BOSTON — Major League Baseball is investigating whether new Philadelphia slugger Bryce Harper committed a tampering violation when he lobbied for Mike Trout, who isn’t a free agent for two more seasons, to join the Phillies.
Speaking to a group of Boston businessmen on Wednesday, commissioner Rob Manfred said he doesn’t want players recruiting other players, a practice that has been winked at in the NBA. Manfred said he didn’t want to see the same thing happen in baseball.
“Given our rules, players recruiting other players who are still under contract or under reserve to another club is a rule violation,” he said at the Boston College Chief Executives Club. “So, obviously not anxious to see that.”
Harper signed a $330 million, 13-year contract with the Phillies last week, and said at his introductory news conference: “There’s another guy in about two years that comes off the books. We’ll see what happens with that.”
That would likely not be tampering, but he may have crossed the line when he told Philadelphia radio station 94WIP: “If you don’t think I’m gonna call Mike Trout to come to Philly in 2020, you’re crazy.”
A two-time AL MVP with the Los Angeles Angels, Trout grew up near Philadelphia, attended the Phillies victory parade in 2008 as a 17-year-old and has season tickets for the Eagles. The 27-year-old outfielder is set to become a free agent after the 2020 season.
“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,” Harper said in the radio interview. “This is where the fans are great, ownership understands it, our manager is awesome.”
Baseball Rule 3(k) prohibits “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.”
Manfred wouldn’t say whether he thought Harper’s comments constituted tampering.
“We’re in the process of gathering information about the comments and the context in which they were made,” he said. “We’re talking to both clubs and when we’re ready to decide whether it did or it didn’t we’ll let you know.”
Harper homered Wednesday in his first scrimmage with the Phillies and said his comments about Trout represented his intentions. Harper said he had been spoken to about the comments, but did not say who talked with him, only that it was not MLB.
“If I didn’t mean it, I wouldn’t have said it,” he told reporters.