Tag Archives: Scott Boras

Phillies introduce Bryce Harper after biggest contract in sports history

Middleton, Klentak, Harper at intro presser
“During the great history of the Philadelphia Phillies there have been many acquisitions that have helped move the franchise forward, both on and off the field. From Steve Carlton and Pete Rose in the 70’s, Jim Thome in the early-2000’s, to the acquisition and eventual re-signing of Cliff Lee. The trade for Roy Halladay, to finally the signings and trades of current Phillies players like Jake Arrieta, Andrew McCutchen, David Robertson, Jean Segura and J.T. Realmuto. Many have altered in such a positive way the fate of this incredible franchise. Today we celebrate a franchise-altering signing for our city and our organization as we introduce Bryce Harper to the city of Philadelphia officially.
With those words, Phillies broadcaster Tom McCarthy eloquently opened up this afternoon’s statements and press conference to celebrate what is, as general manager Matt Klentak would immediately follow and refer to it: “the largest contract in the history of Major League Baseball.
Harper would then go on to make his own impassioned and inspiring opening statement, one in which he emphasized the importance of his family and the familial presentation and representations of the Phillies during the free agency process. During that statement the club’s new right fielder stated “I can’t wait to get on that field and do Phillies Nation proud!
Once Harper’s opening remarks had concluded it was time for the press to take their first swings at the 26-year-old superstar. The topics were wide-ranging, dealing with issues from money to baseball, from his old team to his new, from business to personal issues. Here are the highlights:
Harper was asked this right off the top by the King himself, Howard Eskin, whether he followed social media and what affect, if any, it had on his decision. In his response he made it clear that he did follow, but that family was the most important factor in the final decision:
Of course you look at it. You look and see what people are saying. But it’s a family decision for me. It’s where I felt comfortable throughout the whole process. I talked to my wife. I talked to my mom, my dad. And we all made the decision to do the things we could to get back to Philly…”

This was the over-arching theme of both Harper’s personal statement and his most important answers to questions. It became the specific topic of the second question asked:
Being able to sit down with John and Leigh (Middleton) and knowing how family-oriented they are, how they treat everybody in the Phillies organization from everybody in the clubhouse, everybody up in the offices, and also everybody around the ballpark.
I think it’s pretty amazing how many tenured Philly people that work with the team are with the organization for a long period of time. Every time I came to Citizens Bank Park, I felt that…talking to the guys in the elevator, or when we walked into the visitor side and talking to Butch that stands right there, he’s one of the security guys…other guys saying “Come here. Play here. Be part of our team. Be part of our organization.” That goes a long way. You feel the love. You feel the intent, the pureness of the people who come to the ballpark every day.”

Former Phillies and Nationals star Werth was a teammate in Washington, and helped sell him on Philly.
“Of course, the first six years of my career coming to Philly, people behind me (out in right field) weren’t very nice. But I expect that, I love that. But the last year they were all super nice, saying “Come to Philly!” So that was a lot of fun, to be able to hear that as well.”
Of course, Jayson Werth, getting to hear him talk about it. Chase Utley. Jimmy Rollins. All the guys that have had great success in Philly talk about how great the city is, that it’s an amazing city to be a part of, and I’m excited to get going.
“This guy (looking at agent Scott Boras) invented the opt-out. And I actually told him at the beginning of the process that I didn’t want one, wherever I went. I wanted to be able to make my roots somewhere. That was through the goods and the bads, the ups and downs of the team and the organization. It’s going to be tough for 13 years to win every single year, and I truly understand that.”
“Being able to sit down with John and Matt and everyone involved in the process was huge for me, because I know what it takes to have success, being in the playoffs for a long period of time with the Nationals. We didn’t get past the first round, but we were able to get there for a good run and do certain things in that organization that were very good.”
“I want to be able to do that here, and do well and play hard and have the team we do for a long period of time. Even through the bumps and bruises. I want to go through that as well. I want to be part of this organization. I don’t wanta go anywhere else. I want to be part of this family, this Phillies Nation.”
“I enjoyed home for another two weeks. I enjoyed hanging with my friends and getting my work in as well. I’m hitting and doing all the things I need to get ready for the spring. I think the worst part is seeing guys going out there and getting back into that groove of being in the clubhouse atmosphere and being with the other guys.”
“But for me, you don’t really play that first week of spring anyways. So, if it was gonna take some time, then it was gonna take some time. I knew at the end of the day, being able to sign with Philly was the right choice for me, and we made it happen about 27 days before the season. So, I think I’m gonna be okay.”
Rhys Hoskins hits a home run at the 2018 Home Run Derby

