Washington Nationals: Previewing a Bryce Harper extension

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WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 07: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals sits in the dugout prior to game two of the National League Division Series against the Chicago Cubs at Nationals Park on October 7, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 07: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals sits in the dugout prior to game two of the National League Division Series against the Chicago Cubs at Nationals Park on October 7, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images) /
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The Washington Nationals want to keep superstar slugger Bryce Harper next year. Here is a guide on how the two sides do that.

After a strange off-season where major fee agents remained unsigned until March, the Washington Nationals have a new road map inking Bryce Harper to an extension.

As Thomas Boswell points out in The Washington Post, the idea of a ten-year, $400 million deal is out the window. Even at Harper’s tender age of 26 this fall, he will have a tough time selling that to interested teams. Yes, even with Scott Boras as his agent.

If Jake Arrieta could not get six years, or J.D. Martinez’s tug of war with the Boston Red Sox after he got to Fort Myers, then for all Harper’s leverage the marketplace has changed forever.

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Advantage Washington.

The Nats want to hold on to their star. After another playoff failure, they cleaned house with the coaching staff presumably to strengthen Washington’s relationship with him. You, the ones buying the tickets for Nationals Park, want this done and over.

Harper and Boras hold a professional relationship with principal owner Ted Lerner and Nats President of Baseball Operations Mike Rizzo. For the chatter of Chicago and Los Angeles, there is no reason an extension cannot happen.

What would it look like?

A four-year deal around $130 million might get it done with an opt-out after either year two or three. Front-loaded to $35 or 40 million per season, Harper would have at least two chances to explore free agency by the time he turns 30.

Harper could ask for a deal similar in length to Arrieta, three seasons with an opt-out after the second and kick the can down the road. Also, because of his history here, an extension similar in length to Stephen Strasburg’s can work with opt-outs and mutual options.

Washington has the money to pay Harper what he wants. How they build around him gets tight, but the money is there. As the competitive balance tax increases, they can re-sign him without going over a third straight year while avoiding a penal rate of 50 percent.

The mid-length option gives everyone a victory. Washington carries its fantastic core intact at least two more years. Harper can have two more chances to re-negotiate or hit the open market before his age-30 season. Casual fans will relax that the championship window remains open.

We know it does regardless.

Next: Big dates on 2018 schedule

The four-year option also allows Washington to sign Anthony Rendon long term and offer comfortable contracts to Trea Turner as he reaches his arbitration years. After seeing the best in the game go unsigned, perhaps Harper takes that security.

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