Was it worth the wait? Well, it certainly was for Philadelphia-based professional athletes, to judge from their reactions Thursday to news that Bryce Harper had agreed to join the Phillies.
The 26-year-old former Nationals slugger ended months of speculation about where he might sign in free agency when his new squad sealed the deal with a mammoth contract, reportedly worth $330 million over a whopping 13 years. Not surprisingly, several Phillies players used social media to welcome their new teammate, but as it turned out, a whole bunch of Eagles were also pretty excited to see Harper come to town.
Tight end Zach Ertz went back to a tweet he posted in January, wondering when Harper was going to make his signing with the Phillies “official,” and he was happy to add a celebratory comment. Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and others on the team wanted Harper to know he was making the right move in relocating a little ways up Interstate 95.
“Who’s next?!” Eagles offensive lineman Lane Johnson asked exuberantly. “Time to have some FUN!”
Also looking forward to some fun was Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer, who used that term Thursday to describe the prospect of facing off with his former teammate. By joining a division rival whose fans have made their presence felt in the past at Nationals Park, Harper has added major juice to Nats-Phillies games for the foreseeable future.
The No. 1 pick in the 2010 MLB draft at the age of just 17, Harper moved quickly through the minors and made his debut with Washington’s big league club in April 2012. He won rookie of the year honors and made six all-star teams in seven years, as well as earning the 2015 NL MVP award, establishing himself along the way as one of baseball’s most recognizable and marketable players.
Now he has brought his considerable star power to Philadelphia — for a price, of course, as noted wryly by former Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino, who was a member of the franchise’s most recent World Series champion, in 2008. An even more prominent member of that squad, former shortstop and 2007 NL MVP Jimmy Rollins, chimed in, as well.
Current Phillies were also pretty enthused. Referring to previous acquisitions this offseason by his team, including catcher J.T. Realmuto, shortstop Jean Segura and reliever David Robertson, pitcher Aaron Nola said, “The guys we’ve added to the team have been the best at their positions for years, and then we just got Bryce, who’s been the best at his position for years, too, so, it’s a pretty good lineup.”
Another of those recent additions, outfielder Andrew McCutchen, said Harper would “make this team that much better,” adding, “It’s going to be exciting for all of us, everywhere we go.”
While first baseman/outfielder Rhys Hoskins posted a GIF of Harper doing a post-home run bat flip …
… pitcher Jake Arrieta posted footage of himself. Far too much of himself.
The other Philadelphia sports teams made sure that they, too, were heard from. The 76ers’ Tobias Harris referred to the fact that he and Boban Marjanovic came over to the city this month in a trade, and you just knew the Flyers would find a way to work Gritty into this, didn’t you?
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