Harper rejected a 10-year, $300 million contract to finish his career with the Washington Nationals, where it all began. That's quite the indicator that Harper and agent Scott Boras know they'll get more than that on the open market.
But right now, the only question seems to be how much money Harper will land - not where he'll sign. According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, "It’s hard to find an executive, scout, or rival agent who doesn’t believe that Harper will eventually sign with the (Philadelphia) Phillies."
The veteran baseball journalist also warns fans to "Bank on" Harper joining the Phillies, adding they "won’t mind giving him at least $400 million." So it's fair to simply say the sweepstakes are over; the only question being how much money Harper will make.
But boy, that's a lot of money for a player who has never led his team to a playoff series wins, owns one NL MVP Award and solid .279 batting average. Harper is a star, sure, but not a guy worth $400 million.
The only player in baseball that should surpass the contract Stanton signed is Mike Trout. You know, the guy with a career wins-above-replacement of 64.3, batting average of .312 and OPS of .990. Trout is arguably the best player ever, and certainly the best to come around in the past 20 years.
That's the man that should surpass Stanton's big pay day, not Harper.
Harper may be coming off a 34-homer, 100-RBI season. But his batting average of .249 isn't exactly jaw-dropping, and his WAR of 1.3 leaves a lot to be desired. So why is Philly even thinking about meeting his asking price?
Part of it has to be a marketing ploy. Harper burst onto the scene as a 19-year-old in 2012, leading the Nationals to the playoffs for the first time since they relocated from Montreal. He guided Washington to four playoff berths, but the Nats could never win a playoff series under the 'Face of Baseball'.
It seems like people just like to think about Bryce Harper the name, not Bryce Harper the player. This guy ranked 97th in batting average in 2018, folks, and 16th in OPS. Philadelphia isn't exactly getting a top-five hitter in baseball here.
Do the Phillies not remember that they got former Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta on a cheap three-year deal worth $75 million in March? All 30 teams waited out the market last year until the top players brought down their insane asking prices, and Philly got an ace pitcher for a bargain.
So why are they willing to throw around at least $400 million at a player that hasn't performed at a true MVP level in the past three years now? Yes, it's a big market. Yes, they have lots of money to spend. Yes, signing Harper will help greatly in television ratings, and attendance will go up.
But the Phillies could add at least three major impact players all for the price of getting Harper at $400 million. Why not make All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel the richest reliever in history, and give yourself a guy who's a lock for 35-plus saves a season?
Why not add Dallas Keuchel or Patrick Corbin to your pitching staff, and have them join a promising rotation consisting of Arrieta and youngster Aaron Nola? Either could be had for probably around $75 million.
And why not add a slugger whose numbers were similar to Harper's this year? Marwin Gonzalez, Nelson Cruz, Josh Donaldson, Adam Jones and Daniel Murphy would be great adds at very low prices. Actually, why not sign two of those guys - along with an ace pitcher and expensive reliever like Kimbrel?
Philadelphia would be getting a reliable closer, impact starting pitcher and two quality at bats - all for a significantly lower total than the $400-plus million they're seemingly willing to give Harper.
This is what a bulk of the smart teams in baseball do. They spend their money in different areas to fix up as many holes as possible, rather than throw contracts of $200 million or more at one player.
What happens if Harper performs below expectations? What if he becomes a problem in the clubhouse? Well, then the Phillies are simply stuck with that record-breaking contract they gave him.
Bryce Harper knows he's going to get paid. In fact, he'll probably have had to do very little in presenting why he deserves to be the richest free agent signing in baseball history. But if the Phillies - or any other team - are ready to meet his $400-plus million asking price, then there's a greater chance they'll regret it than not.