In a prepared statement read before his first press conference of the Spring last week, Bryce Harper told reporters that he would not be answering any questions about 2019, preferring to stick to queries about the upcoming season rather than his pending free agency next winter.
“I will not be discussing anything relative to 2019 at all,” Harper explained.
“I’m focused on this year, focused on winning, and playing hard like every single year. If you guys have any questions about 2019, or anything after 2018, you can call [my agent] Scott [Boras] and he can answer to you guys. So, not going to answer any questions. So, if you guys do [ask] anything, or talk about anything about that, then I’ll be walking right out the door, so there you go.”
In a subsequent interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier, the 25-year-old outfielder explained his “controversial” stance.
“It’s not fair to my teammates or myself to look forward,” Harper said. “Every single year, I’ve always tried to come in and win ballgames. That’s the biggest goal for myself. That’s the biggest goal for my team.”
“Everybody in the world knows I’m gonna be a free agent next year,” he added. “That’s just part of how the game works. It’s part of how sports work. That’s how it is.”
Boras, who is still trying to find homes for a number of his 2018 free agents, did address the future of his client in the nation’s capital, who’s expected to get a record deal on the free agent market next winter.
In an interview with Sirius/XM MLB Network Radio hosts Jody McDonald and Dan Graca this afternoon, Boras discussed the slow market this offseason, how it might affect next winter’s negotiations, and what value he thinks Harper brings to a franchise that would justify the talk of a potential $400-$500M+ contract for the young outfielder.
“The fact is teams are always going to do what’s best for business,” Boras said after giving a lengthy explanation of the competitive balance tax, what he sees as a “non-competitive cancer” in the game, and why MLB teams have to consider more than just the stats their analytics departments provide them with as they weigh the possibility of handing out the kind of multi-year, nine-figure deals his clients often command.
“And the fact of the matter is Bryce Harper brings something besides performance to a franchise,” Boras explained. “He brings franchise value. He brings a level of revenue and income that iconic players bring. This is storied and obvious that there are revenues that are associated beyond his performance in ticket sales and regional network performance and values, and so consequently, when you’re talking about players like Bryce Harper, they’re in a situation that is different from most major leaguers because they are so young and they’re so gifted and accomplished at such a precocious age.”
You can listen to Boras talking about Harper below:
Last week, #Nationals OF Bryce Harper told reporters “If you guys have any questions about 2019 or anything after 2018, call Scott."— MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (@MLBNetworkRadio) February 26, 2018
So we did.
Scott Boras on "Power Alley", full interview on the @SiriusXM app: pic.twitter.com/VyfE2Y0OHs
Will Boras, Harper, Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo, and the Lerner family manage to agree on what Harper’s value is before he reaches the free agent market? It seems unlikely at this point, but as Rizzo pointed out recently when he spoke to reporters before the first game of the Spring, he’s not ruling out the possibility of working something out in advance of next winter’s Hot Stove season.
Just because Harper’s not willing to discuss things in public (which has been the Nats’ stance this winter as well), doesn’t mean they can’t work something out even after the regular season games start next month.
“I look forward to many, many more years with him. He’s dear to my heart,” Rizzo told reporters, as quoted by USA TODAY’s Bob Nightengale last week.
“I never understood the logic in having a deadline like that,” the Nats’ GM added, referring to the idea that talks would stop once the season before a player is set to hit free agency begins.
“We’ll keep talking,” he said. “Hey, we did the same with [Stephen] Strasburg, and signed him in May.’’
Strasburg’s decision was a player-driven one, as the right-hander, his agent, and Rizzo all explained after that 7-year/$175M extension with the pitcher was announced just months before the Nationals’ ‘09 No. 1 overall pick was set to hit free agency in the winter of 2016-17.
Will their 2010 No. 1 overall pick make a similar decision and choose to stay in the nation’s capital?
For now, Harper just wants to concentrate on winning a World Series in D.C. in 2018.
“I grew up winning a lot of baseball games, and I want to do that for the Nationals,” Harper said in the 106.7 the FAN interview last week.
“I want to do that for Dave Martinez, the Lerners, Mike Rizzo and all of our fans out there. I enjoy playing this game. I love the city of D.C. I love playing in the nation’s capital and I’m excited about getting there this year.”
And next year? Will Harper being trying to win it all for a new team in 2019?