So, depending on whose sources you believe, the Washington Nationals are either a “long shot” to sign Bryce Harper at this point, which they seemed to be before reports of a follow-up meeting before Christmas and an increased offer surfaced earlier this month, or they are still, “... a possible landing spot for the 26-year-old outfielder,” who hit free agency following a 2018 campaign which saw him struggle through the first half before turning things around after the All-Star Break.
Harper finished his seventh major league season with a .249/.393/.496 line, 34 doubles, 34 home runs, 130 walks, 169 Ks, and 135 wRC+ in 159 games and 695 plate appearances, over which he was worth 3.5 fWAR.
Following the one-time NL MVP’s meeting with the Philadelphia Phillies in his hometown of Las Vegas, Nevada over the weekend, USA TODAY’s Bob Nightengale reported that the Nats’ NL East rivals from the City of Brotherly Love have become the “clear-cut favorite” and, “the most aggressive team in their pursuit for Harper, while the Nationals’ interest appears to be waning.”
Noting that the Nationals haven’t “formally engaged” with Harper “... for nearly a month,” the USA TODAY writer suggested that while Harper did meet with, “owner Ted Lerner on Dec. 22 at his Palm Springs, Calif., home ... there was no inclination that he would take less money or [that] the Nats would raise their offer,” from the 10-year/$300M contract they reportedly put on the table towards the end of the regular season, which Harper and agent Scott Boras turned down in favor of testing the free agent market.
That offer, “might no longer even be available,” Nightengale added, while reporting that he’s heard “Nats officials privately say Harper no longer is in their plans,” and, “and unless Lerner changes his mind or Harper accepts a contract that pays him less than $25 million a year, they anticipate life without him,” having already spent, “... $189 million in free agency this winter,” as they’ve built their roster for 2019 and approached the luxury tax threshold that they’ve passed in each of the last two seasons.
The Phillies, he said, “have yet to make an offer to Harper,” though they, “... are prepared to make the largest offer,” to both Harper and fellow free agent Manny Machado.
Meanwhile, over at ESPN, Jeff Passan wrote last night that while USA TODAY’s reporting, “... deemed Philadelphia a ‘clear-cut favorite’ to sign Harper, the Washington Nationals remain a possible landing spot for the 26-year-old outfielder, according to sources.”
The Nationals, MLB Network Radio host Jim Duquette noted this afternoon, remain the only team that has actually made an offer to Harper in spite of the rumors of interest from Philly and the Chicago White Sox.
“Just because you were the last team to meet with him does not make you the frontrunner,” Duquette said, summing up his take on the rumors about the Phillies following the meeting with Harper.
The good news, for everyone involved... this all has to end sooner or later, right? Please say, “Right.”