Phillies' Bryce Harper Was 'Hurt' by Nationals' Contract Offer in Free Agency

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMay 7, 2020

CLEARWATER, FLORIDA - MARCH 07:  Bryce Harper #3 of the Philadelphia Phillies looks on from the on-deck circle against the Boston Red Sox during a Grapefruit League spring training game on March 07, 2020 in Clearwater, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Bryce Harper's hopes of returning to the Washington Nationals last offseason quickly dissolved when he received the team's contract offer. 

"I thought we had a really good meeting," Harper said of a discussion he had with Nationals principal owner Mark Lerner, per Barstool Sports' Starting 9 podcast (via Scott Gleeson of USA Today). "I walked out of there and said, 'Scott [Boras], get it done.' I got back an offer and it hurt. It just hurt. So we kind of just turned the page on to the new year."

According to the Washington Post's Dave Sheinin and Chelsea Janes, the Nationals offered Harper $300 million over 10 years. He signed with the Philadelphia Phillies for $330 million over 13 years.

At the time, it was the biggest contract in MLB history. Mike Trout has since surpassed Harper upon signing a 12-year, $426.5 million extension with the Los Angeles Angels.

Sheinin and Janes reported contrasts between the Nationals' and Phillies' offers went beyond the $30 million more he got from Philadelphia:

"However, according to multiple people in the industry, the Nationals' offer also contained deferrals of up to $100 million, to be paid out over decades — so much deferred money that Major League Baseball raised concerns. Such deferred payments would have significantly reduced its present-day value. Harper's Phillies contract, by comparison, contains no deferrals."

Washington used the tactic with Max Scherzer's seven-year, $210 million contract. Although Scherzer becomes a free agent when he's 37, the Nats will continue paying him until he turns 44 because part of his money is deferred.

Sports Illustrated's Stephanie Apstein wrote Stephen Strasburg's seven-year, $245 million extension includes deferrals as well. Apstein also noted the value of the Nationals' final offer for Harper would've equated to $184 million now based on how much was to be paid out later.

Some might scoff at Harper's disappointment given how much money he stood to earn from Washington. Upon breaking down the particulars, though, it's not hard to see why he felt upset that that was the best the team could do.