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Buster Olney “bets the farm” Bryce Harper is coming to the Phillies or Nats

ESPN’s top baseball analyst says he thinks the Phillies are one of two teams who have a chance to land Harper in free agency.

Divisional Round - Chicago Cubs v Washington Nationals - Game Five Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Normally when someone says they will “bet the farm” on something, they’re using a figure of speech.

For ESPN’s Buster Olney, who grew up on a family-run farm, his usage of the expression has more weight.

Towards the end of Tuesday’s “Baseball Tonight” podcast, Olney answered a Twitter question from a listener asking if this year’s free agent slowdown would affect Bryce Harper’s chances of securing a $400 million payday.

Olney noted that Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, is certainly going to push for top dollar for his premier client, and that he’ll probably get the $400 million deal Boras and Harper seek. He then said he felt Philadelphia is one of two destinations with which Harper will sign that deal.

“I would bet the family farm that Bryce Harper winds up with the Phillies or back with the Washington Nationals.”

It’s interesting Olney has the Phillies ahead of other big-market destinations like the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers or Chicago Cubs. The Yankees and Dodgers have both worked hard this off-season to get under the luxury tax in order to not be hit with an especially onerous tax when they go back over the tax next off-season, presumably to sign a big-money free agent like Harper.

But the Phillies have just three players currently under contract after the 2019 season, Jake Arrieta, Carlos Santana and Odubel Herrera. They have a $5 billion contract with NBC Sports Philadelphia. The money they have to spend, while not limitless, is far from being exceeded, or even approached.

That makes them looming giants. And the giants have begun the process of ending their looming.

The signing of Arrieta to a three-year, $75 million contract has signaled to the baseball world that they’re ready to spend and contend right now. Boras, who represents Arrieta as well, said as much during Tuesday’s news conference welcoming Arrieta to the Phillies.

“When you have players like Jake on the team, you’ve now crossed the bridge,” Boras said. “It’s hot coffee and ready to drink.”

The analogy wasn’t exactly poetry, but the point was clear. Agents throughout the game now view the Phils as a destination landing spot for their clients. David Cohen wrote about the effect Arrieta’s signing will have on the team’s relevance this off-season, and that can’t be overstated.

Will the Phillies end up with Harper? Will they instead target Manny Machado? Many things need to play out in 2018 before we know the answer to those questions. But one thing is clear, the Phils will be players for all of them.

You can bet the farm on it.