Colorado Rockies

Nolan Arenado's trade situation a reminder of the benefits of Bryce Harper's contract

Nolan Arenado's trade situation a reminder of the benefits of Bryce Harper's contract

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.

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Phillies 7, Rockies 5: Bryce Harper's game-winning HR leads Phils to sweep on getaway day

Phillies 7, Rockies 5: Bryce Harper's game-winning HR leads Phils to sweep on getaway day

BOX SCORE

Bryce Harper clobbered a baseball for the second straight afternoon and his home run proved to be the game-winner as the Phillies completed a three-game sweep of the Rockies with a 7-5 win.

It was Harper's ninth home run of the season and second in two months off Rockies lefty specialist Mike Dunn. Harper has five extra-base hits over his last four games — three doubles and two homers. 

Harper is up to .304/.407/.537 this season against left-handed pitchers with six doubles and three homers in 54 plate appearances.

He's heating up. In their next series, the Phillies face three consecutive lefties Tuesday through Thursday.

With Hector Neris unavailable after pitching two innings Saturday, Juan Nicasio, Adam Morgan and Pat Neshek were strong in relief.

Nicasio struck out Charlie Blackmon and Trevor Story in the seventh inning and got Nolan Arenado to ground out with two men aboard to end the threat. Morgan pitched a 1-2-3 eighth with two strikeouts. Neshek threw 11 pitches to earn his third save of the season.

The sweep was the Phillies' second of the season. They wrapped up their homestand Sunday with a 4-3 record and are 18-10 at home. 

The Phils are 27-19 overall as they hit the road for a week-long trip. They lead the Braves by 2½ games, the Mets by 6½ games and the Nationals by 7½ games. The Mets have lost five in a row.

Clutch off the bench

J.T. Realmuto, who did not start, snapped a three-week home run drought with a pinch-hit, two-run shot off Rockies reliever Bryan Shaw in the sixth inning. It was Realmuto's first career pinch-hit homer and it tied the game three batters before Harper put the Phils ahead for good.

Andrew Knapp started in Realmuto's place and walked three times, scoring twice. 

McCutchen stays hot

Andrew McCutchen had another productive day at the plate, reaching his first three times up with a walk, a two-run single and another single.

The two-run single should have been a double and it could have been a bases-clearing double had Knapp read it correctly on first base. It was a deep drive to left-center field but Knapp hesitated thinking it had a chance to be caught. As a result, he advanced only to second.

In his final AB of the day, McCutchen lined out sharply to warning track in left-center.

Eickhoff regressing

Jerad Eickhoff hadn't allowed a home run in 30 innings entering his last start against the Brewers. Milwaukee homered off him twice and the Rockies hit three more on Sunday. That's five home runs Eickhoff has allowed in his last nine innings.

His ERA has risen to 3.23. Eickhoff does not have a huge margin for error. He's heavily reliant on his curveball to the point that facing the same team twice in less than a month can be more problematic for him than other pitchers.

The Rockies came into Sunday's game having scored an average of 6.9 runs per game in May, by far the most in the National League. The Cubs, who the Phillies face next, are second at 5.1.

Kingery's back

Scott Kingery (hamstring) returned from a month-long absence and got his first-ever start in center field. He stroked a line-drive single to left in his first at-bat and later walked and stole a base.

With Odubel Herrera hitting .234 with a .297 on-base percentage, Kingery could continue to see regular time in center field, especially against left-handed starters.

Up next

The Phillies head to the midwest for a seven-game road trip to Chicago and Milwaukee, beginning with four games at Wrigley Field.

There are two very interesting pitching matchups in the Cubs series. 

In Game 1, Jake Arrieta faces the pitcher the Cubs chose to pay instead of him: Yu Darvish. 

In Game 3, it's a battle of left-handed Coles past and present. The Phillies are the only team Cole Hamels has never faced.

Monday night at 8:05 — Jake Arrieta (4-4, 4.02) vs. Yu Darvish (2-3, 5.14)

Tuesday night at 7:07 — Zach Eflin (5-4, 2.89) vs. LHP Jose Quintana (4-3, 3.68)

Wednesday night at 8:05 — LHP Cole Irvin (2-0, 2.77) vs. LHP Cole Hamels (4-0, 3.13)

Thursday afternoon at 2:20 — Aaron Nola (4-0, 4.47) vs. LHP Jon Lester (3-2, 2.09)

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Rockies 4, Phillies 1: Phillies' offense doesn't show up until it's too late in series finale

Rockies 4, Phillies 1: Phillies' offense doesn't show up until it's too late in series finale

BOX SCORE 

DENVER — The Phillies capped an unpleasant visit to Coors Field with a 4-1 loss on Sunday afternoon.

The offense produced just five hits and three of them came with two outs in the ninth as the Phils rallied for their only run. Colorado's Wade Davis retired Cesar Hernandez with two men on base to end the game.

The Phils lost three of four in the series and head to New York at 12-9.

The Phils are 5-13 against the Rockies since the start of the 2017 season. They have lost seven of the eight games that they’ve played at Coors Field since last September and been outscored 58-21.

The keys

• Two hits through 8 2/3 innings in Coors Field. That won't do it.

• Colorado starter Jon Gray kept the Phillies' hitters off-balance with a fastball that reached 97 mph and a slider/curveball mix that produced 13 swings and misses. Gray allowed just one hit over six shutout innings. He walked four and struck out five.

• With the Phillies down 1-0 in the fourth inning, Hernandez made a base-running blunder that ultimately cost his team a run. Hernandez had reached second in a muffed force play but did not notice that the ball had come loose and walked off the field toward the dugout and was tagged out.

Eickhoff’s day

Jerad Eickhoff had a solid outing in his first start of the season. He gave up just one run through five innings then paid for a couple of no-out walks en route to giving up three runs in the sixth. 

Like Aaron Nola the night before, Eickhoff got some big outs with runners on base. He did not get enough run support to pitch over the sixth inning. After the two walks, he gave up a single and a two-run double as Colorado built its lead to 4-0 in that frame. In all, Eickhoff allowed seven hits and four walks over six innings. He struck out eight.

Missing pop

Cleanup man Rhys Hoskins had three hits on Friday night and three more on Saturday before a hitless day in the series finale. He has gone seven games without an extra-base hit.

Phillie killer

Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon entered the four-game series hitting .219 with a .567 OPS. He ended the series hitting .286 with a .802 OPS. He had 10 hits, including two doubles and two triples, in 18 at-bats.

For his career, Blackmon is 56 for 161 (.348) with 10 homers and 23 RBIs against the Phils.

Health check

After an MRI, Phillies officials have determined that Scott Kingery’s hamstring strain is mild. There is still no timetable for his return. He suffered the injury Friday night.

Up next

The Phils visit Citi Field for the first time in the new season for a three-game series against the Mets (11-10) beginning on Monday night. Jake Arrieta looks to continue his strong start in the opener against Steven Matz. The Phils hung eight runs on Matz in the first inning of a game in Philadelphia last week. Zach Eflin pitches Tuesday night against Zack Wheeler and Vince Velasquez on Wednesday night against Jason Vargas.

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