Scott Boras held court at the Winter Meetings in Orlando, Florida’s Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort this afternoon. Inevitably, the super agent was asked about Bryce Harper, and a potential extension that could keep the 25-year-old outfielder in Washington, D.C. beyond 2018.
Harper is set to hit free agency at this point next winter if he and the Nationals, who drafted him with the No. 1 overall pick in 2010, can’t work something out before then.
Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo was asked on Tuesday night if he and Harper’s agent had held any further talks this winter, but he declined to offer any info.
“We’re not going to discuss what we’re going to do with Harp,” Rizzo said, “other than that we love having him in the organization.
“We’re the team that drafted him, developed him, and he’s performed greatly for us, but we’re going to keep all those discussions internal.”
Boras? He was willing to talk.
“We had a meeting with Washington ownership about a month ago,” Boras said this afternoon, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.
“Just for some preliminary discussions. Other than that, it’s probably something we’ll address as time goes forward.”
Asked about the possibility of getting an extension done before Harper reaches free agency, Boras said the onus is on the Nationals if they want to get things done.
“That’s up to ownership,” Boras said. “We’ll have to look at it and report back to Bryce.”
Rizzo, in an MLB Network Radio interview from the Winter Meetings, confirmed to hosts Mike Ferrin, Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette that a meeting with Boras and the Nationals’ Managing Principal Owner, Ted Lerner, took place recently, and said Harper and a potential extension wasn’t the only topic of discussion.
“I know they met in Palm Springs and Scott and I have talked on several occasions about a bunch of different things,” Rizzo explained. “Yeah, we touched a lot of bases.
“I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t talk about Jake Arrieta, one of the premier pitchers in the game, or about one of my favorite players in Bryce Harper. So yeah, we’ve had discussions, we talk all the time about different things, and I can confirm that Scott was in Palm Springs with Mr. Lerner.”
Boras, helpfully, in an MLB Network Radio interview of his own, provided a version of his pitch for signing Harper, who’s in line to potentially get one of, if not the, biggest contracts in MLB history. It’s not just about the on-field production, Boras explained:
“The thing I think about players that are so unique, the iconic part is that when you look at the future of the organization you have to say, ‘Well, I’m going to invest in this player because he is going to perform for me.’ Well, there are few players in the major leagues where they are iconic. They immediately pay for themselves with branding, with television ratings increase, advertising sales, increase in attendance, increase in ticket prices, where immediately by having that player on your team, you are getting a value, frankly, that exceeds anything you pay him to perform.
“So these are rare jewels or gifts of the game. It’s tremendous business to do it. It’s been proven that they bring tremendous value to franchises, they increase franchise value, so the attraction here is not only do you help your team winning goals, not only do you help your team in the whole, but you really are purchasing an iconic asset in sport that business-wise is probably going to be the best business decision you ever made.”
Both Boras and Rizzo, in their MLB Network Radio interviews, were asked if there was any timetable for discussions about an extension for Harper.
Boras said that just like with the negotiations that ended with Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals agreeing on a 7-year/$175M extension in May of 2016, he’ll listen to the Nats and hear what they have to say.
“My philosophy is — just like with Stras — is I just listen,” he explained.
“You want to hear what they have to say because you want to give the player as much information as you can.
“Bryce is one of the smartest superstars I’ve ever been associated with. He’s really, really good at information. He has a strong academic mind, and he is someone where you can really get an informed decision out of him by bringing information.
“The Nationals want to talk to us about it, we’ve talked to them a bit about it and looked at it, and that’s kind of where we go and then these things are up to Bryce as to what he does.”
Rizzo said it didn’t make any sense to impose any deadlines on the negotiations.
“I don’t think putting a deadline does anybody any good,” he explained.
“This is one of our core players, he’s one of the best players in the game, we’ve got a really good relationship, Bryce and I do, and we want to make him comfortable.
“Whatever works for him, it works for me. Our goal is to do things that fit for us and work for us, and there’s nobody I’d like to bring back than Bryce Harper.”
These negotiations, which speculation over the last few years suggests could end up with Harper getting something like a $400-$500M deal, tend to get complicated, as Rizzo told reporters when he spoke on Day 3 of the Winter Meetings on Wednesday afternoon.
“They’re much more organizationally changing,” he explained.
“They’re a huge commitment for ownership and there’s a lot of things that when you talk about those type of numbers for a particular player, there’s something that — when I always talk about those type of deals, you’re signing the person and more so than the player.”
Asked if he was encouraged by the fact that the two sides met again to continue the discussions, Rizzo said he wasn’t reading too much into it.
“It was a preliminary conversation,” Rizzo told reporters.
“It’s something that we wanted to do. We’d like to get more momentum and obviously everyone’s heart is in the right place and we’ll see where it takes us.”