The Washington Nationals announced this afternoon that they have agreed to terms with Bryce Harper for the 2018 season, his final season before free agency unless he and the Nats agree on a long-term deal before the end of the 2018 campaign.
According to reports from Jon Heyman on Twitter, Harper, 24, who avoided arbitration and agreed on a 1-year/$13.625M deal for 2017 this past January, will receive $21.625M for 2018, which Heyman wrote, is the largest one-year deal for an arbitration-eligible player in history.
Amidst rumors, which were shot down by the team, about what Harper’s side is asking if an extension is to be worked out before the 2010 No. 1 overall pick becomes a free agent, Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo talked this winter about potentially locking Harper up long-term before he has an opportunity to test free agency, or alternately, the possibility of losing him to free agency.
“It’s a possibility,” Rizzo acknowledged, referring to the possibility that Harper could leave.
“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.”
Asked specifically if he and Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, had discussed a long-term extension, Rizzo declined to get into any details about discussions with the agent.
“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.”
What the future holds remains unclear. Is it a positive sign for future negotiations that the two sides were able to avoid potential arbitration this early? Read into it what you will.
Through 31 games and 141 plate appearances this season, Harper has looked more like his 2015 MVP-worthy self than he did in 2016, when he struggled after a strong start to the season.
He enters play tonight with a .372/.496/.717 line, nine doubles, 10 home runs and 207 wRC+ at 2.4 fWAR on the season, with a deal for 2018 signed and official.
GM Mike Rizzo is set to address reporters about the deal this afternoon at 3:00 PM EDT in D.C.