Harper and Hoskins struck up a friendship at the 2018 All-Star Home Run Derby / Photo: Brian Michael
The first thing I thought about signing with the Phillies was I don’t have to face Aaron Nola anymore. That was something that I was very happy about. This team is filled with perennial All-Stars. Being able to meet Rhys Hoskins a little bit through the process of the Homerun Derby and the All-Star Game, talked to him a little bit about Philly…about how he is and who he is as a person, he was a lot of fun to get to know. Arrieta, Eflin, a lot of the young guys on this team, Pivetta. The bullpen that they have, adding David Robertson. Jean Segura playing shortstop is an absolute stud. Maikel Franco…Odubel Herrera…I mean, you can go on and on about this team and how good they can be. And my favorite player in the game, J.T. Realmuto, that was huge as well. Matt did a great job this off-season to assemble that roster.”
“The thing about the East is, it’s a juggernaut. I’m not gonna tell ya that we’re gonna come in this year and win a World Series, or win the division, or anything like that. Of course, we all want that to happen. That’s your goal when you walk into spring training. That’s the goal of the fans. That’s the goal of everybody. But good things take time as well. We gotta mold as a team, mold as an organization, and really understand the guys in that clubhouse, and make that a family.”
“Every guy pulling on the same rope every single day, really becoming that. I think this organization…us…gonna be very successful for a long period of time. But it’s gonna take some time. It’s gonna take some time for guys to get going and understand how to win, and what it takes to win in the long haul of a 162-season, plus possibly 21 games in the playoffs. This organization has gone through that…has done that in years past. I know that guys wanta feel that now. I’m excited to be part of that. I’m excited to be part of the group…going to this clubhouse, and just be a part of this team.”

Harper felt his former Washington number 34 should always belong to Halladay in Philly. (SD Dirk)
Of course, I wore #34. But I thought Roy Halladay should be the last one to wear it. He’s somebody in this game that is greater than a lot of guys who ever played it. He’s a Hall of Famer, somebody who played the game the right way. He was a great person, one of the nicest people that I’ve ever met, playing across from him in 2012. So for me, it’s Roy Halladay. He’s 34. He’s what represents that number in Philly. When you go in there and see his name on that flagpole in center field, it’s something that he should be remembered for.”
“Maikel Franco, he wears #7, and he’s a teammate of mine. He’s someone that I didn’t want to ask for the number. I didn’t feel right doing that. I don’t know if that has any significance to him, being #7, but I didn’t want to find out. He’s #7 on the Phillies and he should be able to wear that number every single day.”
“The #3 is kinda like a family number for us. My brother wore it in high school. My dad wore it in high school growing up. My mom wore #13. My wife isn’t very happy about the number because she likes even numbers, so lookin’ down and seeing #3 is gonna be a little tough for her (Kayla laughed during this and shook her head) but it’s a family number and I think it looks okay.”
“I love everybody in that clubhouse. I grew up inside that clubhouse. I grew up in that organization. I have so much respect for (Nationals GM) Mike Rizzo. He actually reached out to me and told me congratulations. That’s somebody that had my back for my whole career, somebody that maintained every single day. I did certain things for that organization that I truly won’t forget. Players in the clubhouse reached out and told me congrats, and were very excited for me as well.”
“I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to playing somewhere that I’m comfortable as well. And also in Philly. So that gives me two places in the East that I’m very comfortable at. So, I’m really excited to be able to face those guys…and also to watch from afar a little bit and see how they’re doing. Hopefully we can do some damage as well.”
“Baseball is worth about $11.5 billion dollars, so I think some of it should go back to the players as well. I’m making $26 (million) a year, something like that, so I think that’s gonna be able to bring some other guys in as well that will help this organization win. I know there’s another guy in about two years (Mike Trout) who comes up off the books. We’ll see what happens with him.”
“I’m excited to be in Philly. I’m excited to be able to be part of this organization. And for me, the game’s changed a lot. The game’s changed in that it’s a different time, it’s a different world. Big social media. Everybody knows what’s going on. Everybody knows what everybody’s doing. There’s a lot of fans that love to come to the game that are spending about $16 for a beer that used to be about 25 cents for a beer. So I think that all around, it’s changed.”
“Throughout the whole process, I wanted to leave my door open to wherever I wanted to go. But for me it was all about the long haul. It was about being able to dig my roots, plant somewhere where I wanted to be for a long time. I said that in D.C. when I was there as well, that I wanted to be somewhere for a long period of time. We went through that process, and it just didn’t work out. It just didn’t happen. Philly was able to do that for me.”
“And when I met with the Middleton family, I felt that. I felt that commitment. I felt that when we went to dinner in Vegas with Leigh and John. Me and my wife walked away and, wow, we were blown away by these amazing people. That they could really understand where we were coming from. Understand the family aspect of our life. Understand the city of Philly and what it’s all about.”

