Bryce Harper was the highest-paid free agent in MLB history for less than one month, quickly moving down a spot once Mike Trout and the Angels reached agreement on a $430 million extension in late March.
Harper could soon move even farther down the list. Red Sox superstar outfielder Mookie Betts is set for free agency after the 2020 season. If Betts does reach free agency, he will have just turned 28. Harper was 26 when he hit free agency.
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Betts is a better all-around player than Harper. Betts hits for average, hits for power, plays great defense and has big-time speed. Betts hasn't been nearly as good this season as he was in his MVP 2018 but still has dynamic offensive numbers and leads the American League with 115 runs scored.
Harper has an edge on Betts and practically every other player in marketability. The Phillies have seen in Year 1 how much of a cash cow Harper is. They've seen it in increased ticket sales, jersey sales and with how quickly the Phanatic headband Harper made fashionable has risen to popularity. All over the city, people are wearing those things. Walking in the city Tuesday, I passed three people wearing them in the span of 10 minutes - a little kid on a bike, a middle-aged woman jogging and a man participating in an outdoor workout class. Harper transcends demographics.
Despite that, Harper wouldn't just be OK with Betts making more money than him. Harper hopes it happens.
"Mookie's an incredible player. If he has an opportunity to make more money than I do, then I hope he does," Harper said this week, according to NBC Sports Boston. "Just like Trout did."
If Betts reaches free agency, the bidding war between teams will be intense, not only because of his elite talent but because so many would-be-free-agent-superstars have already signed long-term extensions with their teams. Players in the Betts tier are becoming available less frequently than in the last few decades.
Harper also realizes that the Betts negotiation could take quite a while, just as his did.
"It's going to be a long process for him, but I think he'll be able to handle that. He has a great head on his shoulders and a great family," Harper said. "I didn't mind it. Only having a couple of weeks in spring training was nice, some extra time with family and friends. But it's part of the process. It's part of what teams and players are doing now."
Don't remind us.
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