Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo wasn’t giving anything away when he was asked in an interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier in late November if a rumored 10-year/$300M offer to Bryce Harper at the end of the season was a starting point or a final offer.
“Well, we’re certainly not going to discuss over the air what our negotiating posture is and what our strategy is and that type of thing,” Rizzo told Grant and Danny.
“It was an offer out of respect to one of our hallmark players that I’ve know since he was 16 years old. It was driven and given by ownership directly to him.
“We’ve met with ownership several times with Harp and made an aggressive, market-value, respectful offer and wanted to treat him with the respect and — just the way we felt about him for so many years, we wanted to make it respectful and above board, and I thought we did that.”
Following Managing Principal Owner Mark Lerner’s comments about his belief that Harper and his agent Scott Boras had moved on from the Nationals as a possibility after rejecting that 10-year/$300M offer towards the end of the season, Rizzo was asked at the end of the Winter Meetings if there were any plans for another meet-up with Harper and his agent?
“No, no plans to meet with Bryce,” Rizzo said, adding, “we know Bryce better than anybody in this building.”
Since then, however, reports emerged which say that the Nats, Harper, and his agent met again at the end of December.
Washington Post writer Chelsea Janes noted in her report on that meeting that the 26-year-old free agent outfielder actually met with, “... Nationals owner Ted Lerner for five hours on the Saturday before Christmas,” which seems significant given Boras’s comments when he spoke at the Winter Meetings about how, “... when he makes big deals, he makes them with Mark’s father, Ted — and history supports his point,” as Janes wrote at the time.
While Mark Lerner initially suggested that he didn’t think the Nationals could increase that rumored 10-year/$300M deal, explaining that the team, “... 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 further than that,” reports overnight suggest that they have indeed increased their initial offer.
#Nationals last offer to Bryce Harper was actually “much more than the $300m being reported by the media” according to a source. Apparently, The 10-year $300m offer was actually just the team’s 1st offer to Harper.— Jim Bowden (@JimBowdenGM) January 4, 2019
The Nationals, who by most estimates are currently around $14M under the $206M luxury tax threshold for 2019 after making a number of moves this winter, including signing lefty Patrick Corbin to a 6-year/$140M free agent deal, would have to exceed the limit for the third straight season in order to bring Harper back, with the penalties for doing so, “a 50 percent luxury tax,” and the potential of having, “their highest selection in the next Rule 4 Draft moved back 10 places,” if they exceed the threshold by $40M or more.
The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal noted this morning that the Boston Red Sox, who stayed under the luxury tax threshold in 2017, “... reset their penalty rate to the minimum 20 percent for every dollar they spend above it — then went more than $40 million over last season,” at a cost of, “... nearly $12 million in penalties and the loss of 10 spots with their first draft pick,” which he suggested was, “a small price to pay, it would seem, for a World Series victory.”
Will the Nationals, who are reportedly still in the market for a second baseman, a back-end starter, and relief help, blow by the threshold to bring Harper back to the nation’s capital?