Harper received encouragement on Philly from other local stars like Carson Wentz (Keith Allison/WikiCommons)
“Having that relationship with them as well. For me, I wanta have that relationship with my organization. I wanta be able to be a family, be able to be a unit, and be able to go through the ups and downs with everybody. Stay as even keel as we can, no matter what. John wants to win more than anybody. I saw that passion. I saw that fire. He talked a little bit about him wrestling in college, and the commitment he made to that, and the commitment he made in his daily life, it was just amazing to hear.
“To be able to see that and to feel that. To feel the love from Philly and the fans…I haven’t played there yet, but to feel it on social media. To feel how excited they are. To feel the love from other guys from other teams in the city. Ben Simmons. Carson Wentz. Guys that have reached out. It’s amazing to see. When you play in Philly as a visitor, you see the Eagles right there, you see the Flyers, you see the Sixers and all the big-time memories that all those teams had. The Flyers, they were an expansion team just like the (Las Vegas) Golden Knights (Harper’s hometown hockey team), and they were able to win. It’s an amazing thing to see.”
“This whole city, it’s a winning city, it’s an amazing city. J-Dub (Werth) always talks about Broad Street, and his stupid little thing he had, the red glove or whatever it was (giant red plastic fist that Werth wore in the 2008 parade), it’s something that I want to be a part of for a very long time, and we have an opportunity to do that for a very long time. I don’t know if that’s gonna happen this year or next year or in years in front of us, but I hope it does.”
“I want to be a part of it. I want to be a part of this organization. I want to be a part of this organization and help out anybody I can. That’s the feeling that I get with this whole organization. It’s about the family. It’s about what we can do as a city, the community. How we can make a community better. How we can make Philly better as a place, as a city of winning, and I want to be a part of that.”
“I think you’re always remembered for winning, and what better place to do it than in Philly? This place is somewhere were fans, blue-collar people, thrive on winning and being a family. I come from a blue-collar family. My dad woke up at three o’clock in the morning to tie rebar every single day in 130 degree heat in Vegas, and that’s where I get my work ethic. That’s what I want to do every single day. I want to work hard. I want to work out. I want to do the things I can to prolong my career and to play for a very long time and to be successful for a very long time.”
“For me, it’s all about winning. That’s what you’re remembered for, that’s what it’s all about. Personal accolades and things like that, they’re great. But for me, if our team plays well, our team plays together, I find joy in my teammates success. I love that, I love seeing that. I was able to see that for a long time in D.C. with Anthony Rendon, and Juan Soto this year as well. And you see that with the Phillies.”
“I want to find that joy. If I’m 0-4 or 4-4, that doesn’t really matter. It’s all about what we can do to get that extra run to win the game, and to win for a long period of time. If we can do that, then we’ll win a lot of games. I think we have the pitching and have the defense to do that for a long period of time. I’m excited to be a part of it, excited to get going and make that run.”
“I think the biggest thing coming out of high school and college and finally getting drafted, from day one when I got drafted, it was all about “He’s going to the Yankees. He’s going to the Dodgers. He’s going here, he’s going there.” After six years, “he’s going here.” That’s all anybody talked about. That’s all anybody wanted to talk about, this moment. For me, going through this process, it was where can I be with no opt-outs, with a no-trade, where I can be for a long time and not have to worry about going anywhere else.”
“Because for me, when I was in D.C., I didn’t want to go anywhere else. I didn’t want to be part of two organizations, or anything like that. That just didn’t work out for me. But now, being able to be a part of an organization for 13 years, and be able to put all my faith and trust in everybody in this organization, I’m very excited bout it. Because nobody in the next 13 years are gonna talk about “Oh, he’s going to the Yankees, he’s going here, he’s going there.””
“I mean at 39, hopefully I can prolong my career, that would be great. But for me, it’s about being somewhere for a long period of time. Making my family. Digging my roots. For the good, for the bad. I’m not gonna tell you that I’m gonna win an MVP every single year. Is that my goal, is that my success, to do that? Absolutely, I want to do that every single year. But there’s gonna be down years. There’s gonna be big years. There’s gonna be years that are gonna be just okay.”
“For a team, for an organization, we’re gonna go in and do everything we can to win, and play hard, and play well. That’s what it’s all about. That’s what I wanta do…I wanta be on Broad Street on a freakin’ boat or whatever, a thing, a bus, whatever it is, and have a trophy over my head because that’s what it’s all about.”
“At the end of the day, I want to be able to go to sleep and know that I gave it my all and was able to bring back a title to the Philadelphia Phillies organization, to Mr. Middleton, to Mrs. Middleton, and to the whole city of Philly, to the fans, to everybody that’s a part of this. That’s what I want to do. That’s what I want my legacy to be: all about winning, all about playing the game the right way for a great organization for a long period of time.”
Originally published at Phillies Nation as “Bryce Harper press conference highlights

