Why Bryce Harper turned down the Dodgers in free agency
Before signing a massive contract with the Philadelphia Phillies, outfielder Bryce Harper received a last second pitch from the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Before superstar Bryce Harper agreed to a record-breaking 13-year, $330 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2019, he turned down a last-minute offer from the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Speaking on a Barstool Sports interview, Harper explained his decision-making process in leaving the Washington Nationals, the only major league team he had ever known.
"“At the last second, the Dodgers came in with like a four-year offer, with super high AAV, and opt-outs,” Harper said earlier this month to Barstool sports. “I got so tired of my whole career in DC, everybody talking about, even after my first year, all everyone talks about is, ‘Where is he going?'”"
Harper wanted to sign with a team where he didn’t have to worry about answering the same questions on his future. He wanted to focus on playing baseball.
"“When they came in with opt-outs, the Dodgers, I was like, ‘I don’t want to do that because I just don’t want the opt-outs,'” Harper said. “I want a no-trade. I want these people knowing that I’m here, the good, the bad.”"
It was no secret the Dodgers were interested in acquiring the 2015 National League MVP. They tried to pull off a trade in August 2018, before he hit free agency, by offering Yasiel Puig as part of a trade package that Washington rejected.
The Dodgers were looking to sign Harper to a contract that was shorter in length (4-5 years), but structured with a high average annual value to inflate the relative price of the deal. Remember your financial lessons: the time value of money tells us the value of a contract depreciates over time, which is why teams often try to defer money to the back-end of lengthy contracts. The Dodgers were willing to front-load money in exchange for flexibility with opt-outs.
Once Harper rejected the Dodgers offer, Los Angeles used the 2018-19 offseason to sign AJ Pollock on a regrettable four-year, $55 million deal, as well as Joe Kelly on a three-year, $25 million contract.
The key moves of the offseason were signing Clayton Kershaw to an extension and trading Puig, Matt Kemp, Alex Wood, and Kyle Farmer in a deal that netted prospect Jeter Downs.
I call out Downs in the trade above because he was eventually used as a lead prospect in the deal that netted the Dodgers another superstar outfielder, on the level of Harper, in Mookie Betts.
Of course, once again, the Dodgers will be looking to sign the top player in the open market next offseason, as Betts’ will become eligible for free agency next offseason.