By paying Harper an average annual value of $25.38 million, the Phillies have enough money in reserve for Trout's free agency after the 2020 season.
Bryce Harper agreed to a record-breaking 13-year, $330 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday. As expensive as that deal is for Philadelphia, it is structured to help the team pursue other free agents in the years to come, Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci reported on Friday.
According to Verducci, Harper's average annual value of $26 million leaves room for the Phillies to bid on Mike Trout if Trout becomes a free agent after the 2020 season. A Phillies source said before the offseason began that the club had enough money to sign both Manny Machado and Harper, but wanted just one of them in order to keep money in reserve for Trout.
Trout, currently playing for the Angels, had a .312 batting average in 2018 and finished with 39 home runs.
Harper had the chance to make more per year before agreeing to terms with Philadelphia. The Dodgers reportedly offered a four-year deal worth $45 million per season, according to MLB Network's Jon Morosi. Per Morosi, Los Angeles' deal would have broken the MLB record for average annual value per year and allowed Harper to re-enter the free-agent market at 30 years old.
“Bryce took less AAV. He took more years,” Harper's agent, Scott Boras told Verducci, comparing the deal to the Machado contract. “And we’re playing on a winning team. Bryce Harper wanted to play on a winning team now and one that has the revenues to sustain it. He got all those things."
After a seven-season tenure with the Washington Nationals that included a National League Rookie of the Year Award in 2012, an NL MVP Award in 2015 and six All-Star nods, Harper became a free agent for the first time in his career back in October. The 26-year-old entered the market with Machado as one of the two most coveted players available.
While his 2018 campaign didn't compare to his breakout season in 2015–when he led the NL in runs, homers, on-base percentage and slugging percentage–Harper still hit 34 home runs and ranked ninth in on-base percentage.
He finished the season with a slash line of .249/.393/.496 and has a career slash line of .279/.388/.512.