Mike Trout

No Mike Trout envy for Bryce Harper: 'I got more money than I'll know what to do with'

No Mike Trout envy for Bryce Harper: 'I got more money than I'll know what to do with'

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Bryce Harper’s reign as king of baseball salaries lasted less than three weeks.

And he’s OK with that.

“I got more money than I’ll know what to do with,” Harper said Wednesday, 24 hours after being displaced by Mike Trout as the game’s highest-paid player.

“I got the length I wanted, I got the contract I wanted, I got the team that I wanted and the ownership that trusted in me. Once I knew Trout was going to sign, it's inevitable that he was going to be the highest-paid player in the game and all of sports. I'm very happy for him.

“He’s very deserving.”

Trout topped Harper’s $330 million payday when he agreed to a $360 million extension with the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday.

“I texted him when the news broke,” Harper said. “I told him, ‘So excited for you and Jess.’ I’m very excited for what’s to come for him and his contract and his career.”

After signing a 13-year deal with the Phillies earlier this month, Harper openly fantasized about one day playing with Trout in Philadelphia. Trout, of course, hails from South Jersey. He grew up rooting for the Phillies and still roots passionately for the Eagles. Trout would have been eligible for free agency after the 2020 season. Now, he’s under contract with Anaheim through 2030.

Maybe they can play together in 2031.

Harper laughed.

“The Angels made a great decision of making him the face of their franchise for a long period of time,” he said.

Over the last month, a handful of stars have signed mega deals. Nolan Arenado landed a $260 million extension with Colorado. Manny Machado got $300 million from the Padres and Harper and Trout both cleared the $300 million mark. 

Every deal pushes the bar a little higher.

“When I talked to [Trout] this offseason it was kind of, 'Man, I want to get as much as I can so that you can blow me out of the water pretty much,'" Harper said. “And he did. I was very excited for him. I'm excited for Mookie [Betts] to see what he gets when he goes about [free agency]. Aaron Judge, as well. And, you know, for the players, I think it's huge for us.”

Harper started in right field for the Phillies in Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to the Tigers. He had his first Grapefruit League base hit, struck out once and walked once.

Harper will play in right field again on Thursday against the Blue Jays in Clearwater. The tentative plan is for him to sit out Friday night’s game then play in the final three games in Florida, at Bradenton against the Pirates on Saturday and in Clearwater on Sunday and Monday.

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A Philly fan's defense of Mike Trout's mega deal to play in L.A.

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A Philly fan's defense of Mike Trout's mega deal to play in L.A.

Mike Trout’s monster 12-year, $430 million contract extension with the Angels this week simultaneously broke Bryce Harper’s barely three-week-old record contract of $330 million and broke the hearts of everyone in the tri-state area. While I count myself among the Philly fans who were bummed when the Trout news broke given how much of a formality it seemed that he would come here as a free agent in two years, I cannot blame Trout for his decision.

Every East Coast-born person fantasizes about moving to California at some point. I once convinced a Los Angeles-based company to pay for me to fly out there for several days for a job interview (I also saw the Eagles play at the Coliseum, the game where Carson Wentz tore his ACL, and didn’t get the job. It was a bad week!), so I get it. While I was walking around University City in college on 35-degree winter days bundled up like Ralphie’s brother in A Christmas Story, I kicked myself for not going to a school like UCLA.

I too have wished it was 70-something degrees and sunny every single day while suffering through Philadelphia’s two seasons: freezing rain and brutal humidity. I would also be lying if I said offering me $430 million to do the one thing I might be better at than anyone who’s ever lived wasn’t awesome. Trout’s on his way to truly being the greatest baseball player of all time. He may be mired in irrelevance because the Angels seem so incompetent, but is that really the worst thing in the world for him?

Sure, I know Trout is craving a World Series ring. Racking up MVPs, making hundreds of millions of dollars and cruising through SoCal in semi-anonymity because he’s not a Hollywood star or a guy in 100 commercials has its obvious perks though. He can do all that while having his Octobers free because he plays for a bad franchise, leaving him able to attend six Eagles home games every season. It sounds like the most chill life possible.

Yes, Trout is an Eagles superfan, but just look at what he does when he’s at the Linc. He’ll be on the field before the game shooting the bull with Carson Wentz and then sits in a private little end zone box so Zach Ertz can flip him footballs after he scores touchdowns. He’s not sitting in Section 219 next to a dozen dudes from Grays Ferry and cheersing cans of Miller Lite with them after their umpteetnth “E-A-G-L-E-S” chant. I wouldn’t want to hang out with me either!

