The situation the Rockies find themselves in with Nolan Arenado underscores again how beneficial it was for the Phillies that Bryce Harper didn't care about an opt-out.
Rewind to a year ago. It would have seemed ludicrous, unfathomable even that a 26-year-old star like Harper, represented by Scott Boras, would sign a contract that didn't include an opt-out.
Manny Machado has one. Arenado has one. Stephen Strasburg, J.D. Martinez, Aroldis Chapman — all had opt-outs which affected this offseason.
It's commonplace nowadays. It gives the player all the leverage. If he outperforms the early part of his deal, he can opt-out and make more. If he underperforms, he can play out the original deal and get that financial security.
Harper didn't want one. He wanted to stay in one place for 13 years. The $330 million helps.
The Rockies are in a much more precarious position with their star. Arenado just signed an eight-year, $260 million extension last February. And now, it seems like a good bet that he'll be with another team by July 31.
Arenado expressed his dissatisfaction to MLB.com this week.
“There’s a lot of disrespect from people there that I don’t want to be a part of,” Arenado told Thomas Harding. “You can quote that.
"I'm not mad at the trade rumors. There's more to it."
The "more" seems to be the Rockies' inability to build more of a winning team around Arenado. A year ago at this time, Colorado was feeling great about young starting pitchers Kyle Freeland and German Marquez. In 2018, those two led the best starting staff the Rockies have ever had. Both took huge steps back in 2019 and that has affected the Rockies' window.
Why did they even extend Arenado in the first place if they couldn't realistically contend, you may ask. Because it benefits them. They bought themselves more time to figure out an Arenado trade. This is not how anyone saw the extension playing out a year ago, but here we are.
Arenado's opt-out looms large. He can opt-out after the 2021 season, so a team trading for him will either need to trade a ton while simultaneously renegotiating the opt-out, or trade less for less control of Arenado. It's complicated but here's an explanation.
The Phillies right now face similar concerns in building a contender. They've spent more than $700 million the last three offseasons yet many view them as the fourth-best team in their own division going into 2020.
You don't sign Harper to that gargantuan long-term contract just to try to win 85 games a year. You do it to win a division; you do it to play deep into October. In that regard, another win-now move like an Arenado trade makes a lot of sense, even though it would almost certainly cost the Phils all of Spencer Howard, Alec Bohm, Scott Kingery and maybe another player.
The flipside is that the Phillies will not be able to sustain success without graduating their top prospects and getting key contributions from 23-year-olds making the league minimum.
In any event, the one thing they don't have to worry about is Harper feeling so dissatisfied in a year or two that he follows the track Arenado is headed down.