The Washington Nationals would love to get Bryce Harper’s contract extension done. But, like us, they must wait on his decision. Buckle up.
The Washington Nationals face a moment where they are merely along for the ride.
This is Harper’s last year of team control. Whenever the 2018 season ends, he becomes a free agent if there is no contract extension beforehand. You will read, see and hear every wild rumor until a deal is done. If it is frustrating to you, imagine how the Nats feel.
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The speculation game started earlier this year with Instagram pictures between Harper and Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs. Any praise for another city will cause meltdowns on Twitter. When you are 25 and about to hit the open market, the baseball world is your oyster.
Harper has every right to test his worth as the Nats expect him to do. Scott Boras, his agent, is known for setting marketplace prices. Sometimes it works. He has to be giddy with the thought of an auction for Harper’s services. With several targets flushed with television cash, there are no shortage of suitors.
Yet, the Nats and Boras carry a tremendous working relationship. Stephen Strasburg never hit the open market as the two sides hammered out a deal in May 2016. Max Scherzer came to Washington as a free agent and Matt Wieters chose DC last Spring Training.
Boras knows how to work with the Lerner family. But, the road to keeping Harper gets twistier than a month of Days of our Lives episodes. What will Harper do next? (Cue the organ music.)
The good news is both sides want to get something done. Mike Rizzo—a general manager who never tips his hand—has made it clear Washington wants an extension. Boras admitted numbers were discussed. Remember, the negotiations to buy Harper’s last year of arbitration came with no chatter last winter.
Since the Nats are expert poker players, a deal might be in place already and talk of Harper hitting free agency is a joke. Not likely, but possible.
Although Washington remains at the top of places Harper wants to play, he would be foolish not to test the market. Unless the Nats toss out a deal for around seven years and $280 million, he should try free agency. You know some team will offer more.
Unlike Manny Machado and the Baltimore Orioles, you get the sense Harper wants to stay in DC. How we get there remains a white-knuckle roller coaster ride where the final outcome remains uncertain.