By Matthew Higgins
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It’s a scenario Phillies fans have been dreaming of since the Bryce Harper signing – Mike Trout playing alongside the former National League MVP in the outfield in 2021. During his introductory press conference, Harper hinted about Trout’s looming free agency and has doubled down on his comments on recruiting the superstar to the Phillies. In what should perk up the ears of fans, one sports agent believes the Phillies will have the “inside track” to sign Trout, a Millville, New Jersey native and rabid Eagles fan, after the 2020 season. The cost? Forty-million dollars a year.
Harper agreed to the largest contract in North American sports history, signing with the Phillies for 13 years and $330 million. Many thought Harper was looking to make more than $30 million a year, but his annual average value, which counts against baseball’s competitive balance tax, is $25.38 million. That will help the Phillies continue to add top-flight free agents, including going after Trout.
“I’m making 26 (million dollars) a year, something like that, so I think that’s going to be able to bring some other guys in as well to be able to help this organization win. I know there’s another guy in about two years that comes off the books. We’ll see what happens with him,” Harper said during his introductory press conference.
In an interview with 94WIP just last week, Harper doubled down.
“If you don’t think I’m gonna call Mike Trout to come to Philly in 2020, you’re crazy.”
Jerrold Colton, a sports agent and attorney based in the Philadelphia area, told CBS Philly that if Trout doesn’t re-sign with the Los Angeles Angels and hits free agency, the Phillies should have a good chance to land the former American League MVP.
“We have an upper hand to getting Mike Trout, for sure. The Phillies have an inside track if the Angels don’t re-sign him,” said Colton.
If Trout does sign with the Phillies, or anywhere for that matter, expect him to be the highest paid player ever.
“I don’t think it’s out of the question, with [Manny] Machado making $30 million, and Harper approaching it, Trout could be the first $40 million player,” said Colton.
CBS3 Sports Director Don Bell agrees.
“Trout is the best player in baseball and it’s indisputable. If he continues to produce and stays healthy, I wouldn’t be surprised if he hauled in $40 million per season,” said Bell.
If the Phillies do pursue Trout, they will have some payroll flexibility. According to spotrac.com, a sports financial information site, the Phillies have just over $89 million committed to six players for the 2021 season. However, the Phillies will also be looking to sign catcher J.T. Realmuto long-term after trading for him this offseason and ink slugger Rhys Hoskins to an extension. Colton doesn’t believe the Phillies’ payroll would be hamstrung paying both Harper and Trout.
“Baseball is different than other sports because there’s no salary cap, but there is a luxury tax. Hopefully, the revenues and the success of the franchise will justify the expenditure,” explained Colton. “It would really be a shame if Mike Trout wasn’t able to be brought to Philadelphia because of money. If he wants to be here, I gotta believe the Phillies will find a way to make it happen.”
Colton continued, “The real question is, for the owners, are they willing to dig into their pockets for that, and, so far, from the [John] Middleton-led group, they are.”
Bell believes it shouldn’t be a hard sell for the Phillies to get Trout to don the red pinstripes.
“He’s Jersey to the bone. His wife went to Millville High School and college in Pennsylvania. He’ll be approaching 30 when he becomes a free agent and the draw of home never goes away. However, that’s two years from now. Two years ago, the Sixers were one of the worst teams in the NBA and the Eagles had not established ‘The New Norm.’ A lot can change,” said Bell.
Bell added that the Phillies should make Trout their “primary focus” when he’s a free agent, and not let it drag on the way free agency did with Harper and Machado.
“They can’t afford to play cute and court multiple players at once and then forge ahead once one has signed elsewhere. He has to be their primary focus and unlike every other suitor, they’ll have to play up the home field advantage. Put the man’s jersey on Rocky if you have to.”
Last month, Trout told USA Today that there wasn’t a day that went by during the offseason when someone asked him if he was going to come to the Phillies.
“I can’t predict the future. I don’t know,” Trout said.
The Angels have only made the playoffs once during Trout’s eight seasons in the league. Trout has two years left on his deal for $66.5 million.