Bryce Harper notes his low-AAV deal amid J.T. Realmuto talks

Bryce Harper #3 and J.T. Realmuto #10 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
Bryce Harper #3 and J.T. Realmuto #10 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper says he structured his contract to help the team bring in and keep high-impact players on the team, including J.T. Realmuto

Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper no longer has the second-highest contract in Major League Baseball history. Rather, Mookie Betts — one of the former Boston Red Sox prospects the Phillies tried to acquire in a trade for Cole Hamels five-plus years ago.

On Wednesday, the Los Angeles Dodgers reached a 12-year, $365 million contract extension with the outfielder through the 2032 season. Harper’s contract with the Phillies was for 13 years and $330 million.

The Betts signing may seem to not affect the Phillies much on the baseball diamond, but it surely will on paper, their checkbook in particular, as it relates to extending the contract of All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto.

“[The] Betts extension with Dodgers will shatter belief that elite free agents would not get paid in potentially depressed market this winter,” says The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. “Seemingly would increase pressure on Phillies with Realmuto.”

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Harper, who has been vocal in summer camp in advocating for the front office to re-sign the catcher, said on Wednesday that he thinks his contract is “pretty suitable to bring guys in here,” given its average annual value is around $25 million.

“That’s why I lengthened it out for as long as I did,” Harper added. “Hopefully we can get that deal done to the best of our ability. … I just want to be able to set this organization up for the long haul and try to win as many games as we can and back to the good days of ’08 and ’09 and winning [the] World Series.”

Harper continued that while he would like Phillies brass to bring back Realmuto, he has not spoken to them directly about the subject.

The six-time All-Star referencing his team-friendly deal amid ongoing Realmuto contract talks surely is a “nudge” directed to the front office.

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Back in April 2019, Phillies Managing Partner John Middleton acknowledged that Bryce “took a hit” on his contract’s average annual value to give the team flexibility:

“That says enormous amounts about the young man’s character, about his values, about his principles,” Middleton said. “I said it before and I will say it again … he put his money where his mouth was. When it came time to sign the contract, he said, ‘My team being in the right position is more important than having the highest AAV.'”

The Phillies have money coming off the books this year, with other expiring contracts than Realmuto with players such as Jake Arrieta and David Robertson, among others. Harper also gave the organization flexibility with his low-AAV contract.

Realmuto says he is not frustrated and has no hard feelings with the contract situation.

But things could change, and quickly.

With Betts off the board, Realmuto now stands out as the top soon-to-be free-agent on the market. Time will tell how the situation progresses, but, in the meantime, the Phillies will rely on Harper and Realmuto to help them through the 60-game sprint starting on Friday.