Today, the Washington Nationals avoided arbitration with Bryce Harper as he signs a $21.6 million deal for 2018. It can only mean good things for the organization.
After two days of no baseball for the Washington Nationals, the organization had some surprising news before tonight’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Nats announced that they avoided arbitration with Bryce Harper and will pay him over $21 million for the 2018 season, a record for an arbitration-eligible player:
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Yes, it doesn’t change the fact that Harper is going to be a free agent after the 2018 season. However, what it does show is that the relationship between Nats President of Baseball Operations Mike Rizzo and Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, continues to grow in the right direction.
One thing we saw this offseason is that Harper does not like to talk about the past. Today, when he met with the media, he talked about how he doesn’t want to look too far ahead into the future:
It would be a stunner in the baseball industry if Harper decided to sign an extension before testing the free agent market when so many teams will have payroll space to sign him. But, the Nats have bucked that trend before when they gave Stephen Strasburg a $175 million contract extension before his deal was up.
If the Washington Nationals had to go to arbitration with Harper, it would’ve probably almost assured them that they would have not had a chance to sign the 2015 National League MVP.
While you shouldn’t view them as the favorite to sign him past 2018 right now, they will at least have a chance at the negotiating table. Plus, the fact that Rizzo and Boras were able to work out a deal right now for 2018 could only be good for future talks between the two.
Now, Harper did have to miss three games in Philadelphia last weekend due to injury. But, he has had a great start to his 2017 season. In his first 31 games, the 24-year-old has a slash line of .372/.496/.717 with ten home runs, 29 RBI’s, 28 walks, and a league high 37 runs scored.
Harper’s future with the Nats may still be in doubt, but with the 2018 contract talks now out of the way, Harper can put his sole focus into baseball. That alone should help the Nats as they avoid another distraction as he looks to have another MVP season this year.