Report: Angels contact MLB over Bryce Harper's possible tampering with Mike Trout

When Sports Illustrated crowned Bryce Harper the LeBron James of baseball in a 2009 cover story, the publication was referring to his generational talent as a teenager. A decade later, Harper and James may also share a talent for eyebrow-raising comments about superstars on another team.

The Los Angeles Angels have contacted MLB over concerns of possible tampering after Philadelphia Phillies star Bryce Harper very publicly pronounced his intentions to recruit superstar Mike Trout during a radio interview Tuesday, according to Maria Torres of the Los Angeles Times.

Trout is still two full seasons away from free agency, the fight between his current team and his prospective suitors may have already begun for the best player in baseball.

The Harper-Trout comments that provoked the Angels’ ire

Via the Associated Press:

“If you don’t think I’m gonna call Mike Trout to come to Philly in 2020, you’re crazy,” Harper told SportsRadio 94WIP in Philadelphia on Tuesday.

“For me, I can be able to talk to Trout, or whoever it is, big-name free agent or whoever wants to come to Philly or is thinking about coming to Philly, I can say ‘Hey, this is the place to be. This is where the fans are great, ownership understands it, our manager is awesome,’” Harper said. “I can really put that faith in myself in being able to say we are able to go about it the right way, we are the Philadelphia Phillies and we want whoever wants to come to Philly.”

Clearly, Harper and the Phillies plan to call Trout’s number when he he’s a free agent. The only question is if Harper is allowed to make his intentions that clear.

What are MLB’s rules against tampering?

Here is the full tampering section in the MLB rulebook, which is predictably full of legal jargon:

To preserve discipline and competition, and to prevent the enticement of players, coaches, managers and umpires, there shall be no negotiations or dealings respecting employment, either present or prospective, between any player, coach or manager and any Major or Minor League Club other than the Club with which the player is under contract, or acceptance of terms, or by which the player is reserved or which has the player on its Negotiation List, or between any umpire and any baseball employer other than the baseball employer with which the umpire is under contract, or acceptance of terms, unless the Club or baseball employer with which the person is connected shall have, in writing, expressly authorized such negotiations or dealings prior to their commencement.

So, did Harper violate that? Maybe, as Harper’s comments could be seen as a signal that the Phillies are prepared to sign Trout, which could undermine the Angels’ negotiations for an extension.

Don’t expect the league to come down too hard on Harper though, as past instances of possible tampering like Aaron Judge telling Manny Machado “You’d look good in pinstripes” only received a public reprimand.

