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Bryce Harper accepts moving to first base, wants deal to play for the Phillies into his 40s

Charlie Manuel back at Phillies spring training after recovery from stroke
Charlie Manuel back at Phillies spring training after recovery from stroke 00:15

CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) — Spring training is just getting started and we're still more than a month away from the Phillies' home opener at Citizens Bank Park, but it appears Bryce Harper is already looking ahead toward the next 10 years.

Harper arrived in Clearwater, Florida for spring training Sunday, where he expressed his desire to play into his 40s and finish his career in Philadelphia.

The two-time NL MVP also said he accepts his move to first base from the outfield, a makeshift decision last year that got him back on the field following Tommy John surgery.

Harper still has seven years and $196 million left on his $330 million, 13-year contract, a relative bargain with a $25.4 million average salary that ranks 19th among current players.

"I want to be here for a long time and understand playing into my 40s, that's the biggest thing for me," the 31-year-old said Sunday in the Phillies' spring training clubhouse. "So I wanted to get that done."

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After 11 seasons as an outfielder, Harper moved to first last year when he returned from Tommy John surgery on Nov. 23, 2022. Back as a designated hitter on May 2, Harper started playing first on July 21 and had 36 starts there, plus 13 in the playoffs.

Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski met Harper during the offseason and discussed a long-term shift to the infield.

"We had a pretty good conversation, me and Dombo, we sat down and he said this would be great for our organization, and I said, OK," Harper said. "I wanted them to know that I was on board with anything that they wanted to do. I said if you want me in right field, I'll play right. If you want me at first, I'll play first base, and I think as a collective they said first base is where we want you, and I said, OK, I'm going to do anything I can to be there."

Drafted first overall by Washington in 2010, Harper was 19 when he made his big league debut with the Nationals two years later. He still hasn't won a World Series title and realizes the current Phillies may be his best chance with a core that also includes Trea Turner, Kyle Schwarber, J.T. Realmuto and Nick Castellanos along with pitchers Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola.

After losing the 2022 World Series to Houston in six games, the Phillies were eliminated by Arizona in a seven-game NL Championship Series last year.

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"This is a window that we got to win in," Harper said. "Our ownership deserves that. Our fans deserve that. Dombrowski deserves that, as well, and we do, too."

A seven-time All-Star, Harper has a .281 career average with 306 homers, 889 RBIs and .912 OPS that is fifth among active players, behind Mike Trout, Aaron Judge, Juan Soto and Ronald Acuña Jr.

Harper's current deal runs until he turns 38. Already assured of about $380 million in career earnings, Harper isn't pressing for quick negotiations on a new deal.

"I understand there's other guys to take care of, right? Understanding that Wheels is a big one for us right now," he said, a reference to Wheeler entering the last season of a $118 million, five-year deal. "Contract negotiations can happen throughout the season and things like that. So, we'll see what Scott and Dave can come up."

After growing up in Las Vegas, Harper lives just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia in New Jersey. His offseason rooting interests are influenced by wife Kayla, a former Ohio State soccer player, and 4-year-old son Krew. His ties to the Philadelphia area have grown.

"Buckeye football on Saturday," he said. "Eagles on Sundays, and my son's obsessed with the Flyers."

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