WASHINGTON — The Washington Nationals are entering the biggest offseason in franchise history, prepared to start the type of contract negotiations with Bryce Harper that could change baseball forever.
According to general manager Mike Rizzo, they want to handle this process behind closed doors.
“We’re not going to discuss what we’re going to do with Harp’, other than we love having him in the organization,” Rizzo told gathered media at MLB Winter Meetings. “We’re the team that drafted him, developed him and he’s performed greatly for us.
“But we’re going to keep those conversations internal.”
Right. Good luck with that.
Harper is entering his final year of arbitration, bought out with a two-year deal signed before last season that carries a $21,625,000 price tag in 2018.
That’s considered a bargain compared to what the Nationals, Yankees, Dodgers, Cubs, Phillies and a stable of dark horse teams could offer him once and if he hits the free market.
Four hundred million dollars? Five hundred million dollars? That’s where negotiations are expected to start, making Giancarlo Stanton’s $325 million deal look affordable.
In fairness to Rizzo, the Nationals are believed to have almost no shot at preventing Harper from reaching free agency, so what’s the point in talking? Harper is represented by super-agent Scott Boras, who has a reputation for pushing his clients to at least wait and see what the free agent market bears.
That’s what he did with Max Scherzer and Jayson Werth, who both chose the Nationals’ offers in free agency. Stephen Strasburg bucked the trend and signed an in-season extension with the Nats, albeit for $175 million.
The good news for the Nats is that team ownership has a great rapport with Boras, and the roster is littered with his clients. The bad news is that it likely won’t matter–this will be a historic sum of money either way.
So, whether the Nats choose to discuss the process with the media or not, the stage is already set. And with so much on the line, the player, organization and agent will all get a chance to leak their stories to the press.
Buckle up, Nats fans–this non-story has only just begun.