Phillies brass and Scott Boras on the Bryce Harper signing process

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

Bryce Harper signs with Phillies and can’t wait to get going

Bryce Harper meets the Philly media
On a gorgeous Saturday afternoon on top of the home dugout at Spectrum Field, the spring training home of the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater, Florida the team introduced their most exciting free agent acquisition in years.
Bryce Harper, the 26-year-old superstar outfielder took the dais with his agent, Scott Boras. They were joined by Phillies principal owner John Middleton and general manager Matt Klentak for a question-and-answer session with the gathered media.
After a quick introduction from broadcaster Tom McCarthy, Harper delivered a personal statement prior to the actual press conference. In his statement, the new Phillies right fielder even mentioned Phillies Nation!
Here is the full text of Bryce Harper’s pre-presser statement:
“I just wanta thank my parents. Thank my wife. This process has definitely been a long one, but it’s been a lot of fun as well. It’s good to feel wanted. It’s good to feel wanted by the Phillies organization, by the fan base, by the city as well. I love my family very much and Philly is going to be a part of that family for a very long time.”
“Also, I’d like to thank Mr. and Mrs. Middleton. From the moment that we had dinner together and talked it felt right. It felt like a home. It felt like somewhere I could be for a long time. And that was important to me. I’m gonna grow my family in this city, and that’s the biggest thing for me. I wanted to be somewhere for a long period of time. I wanted to finish my career somewhere, and they made that commitment to me, and I can’t wait to be a part of the Phillies for a long period of time.”
“Matt (Klentak), Andy (club president MacPhail), Ned (assistant GM Rice), being able to sit down in meetings with you guys as well and knowing how committed you guys are to the Phillies organization, to the minor league side, to the big-league side as well. Being able to see that from afar for a long period of time, for the last seven years, I’ve grown to love playing in Philly. I love playing in Citizens Bank Park. It feels good to know that they are very committed to this organization and to the fans and to the city, and that means a lot.”

“Also, I’d like to thank Scott (Boras) – we’ve been through it. We were just talking, I’ve been with Scott for about 12 years now. Not officially at 14 (chuckles by he and Boras), but at 17. It’s been a long ride. It’s been a lot of fun. Scott’s been through a lot in this process, and also Mike Fiore, Bill and Tyler as well, and everybody with the Boras Group, whether it’s Luis or Champ or anybody. Kurt Stillwell at the beginning. It’s a big family as well.”
“So, I’m very happy, very proud to be able to put this uniform on, and I can’t wait to get on that field and do Phillies Nation proud, and do everything I can to bring love to the city, and do the things I can to help in the community and bring that family-oriented thing to the clubhouse and be part of that group.”
“I’m excited to get started, and here’s to a new chapter. Here’s to a new phase in the life of everybody in Philly. I’m excited to be part of it. Thank you.”

