the money to sign lefty Dallas Keuchel, too, they might go to the World Series.
Harper has a chance to go to one of the great traditional, baseball-loving cities and play in a cozy ballpark that, in 50 games in the past, has cost him some batting-average points but also given him a few extra homers.
Philly fans are famous for booing, but they throw good parades and love their heroes — once they accept you.