Could Bryce Harper have accelerated the Mike Trout extension?
By Ryan Falla
Up until the Mike Trout extension the 2019 offseason has been a painful one for Angels fans. The extension did thankfully clear up a lot of the negativity surrounding this offseason that came from conjecture as to where Trout would go as a Free Agent in two years.
Day after day LA Angel fans, as well as Mike Trout, had to deal with the newly minted Philly, Bryce Harper, openly recruiting Trout for 2020 all while Phillies fans took the opportunity to mock and disregard Angel fans. Is it possible that the constant, overbearing recruitment by Bryce Harper and the unrestrained arrogance of Phillies fans actually accelerate the Trout extension?
Most of this 2019 offseason consisted of big players signing big-time contracts; Manny Machado scored a 10 year, 300 million dollar contract with the Padres while the other big time FA, Bryce Harper, signed a massive 13 year deal with the Phillies.
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These big contracts led to talks of what the greatest player in baseball, Mike Trout, would score in Free Agency. Would he blow the world away by landing a $500 million dollar contract? Would the Angels even be able to compete and offer a contract around $400 million, which according to media pundits he would be more than happy to decline in search for something greater?
If you listened to Bryce Harper you would have thought the Angels had no chance to bring Trout back and that Trout going home to Philly was a foregone conclusion. You would have believed that Trout wanted more than what he had with the Angels, that Trout was aching to search for something better. Fortunately all that talk is history now that Trout is the proud owner of a 12 year, $430 million dollar deal with his true home team, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Despite all this ending with the Trout extension there still exists one burning question that hangs over the entire extension process for Mike Trout. Did Bryce Harper and the Phillies actually accelerate the extension talks with Trout and the Angels?
If you listened to Harper and Philly fans this offseason you would have believed Trout was a goner in 2020. You’d believe he wanted to go home, you’d believe that he wanted to courted by 30 different teams, you’d believe that he had no trust in the Angels future championship potential.
If you listened to Trout you’d see a much different angle. Trout has always said that he doesn’t want drama, he doesn’t want his names in the papers for anything other than his baseball performance or the fantastic humanitarian work he does. Trout doesn’t want to be bogged down by painful contract negotiations or media hype, he just wants to play baseball. Therefore it would stand to reason that Trout would not be happy with the entire 2018 offseason consisting of ravenous talk regarding his practically guaranteed future with the Phillies.
That’s the exact talk that likely accelerated extension talks between Trout and the Angels.
Do you remember earlier this offseason when the Phillies were practically attacking Harper for a deal? When the Phillies were in Las Vegas, Harper’s home town, there was talk that they “weren’t leaving Vegas without a deal”. Unfortunately for them that’s exactly what they did. They left Vegas without landing Harper, and shortly after there was chatter that Harper did not find Philadelphia to be an attractive landing spot, and who can blame him? The Phillies haven’t finished a season over .500 since 2012 and look to need significant re-tooling to be a longtime contender.
Despite Harper not finding Philly to be desirable he was still lured into a big 13 year deal, but my question is “what changed”? What shifted the negotiations into a positive light for Harper after his initial negative reaction to Philly?
There’s a very strong chance that the Phillies spent the time between Harper not finding Philly desirable and his signing by convincing him that they could, and would, land Trout in 2020. That angle brings quite a bit of clarity towards Harper’s actions immediately after signing with Philly.
Why else would Harper randomly begin harping on and on about Trout being a Philly in 2020 unless he was extremely confident in the organizations ability to bring him in? How else could he find such powerful confidence unless the organization told him themselves that not only could they pursue Trout, they were guaranteed to land him?
It’s a strong possibility the Phillies lured in Harper by selling their ability to sign Trout, why wouldn’t he want to come to his hometown team? He’s a die-hard Eagles fan and he could bring more championships to his favorite city and retire an unrivaled hero in Philly history.
Unfortunately that was the exact type of drama Mike Trout has stated time and time again that he doesn’t want to deal with the exact drama Harper created with his shameless recruitment of Trout despite his Free Agency not coming around for a full two seasons.
Phillies fans will tell you that Trout is afraid of winning championships, but the fact of the matter is that Trout doesn’t want anything that will pose a distraction to baseball. If the distractions were this bad before he even signed to the Phillies then how bad would it get once he was actually a part of the team?
All in all it’s a very strong possibility that the Phillies nabbed a semi-interested Free Agent in Harper by selling him the concept of playing with Trout and their “guaranteed” ability to sign him. It does seem that Harper shot himself and the Phillies in the foot by pushing Trout away with overbearing behavior from Harper and his riling up of the Philly fan base.
In recent days we’ve heard Trout state that he “would have regretted leaving the Angels in a few seasons time” if he did leave. He also said that he believed in the future of the organization to the point where he would mull over MiLB box scores to eyeball the future talent he could be playing with. What are the chances that the incessant banter and belittling of the Angels by Philly fans as well as the constant recruitment by Harper got Trout thinking about how much he actually wanted to stay here?
Of course this is all conjecture, but it can’t be ignored how strongly all the pieces of the puzzle line up. Trout said earlier this offseason that he was asked everyday if he’d be going to Philly. That kind of consistent questioning is going to bring about inner reflections. It didn’t take Trout very long to perceive that his best chances at winning a championship and being happy would be where he’s been all along.
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When you hear Trout rattle off the names of Angel prospects with excitement you can’t help but get a little emotional. He wants to stay with the Angels not because of money or fame, but because this is his home and he wants to continue to build it into the biggest, most memorable franchise of the coming decade.
With Trout on board for 12 years it doesn’t seem like wishful thinking to wonder if the Angels will be the premiere franchise going into the future. We have Trout, the most memorable player in baseball of the present and possibly in all of history.
But most importantly? Trout has us.