mlb free agency

How Nolan Arenado's mega-deal affects Bryce Harper negotiations

How Nolan Arenado's mega-deal affects Bryce Harper negotiations

Manny Machado wasn't the only player Bryce Harper was competing with this offseason to land the biggest contract. Nolan Arenado, though he wasn't a free agent, was also on track to get paid this winter and did he ever.

Arenado and the Rockies are finalizing an eight-year extension worth $260 million, according to multiple reports. The deal's annual average is $32.5 million, a major-league record for a position player.

There is an opt-out provision after three seasons, according to ESPN's Jeff Passan, a key inclusion based on what it could mean for Harper.

The risk of waiting

Arenado was set to become a free agent after the 2019 season but the Rockies couldn't let him walk.

His extending early shows the risk of waiting for future free agents when a superstar like Harper is available now. Mookie Betts and Mike Trout line up as the next two elite free agents (after 2020) but there's no certainty either reaches the open market. The deep-pocketed Red Sox will do everything it takes to retain Betts. While Trout is expected to get to free agency, the competition for him will be fierce and much more crowded than the markets were for Machado and Harper this offseason.

One of the most important aspects of this offseason for the Phillies has been the reluctance of teams like the Yankees, Red Sox and Cubs to woo the top two free agents. The Dodgers were believed to be in that group, too, before re-emerging in the race for Harper. All of those teams and many others will pursue Trout if/when he becomes available. 

Arenado's impact on Harper market

Scott Boras' goals with the Harper deal aren't too difficult to decipher. He'll want Harper's deal to exceed Machado's $300 million, Giancarlo Stanton's $325 million and now Arenado's $32.5M per year.

A 10-year, $330 million deal would accomplish all three goals, but Harper's camp is likely seeking even more than that. The magic number seems closer to $360 million. It's unclear if the Phillies will go that high since it doesn't appear any other organization can.

The opt-out

Arenado's ability to opt out of his contract after three years might not be all that meaningful for him. It gives him flexibility, but three years from now he'll be entering his age-31 season. Is he really going to find a better deal at that point than Years 4-8 of the record-setting one he's about to sign?

Harper is 18 months younger than Arenado. For Harper, opting out after three years would make him a free agent at 29. He'd be in position to find another huge contract if the first three years of his next deal go well. Though again, Harper might not be able to find more money than he'd be due to make in Year 4 and beyond of the contract he signs this offseason.

In any event, Harper and Boras will seek that opt-out and probably multiple opt-outs during the life of a long-term contract from the Phillies. It gives the player protection if he underperforms but freedom if he overperforms. It's a concession the Phillies have likely known all winter they'll have to make if they want Harper.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies

The Manny Machado-Bryce Harper saga drones on at Phillies camp

The Manny Machado-Bryce Harper saga drones on at Phillies camp

CLEARWATER, Fla. —  The saga involving Manny Machado and Bryce Harper is now 3½ months old.

At Phillies camp, it is becoming a little annoying, a little amusing, a little exhausting.

The players are tired of being asked about it.

Team officials simply shrug.

No one knows when it will end.

General manager Matt Klentak says he is comfortable that the team has put its best foot forward in the pitches it has made to both players.

“It takes two to tango,” he has said.

“We’re just half the equation,” club president Andy MacPhail has said.

The Phillies entertained Machado at Citizens Bank Park several days before Christmas. Team officials visited with Harper in Las Vegas in January.

The club went into the offseason favoring Machado because he would make a difference not only in the batting order, but also at third base, where he is an elite defender. That’s not to say the Phillies don’t like what Harper’s left-handed bat and box-office appeal would bring. After all these months of waiting, and with spring training underway, it’s now a jump ball between Machado and Harper: Whoever wants the Phillies’ money — come get it.

But when will it happen?

When will the Phillies' love be requited?

All sorts of rumors and could-be’s and should-be’s and might-be’s have floated around all weekend. Internet sleuths monitored private jets headed from Harper’s hometown of Las Vegas to the Clearwater-St. Petersburg airport.

Meanwhile, amid the ridiculousness, Phillies camp goes on. The first full-squad workout is Monday. 

There are lockers available.

Machado’s No. 13 is available.

Harper’s No. 34 is available.

Rhys Hoskins still thinks one of them is coming. But even he — one of the most good-natured guys around — is sick of being asked about it.

How 'bout you, Gabe Kapler?

“I know that the conversations (between the Phillies and both free agents) are happening, but I don’t ride the waves up and down,” the manager said. “I’d be thrilled if we had either of those guys in our camp. The roster right now is a much improved one and our guys are focused on that right now.”

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies

Yet another indication Bryce Harper is signing tomorrow! (Now today)

Yet another indication Bryce Harper is signing tomorrow! (Now today)

Fitting the theme of our parody video yesterday ... there was yet another indication Thursday that Bryce Harper's decision could be coming tomorrow!

"Tomorrow," of course, now means today, Friday, Feb. 15. We're not holding our breath.

Chris Russell, a radio host in D.C. at 106.7 The Fan who was among the first to report news of Harper's meeting with another team (the Giants) two weeks ago, said on Thursday evening that he thought a Harper decision would be coming within 24 hours. He added that he doesn't think it would be the Nationals.

"I know that he wanted to get this done by Valentine's Day," Russell said.

Of course, less than 48 hours before, Russell said this on 910 The Fan in Richmond:

"If the Nationals are willing to go seven or eight years, maybe with an opt-out after three or four, then I think Bryce would lean toward that and staying with the known while also retaining some leverage."

In describing the Harper-Nationals situation, Russell pointed out the strong business relationship Harper's agent, Scott Boras, has with the Lerner family, the majority owners of the Nats.

Boras represents Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer, who each reached deals of at least $175 million with Washington. Boras also represents Anthony Rendon, Jeremy Hellickson, Trevor Rosenthal, Michael A. Taylor and Matt Wieters, who signed a two-year, $21 million deal with Washington before 2017.

Maybe something happens today with Harper. Maybe it doesn't. Maybe it's the Nationals. Maybe it's not.

Isn't this fun?! (Bangs head against wall.)

Update: 12:40 p.m.

Appearing on WIP Friday afternoon, Russell had this to say:

"I'm led to believe by the people that I've talked to that are close to the situation — and I have, again, a real good source that has helped me through this process, let's just leave it at that — that Bryce was in a mood to celebrate yesterday," Russell said. 

"Now, the source said, 'I believe it's done.' I don't have concrete, 100 percent proof for you guys. I wish I did, otherwise I would have it and I would be running around with it. But I don't have that, so I want to caution everybody in Philadelphia. But that's what I was led to believe, that this thing is now decided."

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device

More on the Phillies