Bryce Harper told Washington Post columnist Barry Svrluga earlier this week that he loves the nation’s capital but is not sure if he’s in the Washington Nationals’ plans beyond 2018.
“I think about other cities, but I love it here,” Harper said. “Am I in the plans, you know? I don’t know. It’s hard to think about, because it’s all you know, and then you think about it, it’s like, ‘Well, it could all be over in a,’” and here, he snapped his fingers, “ ‘a second.’ It’s kind of crazy.”
Harper reiterated that he wasn’t sure what the future holds for him after the Nationals’ final home game on Wednesday afternoon, telling reporters in Nationals Park he didn’t think of it a farewell since he’s still not sure what’s going to happen this winter.
“My heart lies here,” Harper explained, “and if I’m going to play somewhere and have some fun and enjoy that, then hopefully I’m in those plans to stay where I’m at, but if I’m not I’m not scared of change either.”
So... how, at this point, is Harper not sure if he’s in the Nationals’ plans? That’s a good question, and it’s one that 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies asked GM Mike Rizzo.
“He must not be listening to his show then every Wednesday,” Rizzo joked, “because I think I say it every Wednesday, don’t I?”
But then why is Harper saying that?
“I think part of the negotiating process is — there’s a process in place, and it’s got to be the right fit for both sides to make a deal,” Rizzo continued.
“And I think that’s kind of what he’s referring to. He obviously knows that we’re interested in him, that we want to re-sign him. I think the tricky part comes in — is it going to be the right fit for him financially, geographically, and is it going to be the right fit for us financially?
“Are we going to be allowed to put a good team around a great player like Bryce Harper depending on what the deal is with Harp. I think a lot of those things go into it. He knows that we’re interested in him, he knows how much we appreciate him here and how much we love him here, and I think that when it gets down to the business of baseball, I think that we’ll either make a deal or we won’t but we certainly will put every effort into it and we certainly want him here.”
Clear enough? If not, Rizzo stated his thoughts even more directly.
“We certainly would love to sign Bryce Harper,” he said at another point in his weekly visit with the Junkies.
“He’s an important, huge part of our franchise and one of the best players in the game, so yeah, we would love to sign him and we’re going to make every effort to sign him and see if we can get him done.”
As for how a potential long-term deal might come together and how long negotiations like this are going to take once Harper officially hits free agency, assuming he gets there?
“It’s a very complicated negotiation and it’s going to be a very complicated contract,” Rizzo said.
“So they take time and it takes time to get to a deal that you could agree upon and then the devil is in the details, if a deal gets that close then you have to hammer out all the minor details. But to get to the major sticking points of any negotiation is a complicated aspect especially of this transaction so it’ll take some time.”
After a prolonged slump in the first half that raised questions about how Harper would be viewed if he hits the market once the World Series ends, the 25-year-old outfielder’s been able to turn things around, posting a .292/.432/.536 line, 18 doubles, 11 homers, 51 walks, and 64 Ks in 62 games and 266 plate appearances in the second half, becoming just the seventh player in the last four seasons to reach 100 walks, runs, and RBIs in a season.
Where will he be on Opening Day in 2019? His manager is sure that Harper wants to come back.
“In his heart he wants to be back here, I know that,” Davey Martinez said after the final home game was over.
“We’ve got three games left, he’s going to wear a Nationals uniform for three more days and hopefully for many, many years after that, so we’ll see.”