Despite Nationals managing principle owner Mark Lerner conceding Bryce Harper’s departure back in early December, rumors of further engagement with their former star have persisted. One report had them upping their initial $300 million offer to something “much more,” though nothing since has come of that. In fact, it was recently learned that said offer contained as much as $100 million in deferrals.
That type of contract structure is something we’ve talked about here on a number of occasions as something the Cubs could have tried to employ with Harper. And it’s quite familiar to both the Nationals and Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, who worked together on deferral-heavy deals for Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. But as we saw with Manny Machado, getting higher present-day value and more guaranteed money may be paramount.
And yet here we are a little over two months removed from Lerner’s statements and several national pundits continue to tout the Nats’ chances for Harper. That timing is important since, based on Lerner’s more recent comments to NBC Sports Nationals, the two sides haven’t talked in quite some time.
— NBC Sports Nationals (@NBCSNationals) February 22, 2019
“We’ve moved on, as I said back then,” Lerner explained. “And we had to, there was no way we could wait around. And Bryce I’m sure will make his decision hopefully in the next few days, but we’ve filled out our roster and…we wish him nothing but the best.
“But there’s always that, the door’s cracked a little bit, but I just have no clue at this point what they’re up to. I mean, we really haven’t heard from them in a couple months.”
There was also a report that Harper and Boras had met with founding principle owner Ted Lerner, Mark’s father prior to Christmas. The elder Lerner has been known to act with his heart and open up the purse strings, so some felt the five-hour summit was a last-ditch effort to extract a big contract for Harper to remain with the Nats. The timing of that meeting, December 22, fits perfectly with the radio silence noted above.
So it appears the Nationals are indeed out, as are the White Sox. The Padres are reportedly having internal discussions about the viability of offering Harper even after officially signing Manny Machado, but it seems unlikely they’ll pursue it. The Cubs, well, they have no more money. The Giants keep popping up, though there’s been nothing to indicate a change in their desire to stick with a short-term, high-AAV deal.
That leaves the Phillies bidding against themselves as the only viable option, though Jon Heyman will tell you Harper doesn’t like Philly and that mystery teams still exist. Your guess is as good as mine at this point.