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Will the Washington Nationals be able to sign Bryce Harper to a long-term deal?

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Scott Boras talked Bryce Harper and the possibility of a long-term deal in D.C. on MLB Network Radio on Friday afternoon.

Washington Nationals v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo talked after the Nats signed Bryce Harper to a 1-year/$21.625M for 2018, avoiding arbitration a year ahead of time for what could be the 2010 No. 1 overall pick’s final season in D.C. if he opts for free agency, about the talks that resulted in the record-breaking deal for an arbitration-eligible player.

Rizzo said at the time, however, that the two sides did not discuss the possibility of a long-term deal that would keep Harper from testing the free agent waters after the 2018 campaign.

“We were trying to get this portion of it done. So we didn’t discuss anything beyond 2018,” Rizzo told reporters, as quoted by Washington Post writers Chelsea Janes and Jorge Castillo.

Harper told the WaPost writers he wasn’t too concerned about the future at this point either, with two seasons left before any decisions have to be made.

“I think 2018 is a ways away,” Harper said. “I’ll let Scott [Boras] and all those guys take care of that. Solidify what’s going to happen now … the rest, I’m not really worried about that right now.”

FanRag’s Jon Heyman talked to a rival GM last month who told him that he pegged Harper’s, “... value on a long-term deal at ‘closer to $500 million than $400 million.’”

The rival GM added that he thought that would be, “the absolute baseline for a Harper deal.”

Will the Nationals’ decision to pay Harper handsomely now pay dividends later?

Scott Boras was asked if there were any discussions while they worked out the 2018 contract when he appeared on the MLB Network Radio show Inside Pitch on Friday afternoon.

“I think Bryce is certainly comfortable in Washington and it’s been a franchise that has been competitive,” Boras said, “and the ownership has made sure that the team has had the wherewithal to compete every year, and I think when a player sits down to look at clubs and free agency, they want to make sure that they enjoy the city and they have an ownership that takes the perspective that the Lerner family takes, so it’s something where he’s comfortable there.”

“There are a lot of other factors that go into free agency,” Boras added, “and that is that it’s a choice and there’s a lot of information to look at and in this situation I think both parties agreed that this was something that they wanted to do where they built a relationship up until the time that Harp is a free agent and when that time comes then we’ll reevaluate at that time.”

The Nationals signed Stephen Strasburg, another Boras client, to a 7-year/$175M deal last May, before ‘09 No. 1 overall had a chance to test free agency this past winter, but Strasburg and Boras both noted that that was a player-driven decision, and Boras has a rep for taking his clients to free agency.

Is there any way the Nationals will lock Harper up long-term before he becomes a free agent? It could happen. It seems unlikely, however, and the bigger question could end up being whether than can afford to let a player as talented as Harper walk? Will they have to consider a trade at some point before the end of the 2018 campaign?

That too seems unlikely.

So was the deal they gave Harper for 2018 a good-will gesture designed to show him they are willing to pay what it takes to keep him happy and in the nation’s capital?

Here’s what Boras had to say when he was asked that question. He had some thoughts:

“Well, I think the right of free agency is one where I believe it’s up to the player, what he views as important in his life,” Boras said, “and I don’t think I’ve ever had — I think whenever a player does get the largest contract, that’s always said, ‘Well, they went there for the economics,’ but I always like to look into situations and say, ‘Were there other factors?’ What I look at is where players perform well.”

[ed. note - “Uh-oh, the Philadelphia Phillies are a rumored suitor and Harper does have more home runs in Citizens Bank Park than any other park outside D.C., and he’s got a .296/.361/.627 career line in CBP. He won’t go to Philly though, right? A reverse-Werth?”]

“And I remember way back when, when I went — and we had Alex Rodriguez play in Texas,” Boras continued.

“Why did he play in Texas? Well the answer was, yeah, he got a great contract, but he was also offered other great contracts by other cities, but the truth was that he played at the highest level of any other place in that ballpark, and that aspect of that was a very important part of the consideration, how well you’re going to play.

“Because when you have these contracts and you have to execute under these contracts, the reality of it is you want to make sure that your opportunity to perform well in the place that you’re going to play is also a consideration, and there’s family considerations, there’s economic considerations, there’s winning considerations, so all those things are really up to the athlete’s decision.

“And I always tell journalists, because we’ve done a number of record contracts for very deserving and great players, but the truth of the matter is, I think in over 60-70% of the times, the players have not taken the ultimate offer, they’ve taken offers that were competitive, but not the top offer and they’ve gone to cities that have more met the requirements for other reasons.”

So, he’s saying there’s a chance Harper stays in D.C.?