20 PHOTOS
Bryce Harper with the Philadelphia Phillies
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Bryce Harper with the Philadelphia Phillies
PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 30: Bryce Harper #3 of the Philadelphia Phillies commits an error attempting to catch a fly ball in the eighth inning during a game against the Detroit Tigers at Citizens Bank Park on April 30, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Tigers won 3-1. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 06: Bryce Harper #3 of the Philadelphia Phillies reacts against the Minnesota Twins at Citizens Bank Park on April 6, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Twins defeated the Phillies 6-2. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 10: Bryce Harper #3 of the Philadelphia Phillies catches a fly ball at the wall in the second inning against the Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park on April 10, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Philadelphia Phillies' Bryce Harper watches a video tribute in honor of him from the dugout before a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park, Tuesday, April 2, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Philadelphia Phillies' Rhys Hoskins (17) celebrates his home run with Maikel Franco, right, as Bryce Harper, left, watches during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers, Wednesday, May 1, 2019, in Philadelphia. The Phillies won 7-3. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
CLEARWATER, FLORIDA - MARCH 09: Bryce Harper #3 of the Philadelphia Phillies stretches in the first inning during a game against the Toronto Blue Jays on March 09, 2019 in Clearwater, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
CLEARWATER, FLORIDA - MARCH 09: Bryce Harper #3 of the Philadelphia Phillies hits in the first inning during a game against the Toronto Blue Jays on March 09, 2019 in Clearwater, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
CLEARWATER, FLORIDA - MARCH 09: Bryce Harper #3 of the Philadelphia Phillies leads off first in the first inning during a game against the Toronto Blue Jays on March 09, 2019 in Clearwater, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
CLEARWATER, FLORIDA - MARCH 09: Bryce Harper #3 of the Philadelphia Phillies hits in the first inning during a game against the Toronto Blue Jays on March 09, 2019 in Clearwater, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
CLEARWATER, FLORIDA - MARCH 09: Bryce Harper #3 of the Philadelphia Phillies is congratulated after scoring in the first inning during a game against the Toronto Blue Jays on March 09, 2019 in Clearwater, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
CLEARWATER, FLORIDA - MARCH 03: Bryce Harper #3 of the Philadelphia Phillies works out at Spectrum Field on March 03, 2019 in Clearwater, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
CLEARWATER, FL - MARCH 2: Bryce Harper #3 of the Philadelphia Phillies speaks during the press conference introducing Harper as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday March 2, 2019 at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
CLEARWATER, FL - MARCH 2: Bryce Harper #3 of the Philadelphia Phillies puts on his new jersey during the press conference introducing Harper as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday March 2, 2019 at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
CLEARWATER, FL - MARCH 2: The Philly Phanatic welcomes Bryce Harper to the press conference introducing Harper as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday March 2, 2019 at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
CLEARWATER, FLORIDA - MARCH 03: Bryce Harper #3 of the Philadelphia Phillies works out at Spectrum Field on March 03, 2019 in Clearwater, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
CLEARWATER, FLORIDA - MARCH 03: Bryce Harper #3 of the Philadelphia Phillies works out at Spectrum Field on March 03, 2019 in Clearwater, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
CLEARWATER, FLORIDA - MARCH 03: Bryce Harper #3 of the Philadelphia Phillies works out at Spectrum Field on March 03, 2019 in Clearwater, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
CLEARWATER, FLORIDA - MARCH 03: Bryce Harper #3 of the Philadelphia Phillies works out at Spectrum Field on March 03, 2019 in Clearwater, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
CLEARWATER, FL - MARCH 3: Bryce Harper #3 of the Philadelphia Phillies steps on to the field for his first workout as a member of the Phillies on Sunday March 3, 2019 at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
CLEARWATER, FL - MARCH 3: Bryce Harper #3 of the Philadelphia Phillies steps on to the field for his first workout as a member of the Phillies on Sunday March 3, 2019 at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
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Even with Harper, Phillies plan to court Trout

Harper just signed a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies that has cemented him as one of the team’s cornerstones. The contract includes no opt-outs, a surprising provision that came because Harper wanted credibility that he is all-in when he recruits free agents to the Phillies, per Yahoo Sports’ Tim Brown.

One of those free agents will likely be Trout, who is scheduled to hit free agency after the 2020 season. Harper’s contract’s unusually long length was also likely intended to give the Phillies luxury tax room to bring in free agents like Trout.

“I’m making 26 [million dollars] a year, something like that, so I think that’s going to be able to bring some other guys in as well to be able to help this organization win,” Harper said in his introductory press conference with the Phillies, per Philly.com. “I know there’s another guy in about two years that comes off the books. We’ll see what happens with him.”

The Phillies have reportedly already begun reserving money for the Trout sweepstakes, as the Angels center fielder will likely command a contract that shatters Harper’s record for the biggest contract in the history of North American sports.

