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The most prized free agent since Alex Rodriguez has ended his long search for a team. Yesterday afternoon 26 year Bryce Harper set a record by signing the most lucrative contract in United State baseball history and one of the biggest in sports history by inking a $330 million, 13-year deal to become a member of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Harper is expected to join the club in Clearwater over the weekend and there will be a formal announcement of his likely on Monday with the chance of him playing in his first game as early as Tuesday of next week when the Cardinals are in Clearwater.
Quickly the Phillies became the “Darlings of the betting world,” as the odds makers changed things dramatically. Their chances winning the division went from 2-1 to 5-4; the pennant from 7-1 to 4-1 and the World Series from 12-1 to 8-1.
Within an hour of his signing phones in Philadelphia were ringing off the hook as fans were buying season tickets. More than 100,000 bought them yesterday and in Clearwater the hottest ticket in town quickly has become Phillies Spring Training games.
Media outlets quickly scrambled to make sure they had representatives headed to Florida to record Harper and the Phillies every move. This has not been the case since the team signed by Pete Rose left Cincinnati to join the Phillies.
That happened in 1979 as Rose signed a four-year, $3.24 million contract, making him the highest-paid player in baseball. He then helped the Phillies win the 1980 World Series and the NL pennant in ’83, making him the greatest free-agent signing in franchise history and many fans in the Philadelphia area are hoping Harper can do what “Charlie Hustle,” did for the team.
Harper who was the first player drafted in the 2010 by the Washington Nationals. It took him only two years to make it to the big leagues and in 2012 he was the Rookie of the Year.
He is a six time All Star and was the 2015 National League Most Valuable Player. Harper joins an impressive cast of off season additions by the Phillies, including free agents 2013 NL MVP Andrew McCutchen ($50 million over three years), 2011 All-Star reliever David Robertson, ($23 million over two years) and trading for 2018 NL All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto and two-time All-Star shortstop Jean Segura.
“We thought we were a complete team. Now, we’re even more of a complete team,” McCutchen said. “It’s going to be fun.”
The signing was something Phillies manager Gabe Kapler was quick to praise. “I certainly think that the city of Philadelphia would embrace Bryce Harper,” Kapler said. “I think he would be very happy in this city because our fans care deeply about winning. Their care about winning was evidenced throughout this entire offseason, obviously paying close attention to every move that (general manager) Matt (Klentak) made, and we made a lot of moves to get ready for this spring training.”