Harper to sign with Phillies for 13 years, $330 million

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It took until the end of February but Bryce Harper finally has a team. He has reached an agreement with Philadelphia Phillies. Jon Heyman says the deal is for $330 million. The length of the contract is pretty incredible too: 13 years. There are no opt-outs and there is no deferred money either. We may learn more later about how the money is structured, but he’s set to average $25.38 million a year or so.

The match was a long in the making. When the offseason began the Nationals were reported to have made Harper a $300 million offer to return, the White Sox expressed considerable interest and the Phillies — openly crowing about their plan to spend “stupid money” — were thought the most likely landing spots for Harper.

But then the offseason wore on and things seemed to change. The Nationals’ offer was revealed to have involved deferred money, making the deal worth less than they wanted the world to believe. The White Sox’ talk proved to be just that. In the end there was no evidence that they were prepared to offer anything close to what other teams were offering Harper or, for that matter, offering Manny Machado, for whom they were also an alleged suitor. In fact, they ended up making no offer to Harper at all. The Phillies remained, month by dragging month, the putative favorite but, for some reason, no progress seemed to be made. People began to openly speculate whether or not he wanted to go to Philly or whether they planned to truly spend stupid money.

Just before Christmas the Dodgers traded away Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp, creating an opening on the depth chart and on the payroll for Harper. Then last weekend it was reported that Dave Roberts and Andrew Friedman made the trip from Camelback Ranch to Las Vegas to meet with Harper and his agent, Scott Boras. The Giants, meanwhile, had been engaging Harper for weeks, but were thought to only be offering short term money. But then, just yesterday, we learned that the Giants were offering ten years. Certain members of the Philly media contingent and fan base openly wondered whether Harper had any interest in Philly at all or, rather, if he were just using them to try to leverage an offer from one of the west coast teams.

Now we know. Philly waited Harper out, Harper waited Philly out and now the balance of power in the National League East has shifted dramatically.

Harper, 26, batted just .249 last year but thanks to his excellent secondary skills — i.e., his ability to hit for power and his willingness to take walks — he wound up with an OPS of .889. (133 OPS+). His second half was substantially better. Focusing on his plate discipline helped him greatly, leading to a line of .300/.434/.538 after the break. Overall he hit 34 homers on the year, drove in 100 and led the league with 133 walks. His hitting coach, Kevin Long, believes Harper was trying too hard to swing for the fences in the first half and that he adjusted at the break. That would definitely account for his overall better numbers with a marked increase in gap power, even if it came at the expense of some dingers.

Regardless of his 2018 splits, there is no debating that, when he is healthy and when he is on his game, Harper is one of the most electrifying players in the game. His phenomenal 2015 MVP season and excellent 2017 seasons showed that. The Phillies are betting that what they’ve seen of Harper’s best is what they’re going to see most of all now that he’s wearing their uniform. They are also no doubt looking at his .930 career OPS in Citizens Bank Park.

Will they be right? Hard to say, but teams have certainly taken bigger gambles in free agency before. Harper is a supreme talent just entering what should be his prime. And now he’s the newest member of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Nationals blow 6-run lead, rebound to beat Phillies 8-7

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WASHINGTON (AP) Lane Thomas singled in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning and the Washington Nationals sent the Philadelphia Phillies to their fifth straight loss, winning 8-7 after blowing a six-run lead.

The defending NL champion Phillies have just five victories in their last 18 games and are tied with the Nationals at the bottom of the NL East at 25-32.

“We’ve got to overcome it,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. “We’ve got to play better, get consistent in all phases and keep moving forward.”

Alex Call drew a two-out walk against Connor Brogdon (2-1) in the eighth, stole second on a low pitch that catcher JT Realmuto couldn’t make a throw on and scored on Thomas’ single to right center.

“The way Lane’s swinging the bat, if you can get on second base, we can win the game,” Call said. “I look over and the ball’s in the dirt, he doesn’t catch it. Now I’m saying: ‘All right, Lane. Come on!’”

Kyle Finnegan (3-2) pitched 1 2/3 innings for the victory, stranding the tying run on second in the ninth.

Nick Castellanos homered twice, singled, doubled and drove in five runs for Philadelphia, which had scored just three runs in its past three games.

“There’s definitely a lot of positives as a group,” Castellanos said. “Showing some fight. It would have been really, really easy to lay down and allow the way the game started to be the way that it finished.”

Down 7-1 after four innings, Philadelphia tied it at 7 in the eighth. Brandon Marsh worked a nine-pitch walk against Mason Thompson leading off, and Drew Ellis singled with one out. Finnegan came on to face Kyle Schwarber, who hit a ground ball up the middle. Shortstop CJ Abrams fielded it behind it behind second base, touched second for one out, but threw wildly to first and Marsh came home with the tying run.

Castellanos’s second homer, a two-run shot to center in the sixth, pulled the Phillies to 7-3 and Marsh added an RBI single in the inning.

In the seventh, Schwarber doubled with one out and Bryson Scott reached on an infield single. Hunter Harvey came on and walked Bryce Harper to load the bases. Castellanos singled to center scoring two runs to make it 7-6.

Luis Garcia homered and Jeimer Candelario doubled twice and drove in three runs for the Nationals, who have won seven of 12.

Philadelphia starter Zack Wheeler, coming off eight shutout innings against Atlanta, allowed seven runs on eight hits in 3 2/3 innings.

“This one’s on me really,” Wheeler said. “Guys battled back. Just couldn’t finish it out. We know who we have in this room and what we’ve got to do.”

Josiah Gray gave up four runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings for Washington.

Candelario doubled just beyond the reach of left fielder Schwarber to drive in the first of Washington’s two runs in the first.

In the second, Abrams hit a one-out drive to deep center that Marsh misplayed into a double. With two outs and two on, Candelario doubled off the wall in right center to make it 5-0.

Garcia ended Wheeler’s night with a solo homer in the fourth.

“When you come out the way we did, you’ve got to tack on,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “It didn’t happen tonight, but we got one more than the other guys.”

CANDY MAN

Candelario is 9 for 26 (.346) with four doubles, a home run, nine RBIs, five walks, and seven runs scored in his last seven games.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Phillies: Thomson said RHP Taijuan Walker played catch Friday and there are “no worries about his next start.” In a four-inning outing against the Mets on Thursday, Walker’s sinker velocity averaged 90.6 mph, down from 92.7 mph for the season. His fastball, splitter and curveball velocity also dropped.

Nationals: OF Victor Robles (back spasms) took batting practice on the field for the first time since going on the injured list. … LHP Sean Doolittle (elbow) gave up a run on two hits and struck out two batters in 2/3 of an inning working his second straight night for Class A Fredericksburg.

UP NEXT

Phillies: LHP Matt Strahm (4-3, 3.20) will start a bullpen game on Saturday.

Nationals: LHP MacKenzie Gore (3-3, 3.57) went seven innings and struck out a career-high 11 batters in his previous outing – a no decision against the Royals.

AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports