Middleton, Klentak, Boras with Harper at presser
While Bryce Harper was the star of Saturday’s press conference, his co-stars on the dugout rooftop dais also fielded questions. The answers to those queries from the media shed a great deal of light on the actual process that unfolded which ultimately enabled the parties to agree on the largest contract in American professional sports history.
Here are some of the topics brought up by the media and the responses from the key players.
KLENTAK: “I think throughout the process there were ups and downs. But I don’t think that makes it all that unique. I think in most negotiations, whether it’s the largest contract in the history of baseball or something far smaller, you’re always gonna have those moments. I won’t comment on Wednesday night specifically, but I think that throughout the process we had some encouraging moments and some not-so-encouraging moments. The bottom line is that at the very end, we got where we needed to be. I said earlier, it takes compromise, both parties, and I think what was so special about this one was that all parties listened to each other, and ultimately got to a resolution that made sense for everybody.
BORAS: ” I know from our end…Bryce and Kayla had dinner with Leigh and John Middleton. I think they came away from that dinner with an understanding of a family and a community and an owner who has a strong, strong passion for winning, and continued winning. John did an amazing job of answering all of Bryce’s questions. You can see the melding of what Bryce hoped to find out in free agency in the fact that he and Kayla were gonna be in a community for a long time, and that was an important aspect.”
“Then the next day, John and Leigh cancelled their flight, decided to have lunch again with the Harper family, and wanted to express that they listened, they understood, they heard things. They took the extra time and commitment to make Bryce develop a level of trust that Philadelphia is gonna be an environment that he can win continually, which is his primary goal in baseball.”
“And to bring an illustration of the fact that Bryce wanted to recruit players to a city, to a community. That’s why he didn’t want an opt-out. He wanted to do his best to make sure that he could put on his team and his locker room a commitment that he was a part of, as a player, and not only the team and the ownership, which is rather unique in professional sports.”

“The union of John and Bryce’s objective, certainly Bryce instructed me to, where with Matt and I, while at times we certainly ended phone calls, there was always a reason to pick up and make another one. And that’s really what got this deal done.”
“I think one of the things you have to learn to do, working on deals all your life, is not allowing yourself to get too high and never let yourself get too low. You have to kinda understand, as Matt said, that there’s ebbs and flows to these. When things are going smoothly and quickly, that’s a positive sign. But you know there’s an inevitable bump in the road, so you just have to kinda take those things in stride.”
“What I think was clear to me coming out of that last weekend in Vegas – we really had three meetings. We had a dinner meeting Friday. Scott and I had a long four-hour meeting Saturday morning. And then we had an hour-and-a-half meeting that afternoon that frankly would have gone even longer if we could, but we ran out of time. And I came away from that convinced that everybody wanted this to work.”
“And so when you go through those periods when you hit the bumps, and you have that commitment and sense that commitment from the other side, you just kinda work through it. You just put your shoulder down, push, and you trust each other. There’s a lot of sharing of information that allows people to get to the optimum answer for both parties.”
“Does it look like stupid money to you? I think Matt’s had a pretty good off-season. don’t you? First person in the history of baseball, I’m told, to sign three prior All-Stars from the previous year. And that doesn’t include what he’s done with Aaron’s (Nola) extension and signing David (Robertson) and signing Cutch (Andrew McCutchen) who is a former MVP.”
“I wanted to signal that I wanted to be aggressive, and was gonna be aggressive, and I think Matt did a spectacular job. He made himself, and me, look really smart.”
“You know, I had a conversation with Kayla (Harper’s wife), who was unbelievable in this process – much better than I – about when Ron and Cheri (Harper’s parents) first came to me and we saw Bryce play when he was 14, he hit a home run to left field. The ball went well beyond the fence. And then he was walked five straight times. And he was the youngest player on the field by about two or three years. You knew that something was really extraordinary. In addition to the fact that I’ve never seen a baseball player in my life that at that age had forearms like Bryce Harper. It’s the largest forearms of any youth athlete that I’ve ever seen in a baseball uniform.”
“But the key aspect of it with Bryce though that you knew that he was going to be special was…he had to take a GED exam, leave high school after his sophomore year, and he did all that in two months without a blink. And then he goes to junior college with players that are literally two or three years older, with a wood bat (he had used aluminum to that point), and becomes the top collegiate baseball player in the nation at the age of 17. So you knew, there was just never anything about him that was of the norm. It was always this.”

“And yet, in spite of all that success, and frankly expectancy, that Bryce had to deal with, his love and passion to always be better, always be respectful, always be greater those are the things where you learn that he learned how to manage success, respect the game, respect the elders in it and the people who run it and operate it. Those are factors that tell you he was raised right. There’s a lot of great athletes in this world where things can go really, really wrong. Probably the greatest credit that I can give Bryce and his family is that he sustained and, advanced that unique ability. He has been able to use his skill and his talent to create great art. I’m so glad for the game that we get to see 13 more years of it in Philadelphia.”
Originally published at Phillies Nation as Scott Boras, John Middleton, Matt Klentak on the process


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