CLEARWATER, Fla. -- At a time when the opt-out clause has become an almost standard feature in free-agent contracts, Bryce Harper didn’t want one from the Phillies.
Not when Citizens Bank Park might just be his field of dreams.
Since he made his major-league debut in 2012, Harper is one of 29 players with a slugging percentage of .500 or better in at least 500 at-bats, an achievement that he reached despite playing his home games in a hitter-neutral stadium in Washington. But playing three series per season at the Phillies’ hitter-friendly ballpark enabled him to imagine the numbers that he could put up if he was able to test the its limits with his left-handed swing 81 times a year.
Harper factored that into his decision on Tuesday -- 118 days into his free agency -- to accept a 13-year, $330 million offer from the Phillies that includes a no-trade clause but not an opt-out.
“If Bryce Harper were to be part of our lineup, the sky’s the limit for him. Really no ceiling,” said Phillies manager Gabe Kapler, who couched his comments because the deal is still pending a physical. “We saw what he could do in 2015, arguably one of the best seasons of the last 20 years at the plate. Citizens Bank Park is kind of tailor-made for him to perform. If the reports are true that Bryce Harper is now a Phillie, we would be really excited because of the damage he could do in that ballpark.”
Harper, a Las Vegas native, was believed to prefer playing on the West Coast and had offers from the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers. But there was no evidence to suggest that he didn’t want to come to Philadelphia, and the ballpark always figured to be one of the Phillies’ biggest drawing cards.
In 208 career plate appearances at Citizens Bank Park, Harper has gone deep 14 times, more than in any road ballpark. He has a .564 slugging percentage and .930 on-base plus slugging in Philadelphia compared with .518 and .912 at Nationals Park.