When Bryce Harper Rejected $30M a Year


When Bryce Harper signed his 13-year, $330 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies, I was confused for a few reasons.

Tim Keown, got the key details:

Washington, where Harper was an MVP, rookie of the year and a six-time All-Star, made a 10-year, $300 million offer in October. "I grew up in front of those fans and that city, and I enjoyed every minute of it," Harper says. "But I didn't know if I fit into their plans. About $100 million of that contract was deferred 'til I was 65 years old." He stops and turns his palms to the sky in disbelief. Few people can turn down a $100 million retirement fund; Bryce is one. "It's like, 'What does that do for me? What does that do for my family?'"

There are two types of players: those who want to be paid now, and Bobby Bonilla. Harper is clearly the former.

In the end, just six teams held meetings with Harper and only three -- the Phillies, Dodgers and Giants -- stayed relevant through late February. But in a parallel world of weirdness, Harper's fame grew. The longer it lasted, the more his story seeped outside sports. Can you believe a ballplayer turned down $300 million? The saga reached Peak Bryce on Feb. 26, when the Twitter feed of the band Smash Mouth made headlines with an unhinged, unsubstantiated screed about a fracture within the Giants' front office. Ownership was all-in, Smash Mouth said, but new president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi wasn't. Amazingly, insiders with direct knowledge say the tweet caused Zaidi to refute Smash Mouth -- half-jokingly -- during the team's final face-to-face meeting with Harper.

Yes, that Smash Mouth. Of course they're a part of this story.

When Harper told his agent, Scott Boras, that he wanted a lifetime deal -- with a no-trade clause and none of the agent's signature opt-outs -- Boras said, "Well, teams don't want to employ you at 35, much less 39, so we're going to have to give something up to get that." The casualty, to use the term loosely, was the average annual salary -- $25.3 million. Manny Machado's, to pick one, is higher. Harper didn't care.

That was the weirdest thing of all of this to me -- the Nationals offer -- again, to stay where he was -- was far better on a per-year basis (deferrals aside). But Harper clearly wanted to keep things simple: a lifetime deal, paid when it's due. And perhaps he knew the deal for Mike Trout was in the works and would absolutely dwarf whatever deal he signed anyway. And rightfully so.


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