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February 21, 2019

Why is Bryce Harper still so hesitant to sign with the Phillies?

If the Phillies strike out on Bryce Harper, they have a back up plan. But that won't be good enough for fans.

The Phils have more or less vowed to spend "stupid money" to bring a contender back to South Philly and they have put their money where their mouths are thus far, trading for stars like J.T. Realmuto and Jean Segura while signing free agents David Robertson and Andrew McCutchen.

But Harper is the dream realized for many, and with Manny Machado now off the board, Harper could potentially put the Phillies not only as a favorite to win the NL East, but also as a contender for a National League pennant.

But the news and takes are alternatively optimistic and grim. 

It seems even money as to whether or not Harper will ink a deal with the Phillies, or with one of the other interested teams (Padres, Giants, White Sox, Nationals). 

For optimistic fans, ESP's take might be up your alley. And yes, Harper will hit more home runs in Citizens Bank Park, Philly is technically a bigger market than Washington was, and the Phillies have a contending roster for him to be excited about. But that might not be enough. 

For those who don't share the optimistic take, here's a look at some possible reasons why Harper is still not in Clearwater, and might never be:

Phillies aren't willing to pay enough

The first and most obvious reason comes from the horse's mouth. Phillies GM Matt Klentak responded to Manny Machado's $300 million deal with comments less than encouraging for those on the "stupid money" train.

"Sometimes, you have to be willing to walk away," Klentak said earlier this week. Clearly the Phillies have a bottom line in mind. Whether it meshes with Harper and agent Scott Boras is anyone's guess.

Reports suggest Harper wants $400 million, making the highest paid ballplayer by some margin. His agent may not accept anything less: 

Boras is known for his eagerness to go above a general manager and cut a deal directly with ownership. It stands to reason the Harper talks are of the magnitude that a club owner could see fit to handle the talks themselves. Such thinking plays into Boras' hands -- and could explain at least part of the expected disparity. Boras also is known for waiting out the market in order to get a bigger deal for his client. The expectation after Machado's signing is that will happen again. [CBS Sports]

His former teammates made him sour on Phillies

Jayson Werth was not happy when he left Philadelphia to become Harper's teammate in Washington. He famously wrote in an email to a news publication — after the Phils did not give him the offer he felt he deserved to return after a World Series run —  that "I am motivated to get back quickly and see to it personally those people never walk down Broad Street in celebration again."

Jonathan Papelbon was brought in on the back end of the Phillies latest run of dominance, and was in Philly well past their competitive days as the team got old and fell out of contention. The closer famously said "I didn't come here for this," and was given a trade to the Nats in 2015. 

Both of the aforementioned Phillies, at least for a portion of their time as teammates with Harper, had quite a bit of animosity toward the city and the team. Did they influence Harper to have a negative feeling about Philly?

Visitor treatment

Remember when Harper had his "welcome to the big leagues" moment when Cole Hamels beaned the rookie on purpose back in 2012? Ever since, Harper has played a little harder against the Phillies and the fans booed him a little extra.

However in April of 2017, he seemed to be cool with Philly fans when he told PhillyVoice, "I love coming in here and playing in this park, being able to play in front of these fans. I enjoy being in Philly for a few days and playing against great Phillies teams.”

The fans are pretty smart and will be quick to accept anyone who will hustle and try and help them win.


Everyone knows about booing Santa and throwing snowballs. They know about the batteries. They know about Pukemon, about the guy who punched the horse, and about a bevy of other incidents that put Philly on the map as a tough place to play.

The fans here want to win and will express their displeasure when they don't. Machado, in signing with the low pressure Padres, more or less showed he is not interested in playing for a city that bleeds for its sports. Harper sounds like he can take the heat. We'll see if he take the easy road in San Francisco or if he comes to a town that will love him hard and love him tough like Philadelphia.

West coast kid

Harper is from Las Vegas and may simply want to play out West, near his friends and family, and in a warmer climate. It's a simple one, but when you can choose your own team, weather and proximity come into play.

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