Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo explained before tonight’s game, that the Nats signed 24-year-old, 2010 No. 1 overall pick Bryce Harper for 2018 ($21.625M) to allow Harper to simply play without any distractions this season and next season before he can potentially become a free agent.
“It’s a good time to have a comfortable player throughout the rest of the season,” Rizzo said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.
“We don’t have to worry about things after the season. There will be no anxious moments, arbitration moments and that type of thing.”
Harper seemed equally pleased to get it out of the way, which, considering he got a record deal for an arbitration-eligible player, makes sense.
“I think it’s huge,” Harper said.
“We’re able to go into the offseason and worry about different things. We’re able, as a team and this organization, to just go out and not have to worry about me going into arbitration for another year or anything like that.”
A few hours later, Harper stepped to the plate with a runner on and two out in a 4-4 game in the ninth and hit an 0-1 fastball from Philadelphia Phillies’ right-hander Edubray Ramos to deep center field in Nationals Park for a walk-off winner that lifted the Nats to a 6-4 win.
Bryce Harper: longest walk-off HR of his career. He is 2nd player in franchise history to hit 2 walk-off HR vs same team in same season. pic.twitter.com/0qljlvaVHY— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 14, 2017
It was Harper’s 11th home run this season, his second walk-off home run against the Phillies in 2017 and the fifth walk-off blast of his career.
“Nobody can say he ain’t worth the money,” Dusty Baker told reporters in D.C. after the Nationals’ 23rd win of the season.
“He’s feeling more and more comfortable and he wants to be the — you have to want to be the man in that situation,” Baker said.
This is Bryce Harper's 5th career walk off HR and his first since ...— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) May 14, 2017
... last month. pic.twitter.com/6HtfbKFMEj
“You have to want to be up there in that situation and he got a good pitch to hit, he didn’t try to pull it, he hit it to the biggest part of the ballpark, and they say, ‘Hey, if a guy can hit it out to center field, then they’ll tip your hat to him,’ so everybody’s got to tip their hat to him tonight.”
“Just trying to get a good pitch in a good zone and do some damage. That’s fun right there,” Harper told MASN’s Dan Kolko in an on-field interview after the game.
“It’s a blast. Whenever you can get up there and be the winning run for your ballclub, I mean, [Adam Lind] had a great at bat, two tough ones up there, and then trying to get up there and get a pitch I can drive and did some damage.”
Asked about getting the contract done and out of the way, Harper said he’s just happy to play.
“I’m just happy to be out here playing the game of baseball, playing the game that I love. I love these fans, I love this city, and it’s a lot of fun.”
Flip, Flip, Flipadelphia. pic.twitter.com/cwbRFkkhHL— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) May 14, 2017