There’s a report from Buster Olney – one-form-above Ken Rosenthal in a baseball reporter Russian Nesting Doll – that the Phillies can and will be in on Bryce Harper or Manny Machado after the 2018 season. “Adding a Harper or a Machado won’t just be about adding the player and production,” Olney said on the Baseball Tonight podcast. “It’ll also be about a reset for fans. This is going be someone you market around.” He also mentioned those two (and undoubtedly Mike Trout when his current deal is up) getting a $400 million contract.
In April, a Vegas sportsbook gave the Phillies the fifth best odds to land Harper, and set his contract line at 12 years, $450 million. Earlier this month, Jon Heyman gave the Phils 5-1 odds to sign Bryce (third-best), writing:
If not the Nats, the Yankees and Phillies do appear to be the most logical landing spots, and you hear them a lot in connection with Harper, as both teams are in rebuilds now (the Yankees’ is more of a modified rebuild) and have deep pockets, though one deeper than the other.
An anonymous scout called Machado, not Harper, baseball’s first $400-million man.
So exactly how thick are those wallets? John Middleton’s cigar-lined pockets could shake loose enough change to overpay a mid-level free agent without even checking with the other faceless Phillies owners (and if POWERS wants to help out, he’s got that movie money). But where do the Phils stand salary-wise?
After this year, the Phillies have a financial commitment, locked in, to exactly one (1) player: Odubel Herrera. The 2018 season will be the first arbitration year for both Cameron Rupp and Maikel Franco, while Freddy Galvis and Cesar Hernandez are both in the latter years of their arbitration eligibility. Twenty of the Phils’ 30 active payroll spots are taken up by pre-arbitration players. Their 2017 total, as it stands now, is $102.96 million. Their 2018 total is $16.35 million. And in 2019 (the season they’d be adding their big-money man), they have just $5.35 million committed, all to Herrera.
Both Harper and Machado would be in for enormous raises. This season, Harper is making $13.6 million. Machado is making $11.5 million. Both salaries will go up next year through arbitration (or in an effort to avoid it). Both Manny and Bryce will only be 26 years old entering the market (!!!), which is nearly unheard of. But would the Phillies really hand out that kind of money? A $400 million deal would cost about about $57 million more than the entire Star Wars prequel trilogy – and you’d really hope for better production. Here was Matt Klentak’s answer when asked about a possible $300-400 million player:
"I don’t have *any doubt* that this franchise will make significant investments when the time is right," Klentak said. (2/2)
— Ryan Lawrence (@ryanlawrence21) December 7, 2016
When you factor in that both players would likely use opt-outs after half of the deal or so – a la A-Rod – the cost might not be as high as $400 million. Either way, the Phillies can afford it, and all signs point to their willingness to pull the trigger. Now, there is only one other question: What else do we talk about for the next two years?