by Rick Snider

The Washington Nationals are trying not to blink. Neither is agent Scott Boras, so both sides are silent rather than beginning contract extension talks over Bryce Harper.

The problem is the Nats only get one shot at keeping their young superstar and a low-ball offer won’t work. Not when Harper has the New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers as possible bidders in 2019. The major market teams with deep pockets. The kind that reach to the ceiling of an insane offer.

See, we’re talking an offer that has a “b” in it. As in half a billion dollars. Not $400 million that the Nats would like to offer. No, the first number is a 5 and has eight more zeroes after it.

$500,000,000.

Kirk Cousins is a bargain for the crosstown Redskins, at maybe $100 million guaranteed, when considering what Harper may attract.

Maybe the Lerner family should just make Harper a partner rather than pay such an insane amount for a player who has a Most Valuable Player Award, but also a history of injuries. For every moment Harper has been terrific, he has others spent on disabled lists or strikeouts. Indeed, Harper was one whiff away in 2017 from his fifth season of 100-plus strikeouts.

Harper has fulfilled his promise as the next Mickey Mantle just once and that was two years ago. Certainly, he is a great talent. The Nats would love to have him for the next decade.

But $500,000,000 seems a bit excessive. Maybe it will be a bargain a few years from now. Maybe it will drive up beer prices to $15 per bottle on those steamy nights in Washington when only lobbyists and lawyers can afford to quench their thirst.

As owners, the Lerners haven’t flinched too often over money (unless it’s the manager’s paycheck), so they might pony up a king’s ransom. But, it has to be over the next few months. If Boras and Harper smell free agency coming, they’ll hit the open market in 2019 when Washington will be surely outbid. Indeed, some fans are already bracing for life after Harper.

Still, the Nats should at least start talking soon. Break the silence first with a real offer. Make a monster effort to sign him over the next month with an irresistible offer.

Otherwise, that silence will prove a death knell.

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter @Snide_Remarks.

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