The Phillies’ pursuit of Bryce Harper continues to drag on, and on Tuesday afternoon, a new complication emerged:
BREAKING: Third baseman Nolan Arenado and the Colorado Rockies are finalizing an eight-year, contract extension worth more than $255M, league sources tell ESPN. Deal includes an opt-out after three years, would give Arenado the largest per-year salary of any position player.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 26, 2019
This is probably not good news for the Phillies in terms of their pursuit of Harper. The bar has been set a little higher in terms of average annual value, and perhaps more importantly, the Phillies likely won’t be able to avoid giving Harper an opt-out after just three years.
Certainly, Nolan Arenado's opt-out clause after three years may pave the way for the #Phillies to provide opt-out after 2021 to Bryce Harper, which has been one of the sticking points in negotiations.— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) February 26, 2019
If the Phillies are really opposed to giving Harper more than $32 million per season or a three-year opt-out, then it seems doubtful that Harper will be joining them. The belief is that the Phillies are not his preferred destination, so if they’re not going to give him what he wants, he might choose to take a shorter-term deal elsewhere.
Unfortunately, the deal also puts more pressure on the Phillies to get Harper signed. This is another sign that free agents of Harper’s caliber are rare. More often than not, star players sign extensions before they reach the open market. Fans holding out hope that the Phillies could instead go after the likes of Anthony Rendon, Mookie Betts, or MIKE TROUT in future seasons may experience similar disappointment when those players also sign extensions.
The prospect of an opt-out is frightening for some fans, but maybe it shouldn’t be.
When thinking about a 3 year opt out, remember that a bunch of teams would LOVE to sign Harper to a 3 year deal. Were he to opt out, you get 3 years of prime Harper. That’s great, and then enough payroll space to potentially afford Mike Trout. This shouldn’t be a deal breaker.— John Stolnis (@JohnStolnis) February 26, 2019
With Harper in tow, the next three years could be very good ones for the Phillies. If an opt-out is what it takes to get him, then they should include it, and enjoy three prime years of one of the best hitters in the National League.