After months of little to no activity on Bryce Harper in free agency, the process has gained steam over the past week. It can be reasoned Manny Machado blinking first and signing a 10-year, $300 million contract with the San Diego Padres unlocked the freeze on Harper.
For several days the Philadelphia Phillies appeared to be the favorite to sign the 26-year-old star outfielder. However, the San Francisco Giants have since secured multiple meetings, and the Los Angeles Dodgers sent a contingent to Las Vegas for face time with Harper.
Although they once were presumed to be a player, the Dodgers’ foray into the Harper sweepstakes came as a bit of a surprise. Particularly since the club had signed A.J. Pollock in January and never appeared keen on the type of long-term deal Harper and agent Scott Boras seek.
According to Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports, that remains true, but the Dodgers are willing to provide other financial incentives to Harper:
These people, who declined to speak publicly since talks are on-going, have been told the Dodgers, Giants and Phillies have vowed to provide Harper with either the biggest overall free-agent contract in North American sports history, or the largest average annual salary anyone has ever received in the sport.
The Dodgers, who had shown no interest in Harper, even signing A.J. Pollock to a five-year, $60 million contract last month, have made the most dramatic foray into the picture. They still are adamant about not giving Harper a 10-year deal, but realize that if they offer the highest annual salary for at least five years, they now have his attention.
As it stands, Machado’s deal with the Padres stands as the biggest contract signed by a free agent in American sports history. Giancarlo Stanton’s 13-year, $325 million extension signed with the Miami Marlins in 2014 is the most lucrative contract in sports history.
Zack Greinke’s $34.4 million average annual salary is on track to be tops in MLB through the 2021 season.