Report: Phillies saving up for Mike Trout's free agency despite splurge on Bryce Harper

Yahoo Sports Contributor
Yahoo Sports

It’s safe to say the Philadelphia Phillies have had a dream offseason. Bryce Harper will soon don the Phillies uniform, and J.T. Realmuto, Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura and David Robertson are already at the team’s spring training camp.

Between those five players, the Phillies have spent more than $400 million in free-agent contracts, as well multiple premium prospects in the Realmuto and Segura trades. Thanks to those costly additions, the Phillies have gone from winning 80 games last year to being the new favorites in a competitive NL East and serious World Series contenders.

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And yet, the Phillies could have apparently gone even bigger this offseason.

Phillies reportedly reserving money for Mike Trout’s free agency

As last season came to a close, some speculation emerged that the Phillies could land both of this offseason’s biggest whales in Harper and Manny Machado. That obviously did not happen, as Machado is now a member of the San Diego Padres after signing a 10-year, $300 million contract.

Landing Harper and Machado would have required handing out the two biggest free-agent contracts in the history of North American sports, so it wasn’t exactly surprising to see the Phillies let Machado go once Harper was on board. Team owner John Middleton had said he wanted to spend money and possibly be “stupid” about it, but no one was going to begrudge him for landing only one superstar.

Especially if some of that money is being saved for Mike Trout, as Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci reports:

To surpass Stanton, what Boras and Harper did essentially was to use the last three years as the equivalent of deferred money to help the Phillies reduce the amount counted toward the Competitive Balance Tax, or luxury tax threshold. That AAV still leaves room for the Phillies to bid on Mike Trout if Trout becomes a free agent after the 2020 season. A club source said before this offseason began that the club had enough money to sign both Machado and Harper, but wanted just one of them in order to keep money in reserve for Trout.

If that’s true, the rest of baseball has reason to be very scared about the idea of the Phillies’ possible outfield in 2021.

Mike Trout really likes Philadelphia, in case you hadn’t heard

Throughout his career, Mike Trout hasn’t revealed much about his personal life beyond his love of two things: weather and Philly. After growing up just an hour away from Philadelphia in Millville, New Jersey, the man still openly roots for the Eagles and Sixers despite playing in California the past eight years.

Trout even makes his offseason home in New Jersey. You’d have to imagine joining a competitive Phillies team would be appealing for the superstar.

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Of course, if Trout’s main priority was joining the Phillies, he probably would have avoided signing an extension with the Angels early in his career and joined the team last offseason when he would have been a free agent. The Phillies haven’t topped .500 since Trout’s debut, though, so that might have hurt them.

Things seem different now. The Phillies figure to be World Series contenders again, and Trout has already given the Angels, who haven’t made the postseason since the year Trout signed his extension, a pretty narrow window for negotiating another extension.

Bryce Harper’s 13-year deal helped open this possibility

Courting Trout in free agency sounds like something right up Harper’s alley, even though he would be supplanted as the Phillies’ biggest star if successful.

The former National reportedly insisted on no opt-outs in his contract, rejecting a norm in today’s biggest deals, in order to give himself credibility while courting free agents, per Yahoo Sports’ Tim Brown.

If he continues his current pace, Trout figures to shatter Harper’s record, possibly by nine figures. Signing Trout to play with Harper would likely require a commitment of at least $60 million per year for just two players, but that’s the cost of adding a surefire Hall of Famer and a likely Hall of Famer in free agency.

A Phillies outfield with Mike Trout and Bryce Harper would go down in baseball lore. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
A Phillies outfield with Mike Trout and Bryce Harper would go down in baseball lore. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

As mentioned above, the Phillies also tacked on three years to their offer for Harper with the main goal of lowering his average annual value to $25.38 million. Doing so gives the team more room against the luxury tax, which could make signing Trout even easier. The Phillies racked up massive payrolls when they were among MLB’s top teams years ago. Adding Trout to a lineup already featuring Harper would be a very palatable way to get there again.

This is all just one team’s plan for courting Trout, though. Every team in baseball will have reason to go Trout fishing if he hits free agency in two years. Stay tuned.

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