Washington Nationals: Bryce Harper extension chances slowly increasing

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ATLANTA, GA - MAY 31: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals in the dugout prior to the game against the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park on May 31, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - MAY 31: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals in the dugout prior to the game against the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park on May 31, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images) /
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It’s no secret that Bryce Harper hasn’t played as well as expected in 2018. But this seems to increase the Washington Nationals’ chances of re-signing him.

So far in 2018, Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper has been scuffling at the plate, despite a hot April. But could all this allow the Nats to make a realistic run at Harper this winter?

Well if he continues on his current pace, it’s unlikely that any team will go up to the $400 million that has been thrown about. So there may be an agreement that benefits both sides.

In 2016, we saw Stephen Strasburg sign a contract extension with the Nationals. His agent Scott Boras, who happens to be Harper’s agent too, usually lets his clients go to free agency. But not this time.

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With Strasburg, he signed a seven year extension, but it has opt-out clauses after the 2019 and 2020 seasons. This was designed to give the Nats pitcher, who has a track record of injuries, the security of a long contract. But it also gives him a chance to prove he deserved a mega-deal by the time the opt-out comes around.

Now could something similar work for star player Bryce Harper? Well, it’s certainly a possibility as he now has something to prove to suitors, just like Strasburg.

If Harper were to hit the market right this second, then it’s highly unlikely that he would reach the $400 million plateau.

This is in even more doubt given the bizarre off-season that just occurred. Several free agents didn’t find jobs until Spring Training was well underway. Boras may still have the J.D. Martinez saga in the back of his head.

With this in mind, Harper is far more valuable to the Nationals than any other potential suitor, due to his off-the-field status. So what could an extension look like if his struggles continue?

Well, there will have to be an opt-out, if not two in order to allow Harper to hit the market if he rebounds. An opt-out after two seasons makes the most sense for both sides, giving Harper two goes at rebounding, and the Nats get at least two more years of the outfielder.

The Nats will be able to front-load those two years, to make it worth accepting. Then they can stay a bit cheaper on the backend, as this would only be there as a fallback should Harper not bounce back. This would then keep the yearly average of the contract down for luxury tax purposes.

As for the total length, six years would make a lot of sense. If he were to then see out the contract, he would hit the free agent market at just 32 years old. That would give him another chance at a solid three or four-year deal at that point.

This is merely speculation as to what a deal may look like, but the longer Harper looks ineffective at the plate, the more sense it makes. And for the right price, Nats fans would be delighted to have Harper for another couple of seasons.

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It’s a tricky situation for the Washington Nationals and Bryce Harper, and one that will stay fluid until resolved. But even with the struggles in 2018, they should still be putting a lot of effort into getting him to re-sign at the right price.

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