According to a report by the Washington Post’s beat writer Chelsea Janes, citing, “multiple people familiar with the negotiations,” the Washington Nationals made an “aggressive offer” to Bryce Harper towards the end of the 2018 campaign, while they had the exclusive right to negotiate with the now-free agent outfielder, which, obviously, the 26-year-old slugger did not take ... at least not yet, opting instead to test the market this winter.
The WaPost reporter writes that the Nationals and Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, “discussed terms for a new deal for Harper ... throughout September,” which led to what was described as “an aggressive offer.”
“That offer included no opt-outs, and was less than the $400 million some have speculated Harper could receive, according to a person with direct knowledge who would not disclose the exact terms.”
Nats’ General Manager Mike Rizzo told reporters at the GM Meetings, that the Nationals, “‘... took advantage of our exclusivity late in the season’ to negotiate with Harper but ‘couldn’t reach a deal.’”
Asked about the fact that the Nationals have options on the roster with Adam Eaton, Juan Soto, Michael A. Taylor, and Victor Robles available in the outfield, and Soto, Robles, and Eaton the likely trio if Harper does end up signing elsewhere, and the idea that they might be better off going that route, which would give them a much cheaper outfield and more financial flexibility, Rizzo reportedly said, “I’m comfortable with the alternative [to Harper re-signing] ... but I’m uncomfortable with the statement that we’re a better team without him.”
Though he didn’t have info on the length of the offer, USA TODAY’s Bob Nightengale, (while reporting that he too had heard that the Nationals, “... made a mega offer to Bryce Harper on the last day of the season, which was rejected,” adding that, “... negotiations have yet to resume as other teams [are] now in the derby,”) wrote on Twitter that the offer was believed to be for about $30M a year.
Meanwhile, Boras was on MLB Network Radio this afternoon, and Harper’s agent talked to hosts Casey Stern and Ryan Spilborghs about how he goes about setting the market for a free agent of this caliber, how he sets the parameters or what a deal might look like, and how he is able to come up comparisons when he tries to sell teams on a mega-contract like the one Harper is expected to sign at some point this offseason.
Scott Boras: I can show you 14 different reasons why signing Bryce Harper means signing a Hall of Famer. pic.twitter.com/r2KJxXe5jb— MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (@MLBNetworkRadio) November 6, 2018
Are you ready for this? Here he goes...
“Well, what you have to do is you have to distinguish and define the athlete through a performance and age spectrum,” Boras explained.
“And when you look at that and you’d say: ‘Well, how many athletes when they finished and became a free agent were 25 years of age?’ Well, since 1980 there have only been four of them and Bryce Harper is the fourth. And then you had Claudell Washington, or you had A-Rod [Alex Rodriguez], or Adrian Beltre. So that tells you that that free agent athlete is something that’s very, very rare. And then when you go inside the numbers, and you say, for example, ‘I’m going to then look at metrics to define who the player is.’
“So I went in and you look at, for example, those who have done what Bryce has done:  home runs, or some particular OPS and/or slugging measure, or on-base percentage measure, and you go through these things and you find out that the only players who have done what he has done to meet those levels of performance, every one of them is a Hall of Famer. So now you go in and say, ‘Oh, everybody who does this... ’ and I have 14 ways to show why someone who at 25 years or younger who does this, in every instance is a Hall of Famer. So you get to say to everyone involved, this is what we’re dealing with. We’re dealing with something that has rarely come along. You can look at age 22 performance, ‘Only, like Joe DiMaggio,’ or you look at walk rates and home runs, ‘Only like Mickey Mantle,’ and so when you walk through those things you realize the rarity of the performance, and then you look at the age and then the other thing I like to point out about Bryce that no one ever talks about that we always find so important is his character.
“Who he is as a man, who he is as a teammate, and who he is as a leader, and who he is as a commitment to his team, and to his franchise, and people forget that Bryce Harper came to the major leagues at 19 without really having played the outfield, and he ran into walls and he did things where he had to learn in the major leagues really how to be a major league outfielder. But also that skill set where he was an infielder and a catcher is going to credit him, because it allows him — he has the foot work and the athletic skill to help his team if they need that versatility in other areas.
“So, all these dynamics, when you go in and you put the checkbox of age, performance, putting his team in the playoffs, you know, many times, being a playoff performer where he has a .950 OPS after 20 years of age or so, when you go in and look at all these things, you say he has just got so many checks on his side of the fence that put him into a position that frankly no one else — it’s just been a long, long time if there is someone else, that has ever, ever been in the market with all these credentials, versatility, and has the character in addition to the skill to allow an ownership and a team to say that this person is someone that will be our franchise player for a long time.”
[ed. note - “Not sure where that .950 OPS ‘after 20 years of age or so’ line is coming from... though Harper does have a .901 postseason OPS in 14 playoff games after 2012, which is, I guess, what he was going for there.”]
Which team will sign him as their franchise player for a long time is the question. Will the Nationals get into a bidding war? They were apparently willing to make a legitimate long-term offer for their 2010 No. 1 overall pick. Will he find a better offer on the market or will Harper and his agent eventually decide that D.C. is the right place for the future and take what Rizzo and the Lerner family are willing to offer?