Somewhat lost amid the hoopla among Philadelphia Phillies fans when the team signed Bryce Harper to a 13-year, $330 million contract on Thursday is the question of whether this means the Phillies can’t also add another superstar outfielder in Mike Trout.
Trout, who has played his entire career with the Los Angeles Angels, can become a free agent after the 2020 season. And because Trout is from Millville, New Jersey, and grew up a fan of the Phillies, there has been much speculation throughout his career that he could eventually move to his favorite team.
In a tick-tock of the Harper negotiations by reporter Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated that was published late Thursday, a source with the Phillies indicated that the spreading out of Harper’s money over 13 years is meant to keep the Phillies below the luxury tax threshold – which will make room for future star players such as Trout.
“A club source said before this offseason began that the club had enough money to sign both [Manny] Machado and Harper, but wanted just one of them in order to keep money in reserve for Trout,” Verducci reported.
The Phillies had also pursued Machado in free agency, but he signed with the San Diego Padres for 10 years and $300 million.
Trout, when he reported to spring training with the Angels earlier this month, told reporters that he had been asked throughout the offseason when he would be signing with the Phillies, per The Inquisitr. The Southern New Jersey native is a Philadelphia Eagles season ticket holder and has even vacationed with Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz.
“He gave me marching orders.”— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) March 1, 2019
Bryce Harper told Scott Boras that it wasn’t about the money—it was about playing for one team for the rest of his career.
This is why Bryce Harper joined the Phillies (by Tom Verducci) https://t.co/Y1eID2MQxE
Even after signing Harper, the Phillies remain significantly below baseball’s luxury tax threshold, which imposes a tax on high-payroll teams. That’s because the Phillies have a relatively young roster and have few long-term contract obligations to veteran players.
Also in the Verducci article, agent Scott Boras made it clear that Harper had prioritized a long-term contract, but that the player had never asked for an early opt-out on his deal. Verducci writes that Phillies owner John Middleton was negotiating directly with Boras near the end and that Boras convinced Middleton that Harper will hold up health-wise by pointing out that he is a Mormon who neither smokes nor drinks.
The Verducci story also goes into the Los Angeles Dodgers’ surprise pursuit of Harper, which entailed a high per-year offer that wasn’t nearly as long-term or as wholly lucrative as the deal reached by Harper with the Phillies.