19 PHOTOS
Mike Trout through the years
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Mike Trout through the years
ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 08: Centerfielder Mike Trout #27 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim blows a bubble while stretcing prior to the MLB game against the Seattle Mariners at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 8, 2011 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
SURPRISE, AZ - MARCH 02: Mike Trout #90 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim hits a single against the Texas Rangers during the second inning of the spring training game at Surprise Stadium on March 2, 2011 in Surprise, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Los Angeles Angels left fielder Mike Trout (27) dives to catch a ball hit by New York Yankees' Curtis Granderson (14) in the ninth inning of their MLB baseball game in Anaheim, California May 29, 2012. REUTERS/Alex Gallardo (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim batter Mike Trout reacts after taking a strike during the first inning of their MLB American League baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays in Toronto June 28, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Cassese (CANADA - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)
Los Angeles Angels' Mike Trout gestures on second base after advancing on a single by Albert Pujols against the Texas Rangers during the first inning of an MLB baseball game in Anaheim, California July 20, 2012. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)
Los Angeles Angels' Mike Trout smiles at first base against the Texas Rangers during the second inning of their MLB American League baseball game in Anaheim, California July 22, 2012. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok (UNITED STATES)
Los Angeles Angels Kole Calhoun (L) forearm-bumps Mike Trout at the plate after hitting a solo home run against the Texas Rangers during their MLB American League baseball game in Anaheim, California August 6, 2013. Trout hit a home run on the following pitch. REUTERS/Alex Gallardo (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)
August 5, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout (27) celebrates after scoring a run in the third inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 15, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; American League outfielder Mike Trout (27) of the Los Angeles Angels holds up the MVP trophy after the 2014 MLB All Star Game at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 4, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout (27) reacts on second base after he doubled in a run in the first inning of the game Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
May 15, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout (27) jumps to catch a fly ball hit by Baltimore Orioles left fielder Alejandro De Aza (12) (not pictured) during the first inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
July 1, 2015; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout (27) rounds the bases after he hits a solo home run in the ninth inning against the New York Yankees at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 13, 2015; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout (27) watches the ball clear the fence on a solo home run in the first inning of the game against the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports / Reuters Picture Supplied by Action Images (TAGS: Sport Baseball MLB) *** Local Caption *** 2015-09-13T201447Z_262781542_NOCID_RTRMADP_3_MLB-HOUSTON-ASTROS-AT-LOS-ANGELES-ANGELS.JPG
September 30, 2015; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout (27) is congratulated after he hits a solo home run in the third inning against the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports / Reuters Picture Supplied by Action Images (TAGS: Sport Baseball MLB) *** Local Caption *** 2015-10-01T000930Z_620675507_NOCID_RTRMADP_3_MLB-OAKLAND-ATHLETICS-AT-LOS-ANGELES-ANGELS.JPG
Aug 11, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout (27) rounds the bases on his solo home run in the first inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 24, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout (27) reacts to a strike in the eighth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.Los Angeles Angels won 8-2. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports / Reuters Picture Supplied by Action Images (TAGS: Sport Baseball MLB) *** Local Caption *** 2016-08-25T035535Z_695544772_NOCID_RTRMADP_3_MLB-LOS-ANGELES-ANGELS-AT-TORONTO-BLUE-JAYS.JPG
Feb 20, 2018; Tempe, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout looks on during a workout at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 17: Mike Trout #27 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the American League celebrates after hitting a solo home run in the third inning against the National League during the 89th MLB All-Star Game, presented by Mastercard at Nationals Park on July 17, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
May 26, 2018; Bronx, NY, USA; Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout (27) rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home run against the New York Yankees during the fourth inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
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The Phillies are the Angels’ natural threat for Trout

For years, the New York Yankees were expected to be Bryce Harper’s landing spot in free agency, thanks mainly to their money and Harper’s pronouncements that he had grown up as a Yankees fan (and, coincidentally, a Lakers fan).

And yet, when Harper actually became a free agent, the Yankees were nowhere to be seen in the bidding. Thanks to Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge, they were just fine when it came to slugging corner outfielders. If the Yankees really wanted Harper, who knows what could have happened.

That story isn’t likely to repeat with Trout and the Phillies.

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The Phillies very obviously want Trout — any team would — and should have the money for him. The only question is how much Trout wants Philadelphia, and the answer to that is probably bad news for the Angels.

Trout grew up in southern New Jersey, just an hour out of Philly, and still lives there in the offseason. He remains a massive fan of the Eagles (per the Times, he’s a season-ticket holder) and the 76ers. The Angels have repeatedly signaled they want Trout to sign an extension, something the star has given them a very limited window to do, but it’s hard to imagine Trout not hitting the market barring an absolute monster of a deal.

Like Anthony Davis, Trout won’t be a free agent until 2020. That won’t stop fans from drawing as many lines as they can between the stars and their theoretical destinations, something that is quite easy in Trout’s case. Both Bryce Harper and Mike Trout in Phillies uniforms is beginning to feel more and more like a real possibility, and the first gauntlet might have just been thrown down in the Angels’ attempt to stop it.

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