Washington’s on again off again interest in Bryce Harper is apparently on again. Or still on. Or it was never really off. Or something. Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo made the rounds at the Winter Meetings on Monday, appearing on television and radio to spread the message that he wasn’t closing the door on the possibility of Bryce Harper returning to D.C. just yet, after Managing Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner made some comments to 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier last week about his belief that Harper and his agent Scott Boras had moved on.
Lerner was asked about the rumored 10-year/$300M deal that the Nationals offered Harper at the end of the regular season, which was reportedly turned down.
“Well, when we met with them and we gave them the offer, we told them, ‘This is the best we can do,” Mr. Lerner told Grant and Danny.
“We went right to the finish line very quickly,’ Lerner said. “And we said, ‘If this is of interest to you, please come back to us and we’ll see whether we can finish it up.’ But we just couldn’t afford to put more than that in and still be able to put a team together that had a chance to win the NL East or go farther than that.”
”If they choose some other place, I totally understand,” [Lerner] said. “It’s the opportunity of a lifetime for Bryce and [his wife] Kayla and their family. But we have no hard feelings about it, I must say. I love Bryce and he was a good teammate here. If he chooses to go someplace else, I totally understand it, but we put one heck of an offer out there.”
Mr. Lerner went on to say that he didn’t know if the Nationals could still give Harper that contract if he did decide to return at this point, having signed and acquired a number of players this winter, including starter Patrick Corbin, who agreed on a 6-year/$140M deal, joining the organization officially last week.
“We’ll have to sit down and figure it out. If he comes back, it’s a strong possibility that we won’t be able to make it work. But I really don’t expect him to come back at this point. I think they’ve decided to move on. There’s just too much money out there that he’d be leaving on the table. That’s just not Mr. Boras’ MO to leave money on the table.”
Those comments didn’t sit well with Boras, apparently, with the Washington Post’s Chelsea Janes reporting on Monday that the super agent has reportedly, “raised concerns with the Nationals about Lerner’s comments violating a more specific rule, one etched in the latest collective bargaining agreement.”
“Attachment 49 states that clubs, players or player representatives may not ‘disclose to the media the substance of contract discussions between a player and a Club, (including but not limited to the facts of offers, the substance of offers, or decisions not to make offers or to withdraw offers) until after terms on the contract have been confirmed by the Office of the Commissioner and the Players Association.’ As Boras sees it, Lerner violated that provision when he said in a radio interview on 106.7 the Fan that the Nationals did ‘the best we could do’ by offering Harper $300 million over 10 years in September.”
“The Nationals do not believe Lerner’s comments violate any of those rules,” the WaPost reporter added, but they did not sit well with Boras, though the agent, “said Monday he does not believe Mark Lerner speaks for the whole Nationals organization in his feelings about Harper’s future. He said that when he makes big deals, he makes them with Mark’s father, Ted — and history supports his point.”
While the comments above generated plenty of headlines, Mr. Lerner did add at one point in the interview with Grant and Danny that he had no idea how the situation would resolve itself.
“Who knows what’ll happen the next few weeks? I don’t know. You don’t know. But, if he leaves, we wish him nothing but the best.”
Rizzo shared his thoughts on the situation with the MLB Network and MLB Network Radio before he met with reporters for the first time at the Winter Meetings and was asked what he made of the Nationals’ owner’s comments.
“I didn’t make much of it,” Rizzo said. “Mark was asked to speculate about Harp’s future. The one thing I have learned doing this a long time is — I don’t speculate about free agents, where they’re going, how much they’re getting, it’s just too difficult because there are so many factors involved. Nothing has changed with Harp since the end of the season except that we’re, I think, a better team than we were at the end of the season but we’re not closing the door on anybody.”
So will the Nationals meet with Harper and Boras again?
“We’re not going to close the door on anybody,” Rizzo reiterated, “and like I said, we’re not going to speculate on who we’re going to negotiate with or who we’re going to talk to, but we’re not closing the door on Harper and we’re going to leave ourselves open to a lot of different things and do it a lot of different ways.”
Are there any plans to meet with Harper and his representative in Las Vegas?
“We have no appointment to meet with the Boras Corp. or with Bryce himself, no.”