The 7-year/$175M extension Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals agreed to in May of 2016 shocked the baseball world, bucking the conventional wisdom which said that once the right-hander (or any free agent-to-be-really) started his final season before free agency, chances were that he would end up testing the market.
Strasburg’s deal, everyone involved in the negotiations acknowledged, was actually a player-driven extension, with the 2009 Nats’ No. 1 overall pick telling his agent Scott Boras to work out a deal because he wanted to remain in the nation’s capital.
Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo was asked after the press conference announcing Strasburg’s deal if he thought the extension with one Boras client could impact future negotiations for another player represented by the so-called “super agent”? In other words, would their deal with Strasburg help the Nationals when it came time to sign 2010 No. 1 pick Bryce Harper to an extension. Rizzo stressed at the time that each negotiation is unique.
“Each case is different, each personality is different. Each player is different,” Rizzo said.
“Their wants and needs are different and I think that they are independent of each other."
Harper’s last season before free agency is fast approaching, of course, with the 25-year-old coming off an injury-interrupted 2017 campaign which saw him put up the kind of numbers he did on the way to winning the National League’s MVP award in 2015 before he slipped on first base in early August and suffered a significant bone bruise and ankle sprain in his left leg that cost his 42 games.
Rizzo, however, isn’t convinced, in spite of the prevailing wisdom in the baseball world, that Harper is destined to hit the free agent market next winter.
In an interview on the MLB Network’s “MLB Now” on Monday, Rizzo told the show’s hosts he’s nowhere near giving up hope that Harper could continue his time in D.C. beyond the coming season.
“We have a lot of things going for us,” Rizzo said.
“Bryce and I are very close. We’ve dealt with Bryce’s agent on many, many occasions, we’ve got a great relationship with the company, and you know, Bryce was scouted, drafted, signed, and developed here in Washington. It’s his home away from home and I think he loves the fan base and loves the city. And I think we have as good a chance to sign him long-term as anybody in baseball because he’s the type of iconic, historic-type player that would love to be with the same organization throughout his whole career [like Derek] Jeter and that group of guys, and I think that he wants to be here, we want him here and I think that there’s an opportunity for him to make history here.”
Sounds like Rizzo isn’t giving up on the idea of Harper staying in D.C. just yet...