It’s time for the Phillies to finish off the Bryce Harper negotiations

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Middleton (L) hasn’t had a slugger like Howard in years

“We’re going into this expecting to spend money. And maybe even be a little bit stupid about it.”
This was the statement made by Philadelphia Phillies principal owner John Middleton at the Major League Baseball owner’s meetings back in mid-November. His statement lit a spark that blazed up Hot Stove logs in the fireplace of Phillies fans everywhere.
We believed all along that Middleton was the ultimate answer to the Phillies returning to the consistent glory that so many in that fan base had come to expect. Remember, this was the man who, after the club had dropped the 2009 World Series in six games to the New York Yankees, made the following statement to Ryan Howard“Ryan, I want my fucking trophy back. It’s fucking ours!” 
From 2001 through 2012, a period of a dozen seasons, the Phillies were playoff contenders nearly every year. But then the bottom dropped out, and for five years the team and those fans wandered through the darkness of a bleak losing wilderness.
For the first decade after Citizens Bank Park opened in 2004 those fans swarmed to the beautiful South Philly ballpark. More than three million tickets were sold in eight of those 10 seasons, including a half-dozen in a row. The ballpark was the place to be, a social happening every single game.
But as the losing began and club management and ownership seemed to give up on putting out a winning product, fan interest waned. The Phillies didn’t even draw two million for three straight years from 2014-17.
Things appeared to be turning around last season. The club was a surprising contender for much of the summer, leading the division for more than a month from July 6 through August 12. Fans responded to the winning and some strong promotional events by filling more than 30,000 seats for 18 games between late-June and mid-August.
But as the team collapsed to a 12-28 record over the final six weeks, fan interest dried up. The Phillies drew that 30,000 figure just five more times. All of those were on weekends, with three specifically for Sunday promotions.
The message from last year when viewed against the previous handful of seasons is clear to Middleton. Do your job and put a winning team on the field and fans will respond. The message from a decade ago is also clear. Put players on that winner who those fans can relate to and who excite them, and they will come out in droves.
General manager Matt Klentak has performed well thus far. In what has been by far his best off-season to date the GM has signed free agents Andrew McCutchen and David Robertson and swung trades to bring in Jean Segura and J.T. Realmuto.
Middleton does understand. He is one of us in this regard: he is also a fan. He is driven. He wants to win. That is why he fueled up his private jet with the red Phillies “P” branded on the tail and had the pilots fly him out to Las Vegas, hometown of the biggest fish in this off-season’s large free agent lake, Bryce Harper.
But it isn’t enough. Look around at the other National League contenders. The Phillies are improved, but so are any number of other teams that already appeared to be ahead of them. The fans realize that this team has a chance to contend for a Wildcard spot now. But that is not what spending “stupid” money is supposed to get you.
The players added thus far by Klentak are respected by most of the fan base. But to really fill up the ballpark again it is going to require star power. Even with the additions and maturation of players like Rhys Hoskins and Aaron Nola, it is lacking marquee star power. There is no Mike Schmidt or Jim Thome.
After the other big free agent whom the Phillies took a run at this off-season, Manny Machado, signed with the San Diego Padres, Klentak stated “If the reports are true, then this contract will exceed our valuation and sometimes you have to be willing to walk away.” This is not one of those times. In fact, sometimes you have to be willing to go beyond mere numerical valuations.
That is where Middleton comes in at this point. Harper is the big fish, the top prize. He would bring the tremendous raw power to the lineup that has largely been missing since Howard’s 2006-09 peak years. He would bring star power not seen around these parts since ‘The Big Piece’ and his teammates began to age-out and break up earlier this decade.
After meeting with Harper, his wife Kayla, and agent Scott Boras this weekend, Middleton flew home on Saturday night due to a prior engagement. While he was gone, representative of the Los Angeles Dodgers reportedly slipped into Vegas on Sunday and tried to take one last shot at luring Harper with a short-term deal.

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Would Bryce Harper be interested in a short-term, high AAV deal with the ?@Ken_Rosenthal discusses the Dodgers reported interest in Harper on .

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I have never met the man, but I believe that I know John Middleton. He is not going to let this get away from him. At least not over money and desire. I fully expect the Phillies owner to be back on his plane and heading back out to Vegas to close this thing out. It may be happening as you read this, in fact.

It is time, and he knows it. When a big game is on the line at the end, you send in your strong-armed closer. When an important business deal is getting down to the brass tacks of final negotiations, you send in the big guns to close. John Middleton is the closer, the big gun. It is time to close out Bryce Harper.

