- - Tuesday, March 19, 2019


There is nothing like the idea of taking phone calls and text messages from Bryce Harper to juice up a negotiation.

Just a few weeks after Harper, the former Washington Nationals savior who is now the Philadelphia Phillies savior, said he would try to make the great Mike Trout appear in a Phillies uniform someday, Trout opted instead to stay 3,000 miles away from Harper for the next 14 years.

Trout — the player baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said last summer would be a bigger star if he marketed himself better — delivered the best marketing tool baseball could ask for by signing a record-setting, 12-year $430 million contract extension to stay with the Los Angeles Angels.

The news set off a wave of reaction that illustrated the strength and power of baseball — a contract with $430 million in guaranteed money that dwarfs the best NFL deals and, for now, stands alone atop the mountain of sports deals.

When he woke up Tuesday morning, Harper had the richest contract, in terms of total value, in baseball — $330 million. For sports overall, that puts him at No. 2 behind boxer Canelo Alvarez and his 10-fight, $365 million deal.

Trout’s deal pushes Alvarez and Harper both down a notch.

Like Keyser Söze showing those men of will what will really was in “The Usual Suspects,” Trout showed Harper what a record-setting contract really was.

Trout will already be making $34 million a year in the final two years of his existing contract. Now, when his extension kicks in for the 2021 season, he will be paid $36 million a year for 10 years.

By all standards, measures and hyperbole, that is the record — the only record.

When Harper signed his 13-year, $330 million contract three weeks ago, one of his goals was to land the largest contract in baseball. This was important to him. “Harp’s goal was he wanted the largest contract and he wanted his value,” said his agent, Scott Boras. This was Harper’s goal because it was likely Boras’ goal.

They ruled for 19 days. Years from now, no one will notice, and Harper is stuck for the next 13 years in a contract with no opt-out clause, something that’s become standard operating procedure in baseball contracts.

Heck, by the time Harper’s contract ends, Wilmer Difo may be making more money.

Boras said Harper asked for the no opt-out to show his commitment to the Phillies. But I heard from a reliable source Tuesday that Harper did want an opt-out, but the Phillies told him they would reduce their offer to $310 million if he insisted on such a clause.

That would have dropped his deal below Giancarlo Stanton’s $325 million contract signed with the Miami Marlins in 2014. So if this is true, Harper sacrificed his chance to get out of the contract in four or five years in exchange for the bragging rights to the biggest contract in baseball history.

And he got to make that boast — for 19 days. 

The Trout deal has to be deflating for Harper, whose ego revealed its dark side once the Philadelphia deal was done. He chose to ridicule Washington’s offer of $300 million, made before he hit the open market, after he and Boras had used it for months to prop up Harper’s free agency. 

Harper continued to spread the Boras misinformation campaign that the Nationals’ offer included huge sums of deferred money that Boras, through his media minions, claimed was actually worth only about $180 million. This is simply not true. The real money value of the contract was close to $270 million, according to sources familiar with the deal.

The slugger also took shots at the Nationals fanbase for suggesting that they talked his departure into existence with the constant speculation that he would leave — as if hiring Boras would lead reasonable people to believe anything other than that a free-agent free-for-all was inevitable.

Boras even had a catchy name for the high-stakes spectacle of MLB teams bidding for his client’s services.

“‘Harper’s Bazaar’ has begun,” Boras told reporters at the baseball meetings in November. “It’s fashionable. It’s historical. It’s elite.”

It’s second.

Hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday afternoons and Saturday and Sunday mornings and on the Kevin Sheehan Show podcast every Tuesday and Thursday.

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