Washington Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo declined to comment on the pending grievance hearing with 22-year-old outfielder Bryce Harper last week when asked about the situation in an MLB Network Radio interview.
"The Harper thing, that's an internal thing," Rizzo told hosts Casey Stern and Jim Bowden last week at the Winter Meetings in San Diego, CA.
"He's family and we've got to take care of family, but it is a business and we have to take care of what we have to take care of."
The dispute dates back to August 2010 when, after the two sides agreed on a major league deal for the no.1 overall pick in the draft, a key clause Harper and agent Scott Boras thought was agreed upon orally was not included in the final contract.
The clause would have allowed Harper to opt out of the contract and into abitration if he qualified before the end of the original deal. When the clause was not included in the final contract, "Boras and the Harper family refused to sign it," as the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore reported in a November 2013 article on the dispute.
At that point, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association came up with a "letter of agreement" which said if Harper qualified for arbitration, "before he reached the end of the contract, a grievance hearing would determine whether he could opt out of his contract."
Harper qualified for "Super Two" status after this season, his third in the majors.
Both Rizzo and Boras addressed the situation last week, with Rizzo telling reporters, including the Washington Post's James Wagner that he understood how the process could alienate a player:
Rizzo says Nats-Harper grievance hearing is in mid-Dec. Hopes to reach an agreement before it & understands how it could alienate a player.— James Wagner (@JamesWagnerWP) December 10, 2014
Boras said the two sides continued to work on the situation:
Boras on Harper/Nats: "It's a situation where we're trying to work this through....if we can't, there's a structure the union has"— MLB Network Radio (@MLBNetworkRadio) December 11, 2014
According to a report by the WaPost's Mr. Wagner tonight, citing "people familiar with the matter," the two sides will head to the grievance hearing in New York this coming Tuesday unless a deal is reached before then.
Harper's contract would pay him $1.5M in 2015, but MLBTraderumors.com's arbitration projections suggest he could make as much as $2.5M in arbitration.
While Rizzo told reporters they would like to reach an agreement before heading to the hearing, he also said, as quoted in the Washington Post, that he thought the Nationals had a case.
"'We’d like to stay out of the hearing if possible,'" he said, but, he added "'It’s a business decision and we feel we have basis for it."