Asked early last month about a report by USA Today’s Bob Nightengale which quoted a high-ranking Nationals executive, “speaking on the condition of anonymity,” who told him the Nationals were, “balking at Bryce Harper’s demands in early talks about a long-term contract extension,” and said Washington was preparing, “... to be without their All-Star outfielder after 2018,” GM Mike Rizzo declined to comment on any specific discussions.
“It’s not like us to discuss anything that we talk [about] when we’re talking to players about anything,” Rizzo said, “so I’m not going to answer any of those kind of questions. Those are private discussions between us and the players.”
“Harper, according to the executive, is asking for a record deal that will exceed 10 years in length, and likely pay him in excess of $400 million,” Nightengale wrote.
Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, told Yahoo!Sports.com’s Jeff Passan, no further talks on extension had taken place.
“I have had no discussions with the Nationals regarding Harp and a long-term contract,” Boras said.
As for the part about the Nationals preparing to lose Harper after 2018, when he’s eligible for free agency?
“It’s a possibility,” Rizzo acknowledged when he spoke to reporters at the Winter Meetings.
“With every player you acquire, it’s a possibility that you may lose him in a specific time frame, so with Bryce Harper and every other player that has a contract expiring, you better make plans. It’s not just Bryce Harper, it’s everybody on the roster.”
Rizzo was asked if an extension for Harper was something that the Nationals and Boras have talked about regularly over the course of the years or something that they set up specific talks to discuss?
“We have discussions with Boras and every other agent on a weekly basis,” Rizzo said.
“We’re constantly talking to him throughout the year, throughout the winter, during the season. So it’s something that it’s talked about quite often and there are not specific negotiations, but there are discussions about strategies and philosophies and all those things that come into it.”
Boras addressed the rumors of extension talks in his yearly press scrum at the Winter Meetings, telling reporters, including AP writer Howard Fendrich, that the two sides had not at that point discussed anything beyond 2017’s salary.
"I have not had any discussions with the Nationals on Bryce, other than we're going to get around to talking about his arbitration-value contract for the upcoming year," he said.
"But other than that, we haven't had any talks."
The deadline for teams and their eligible players to exchange arbitration figures is tomorrow. Harper is projected (by MLBTradeRumors.com) to get $9.3M after earning $5M in 2016, in the second year of the 2-year/$7.5M extension he signed with the Nationals in December of 2014.
Any chance that Harper, who is coming off a “down year” in 2016, and his agent will discuss a long-term extension this winter? Does it make any sense for them to do so now?
Harper is one of four arbitration-eligible Nationals this winter, along with Tanner Roark, Anthony Rendon and newly-acquired catcher Derek Norris.