John Middleton flies to Las Vegas trying to close on Bryce Harper

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Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Vegas to nail down Harper

In what has been a long off-season pursuit of free agent outfielder Bryce Harper by the Philadelphia Phillies, what went on Saturday just might have made for the wildest day yet.

It all began on Friday when principal owner John Middleton’s private plane, the one with the big red Phillies ‘P’ painted on its tail, was spotted on the ground in Las Vegas, Nevada, hometown of the young superstar. Matt Breen of Philly.com stoked the fire in the fan base by reminding them that a year ago, Middleton flew in newly-signed free agent pitcher Jake Arrieta.

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The last time John Middleton sent his private jet to get a free agent, he didn’t come home empty handed.

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Those initial reports set off a wave of attempts to verify that Middleton’s plane was indeed at McCarran International Airport. They were finally verified by the reliable Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia at 8:43pm.
A source in Las Vegas tells me that Phillies owner John Middleton’s plane is on the ground in that city. Vegas is Bryce Harper’s home town. No other details, but talks clearly ongoing.

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This set off a wild explosion of mostly jubilant speculative frenzy among the Phillies fan base all across social media. What other reason could there be for Middleton to be in Vegas than to finally get the 26-year-old’s signature on a contract?
About an hour later, Salisbury stated that his information was that there was only a scheduled meeting. With no contract expected, the Phillies insider was headed to bed. Phillies Nation began to bang their collective heads against their computer screens and smash their cellphones Ari Gold-style against the nearest wall.
Reports were also coming out that neither club president Andy MacPhail nor general manager Matt Klentak had accompanied Middleton to Sin City.
Todd Zolecki of MLB.com speculated that perhaps the solo meeting was in order to see if Harper could have the same type of close relationship with Middleton that he has enjoyed previously with Nationals owner Mark Lerner. “Perhaps Harper and his wife (Kayla) want to see if they can have a similar relationship with Phillies ownership, too.
A number of fans asked me what I made of Middleton going it alone. Many of them felt that it was perhaps some type of indictment on Klentak and his inability to get the deal done. A couple felt that perhaps Klentak or MacPhail, or both, were unwilling to get a deal done.
My response was that this is likely to be the largest contract ever signed between a team and a player in American professional sports history. This was always going to take ownership coming in as the closer.
At around 9:30pm, Bob Nightengale of USA Today tossed another log onto the raging Phillies fan base fires when he stated that Middleton wasn’t going to leave without a deal getting done.
The are in deep and serious negotiations with Bryce Harper. Owner John Middleton doesn’t want to leave Las Vegas without a deal.

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About an hour later, Nightengale followed up with an extremely provocative message that said “optimism now is that 10-year deal with Bryce Harper is finalized by Monday afternoon.
At the same time, the increasingly unreliable Jon Heyman was stating that the Phillies were not the only club in Las Vegas to meet with Harper, and that multiple other teams were still involved.
It also was reported that Middleton’s plane had left Las Vegas and was headed back towards Florida. This began one of the wildest flight-tracking nights in Phillies history. Was Middleton on the plane? Was Harper on the plane with him? Once I tracked down the proper site, I joined in the flight-tracking frenzy, updating fans a couple of times.

For those still interested, appears that Middleton’s plane preparing to land. Still no clue who, if anyone, is aboard other than flight crew.

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Turns out Breen had the information as to exactly who was on the plane, and an explanation for the return flight: “His departure from Vegas on Saturday evening, a source said, was not an indication that talks had snagged. Middleton had to be back in Palm Beach for a scheduled event.
Breen directly refuted the Heyman information, stating unequivocally that “The Phillies were the only team to meet with Harper this weekend.
Zolecki notes that this is the third meeting between the two sides in the last couple of months.
Middleton’s solo meetings with Harper and Boras the past two days in Las Vegas are at least the third face-to-face meetings between the two parties. Everybody met together for the first time last month in Las Vegas…A smaller group met with Boras early last week in Florida.
And that is where we now stand. A sudden, mystery Friday flight to Vegas. An even more mysterious Saturday night flight to the east coast of Florida. The owner meeting with the player, his wife, and super-agent Scott Boras.

Look for Middleton to return to Las Vegas either later today or on Monday to get this thing finalized. Maybe he has MacPhail and Klentak with him on that trip. But expect it to happen. If things continue progressing forward as they seem, we could see Harper in Clearwater wearing a Phillies uniform by later in the coming week.