Harper signing saves Philadelphia from massive collective coronary event


In the run-up to the 13-year, $330 million contract agreement between the Phillies and superstar outfielder Bryce Harper on Thursday, the city of Philadelphia was on the brink of a collective coronary event. A few of the city’s less, ah, reliable members of the sports media spoke up about the Harper sweepstakes, which threatened to run into March as the Dodgers and Giants jumped back into the mix in negotiations.

On February 17, 94 WIP personality Howard Eskin tweeted, “@Bharper3407 are you more interested in money or playing for a good team and organization? If it’s about money I think that motivation doesn’t show me your desire to win. You know the #phillies are good organization and team so what’s the issue and holdup. So it is about money!”

Three days ago, Jack McCaffery of the Delaware County Daily Times tweeted, “If I had $3.9 billion, I would *not* allow some baseball player or anyone else to big-time me the way Harper is doing Middleton. Pull the offer, go sign a pitcher, and let future free agents know who is the boss. Realmuto alone made the #Phillies offseason a success.” He added, “All I am saying, really, is that if I had 3.9B, I would laugh at some baseball player trying to make me look bad. Laugh. Out loud. I’d be the big-timer, not the big-timee.”

And earlier today, before the Harper news broke, 94 WIP personality Angelo Cataldi tweeted, “Here’s my latest take on the Phillies quest to sign Bryce Harper: He had a chance to play in sports heaven. Now he can go to hell. When he returns to Philly as an opponent, he will be receive our full wrath with a boo like nothing he has ever heard. Believe it.”

The Philly sports media wasn’t the only entity about to lose its collective mind. Scott Allen of the Washington Post listened to 94 WIP callers, many of whom were upset that negotiations had gone on for so long. One caller said about Harper, “If I had a chance, I would spit in his face.” Thankfully, the hosts — Jon Marks and Ike Reese — pushed back on that idea. Another caller said Harper “played with our emotions too much.”

On Twitter, a fan wrote, “Harper is a coward who couldn’t take the pressure of the #phillies fan base.” While legions of disgruntled Phillies fans promised to boo Harper with as much strength as they could muster, one fan said, “He doesn’t deserve our boos.”

Despite the melodrama, the Phillies finally landed their superstar free agent. Fans will be losing their voices cheering for Harper now rather than booing him. The radio personalities will yell until they’re blue in the face about Harper deserving the NL MVP award; they won’t be yelling because he chose the Dodgers or Giants over the Phillies. Owner John Middleton, president Andy McPhail, and GM Matt Klentak saved the city of Philadelphia from having a massive collective coronary event. And for that, we should all be thankful.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today

ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.