Whenever a star player, regardless of sport, inches towards free agency, fans and the media alike are quick to speculate that the athlete may go play for his hometown team, but that rarely seems to happen. The idea of growing up in the Philly area and becoming a superstar centerfielder for the Phillies sounds amazing, but if I was absurdly rich, I probably wouldn’t want to spend my entire life in the same place.

Trout would be a messiah figure if he had come to Philly in 2021. He also wouldn’t be able to walk down the street and grab a half-gallon of Wawa Peach Iced Tea without being mobbed by a hundred rabid Philly fans ready to bow down and kiss his feet. He would potentially have more pressure on him than any athlete in Philly history given how unbelievable his career has been so far, where he was born and who his favorite football team is. He could either be in an environment with unparalleled stress or he could face almost zero pressure while surrounded by palm trees in Los Angeles. Just to reiterate: it’s 70-something degrees there everyday.

Who knows, the DH could come to the National League by 2032 and a 40-year-old Trout built like Jeremiah Trotter could become a playoff hero in the vein of Matt Stairs while clobbering 25 homers in the regular season despite barely being able to jog around the bases. We can always dream even if the ideal situation for Trout in red pinstripes is gone.  

Maybe Mike Trout isn’t really about this life and maybe that’s the best thing for him.

Millville’s not even that close to Philly anyway, right?

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Mike Trout extension makes Bryce Harper deal look even better — and not because of the $

Mike Trout extension makes Bryce Harper deal look even better — and not because of the $

Just within the last month, the baseball world has seen Manny Machado sign a 10-year deal, Nolan Arenado sign an eight-year extension, Bryce Harper sign a 13-year deal and Mike Trout re-up for 12 total years.

Tuesday's stunner with Trout gave Phillies fans yet another reason to love the Harper deal. Not necessarily because it's for $100 million less — Trout is the superior player and has been much more consistent year to year, so it stands to reason he'd make so much more than Harper. But because it's yet another potential superstar free agent who's already off the board. 

If the Phillies didn't sign Harper when they did, it would have become increasingly difficult for them to land that game-breaking superstar over the next few years, when their window to win is so wide open. It was crucial to get this superstar now, while guys like J.T. Realmuto ($5.9 million), Rhys Hoskins (less than $1 million) and Aaron Nola ($4.5M) are as inexpensive as they currently are.

Next winter's class

The top-end group of free agents after the 2019 season potentially includes Xander Bogaerts (27), Paul Goldschmidt (32), Anthony Rendon (30), Jose Abreu (33), maybe Matt Carpenter (34), maybe J.D. Martinez (32), Nicholas Castellanos (28) and Yasiel Puig (29).

As in, not the same caliber of players, not as young as Harper and Machado this offseason, or both. The Nationals are expected to re-sign Rendon. The Cardinals probably won't let Goldschmidt walk away after trading two good young pieces for him in December. The Red Sox are unlikely to let Martinez walk if he opts out of his deal. 

The other guys — Castellanos, Puig, Abreu, Carpenter — are not stars. They don't have the talent and certainly aren't the draws that Harper is.

Guys keep re-upping

With Arenado and Trout staying put, the next superstar position player free agent will be Mookie Betts after the 2020 season ... if he doesn't extend first. It would make zero sense for a team as rich and successful as the Red Sox to let Betts, their best player, walk. You may see Boston lose Bogaerts this offseason if the price tag rises to a number that would make it harder to keep Betts. 

George Springer? He's also set for free agency after 2020, but again, very good player, just not a superstar. 

Jacob deGrom and Trevor Bauer, two of the best seven starting pitchers in baseball, are also set for free agency after 2020. It's unclear whether the Mets will be able to keep deGrom, and the Indians sure don't look like they'll be breaking the bank for Bauer, a notorious headache. Both are clear difference-makers, just not everyday contributors. DeGrom will be 32.5 years old if/when he hits free agency.

Three years out

The 2021-22 free-agent class looks impressive now, but again, some guys might not reach that point. Javier Baez, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa and Corey Seager all could be out there. Same with Noah Syndergaard and a few stud veteran pitchers like Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, Corey Kluber and Zack Greinke.

A team in the Phillies' position wasn't going to kick the can down the road for three more seasons but they may have been forced to if they didn't land Harper. The other option would have been trading away a lot of young talent for a good player on a bad team, but that would have further thinned the farm system and made it harder for the Phillies to extend their window beyond, say, five years.

Instead, the Phillies are well-positioned to win now and win in the future, and they could use that 2021-22 free-agent class to supplement their core rather than define it.

While the Trout fantasy ended on Tuesday, it at least gives the city even more of a reason to focus on the guys who are already here. This team, if things break right over the next handful of years, could find itself in position to win it all, even though the prodigal son never came "home."

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